Sunday, January 3, 2016

Fibonacci Scarf

I'm not sure this exactly belongs on this blog, but my son wanted me to post it somewhere and it fits better here than anywhere else ...

Last year (2014) for Christmas I sent my husband and the kids to the craft store and told them each to pick a skein of yarn for me to knit a scarf with.  I hadn't knit in a long time.  When my oldest was about 4 and my second was about 2, they discovered that knitting needles made great swords, and they tended to take the 'swords' out of whatever I was knitting and it just didn't really work well.  But now, I thought, the older one knew better and the youngest (then 2) was not as interested in sword play as her brothers had been.

And knit I did.  I made three scarves for the three youngest, and by then I was getting a bit bored with extremely simple designs that I could knit almost in my sleep.

So for my oldest, I made a Fibonacci scarf.

I cast on 21 stitches.

I expressed the sequence in three different ways:

Fibonacci #1

1: knit 1 row
1: knit 1 row
2: knit 2 rows
3: knit 3 rows
5: knit 5 rows
8: P2, K17, P2; K2, P17, K2; P2, K17, P2; P21; P2, K17, P2; P21; K21; K2, P17, K2.
13: K2, P17, K2; P2, K17, P2; K2, P17, K2; K21; K2, P17, K2; K21; P21; P2, K17, P2; P21; K21; P21; K21; K2, P17, K2.
21: P2, K17, P2; K2, P17, K2; P2, K17, P2; P21; P2, K17, P2; P21; K21; K2, P17, K2; K21; P21; K21; P21; P2, K17, P2; K21; P21; K21; P21; K21; P21;  K21; P2, K17, P2.

Fibonacci #2

0: K21

1: K1 p201: K1 p202: K2 p193: K3 p185: K5 p168: K8 p1313: K13 k821: K21

Fibonacci #3

K1 p1 k2 p3 k5 p8 k1
P12 k9
P12 k1 p1 k2 p3 k2
P3 k8 p10
K3 p18
K3 p1 k1 p2 k3 p5 k6
P2 k13 p6
K15 p1 k1 p2 k2
P1 k5 p8 k7
P6 k15
P6 k1 p1 k2 p3 k5 p3
K5 p13 k3
P18 k1 p1 k1
P1 k3 p5 k8 p4
K9 p12
K9 p1 k1 p2 k3 p5
K8 p13

This shows all three sequences in order (or almost all three):

I was able to do almost 4 repeats of all three sequences with one ball of Sugar-n-Cream Hot Green yarn on size 6 needles.  Frustrating not to be able to finish the last 8 rows or so!

But he didn't care.  Here he is modeling (along with siblings modeling theirs) on New Year's Eve, when I finally finished it:

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Girl Who Broke Her Pot

This is a story from the Tsonga people, who have lived in the lands which we now call the countries of South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, for more than a thousand years.

That’s on the south east coast of the African continent.  It’s a tropical climate, with a dry season and a rainy season. 

Now once upon a time in the dry season, there was a village that was very far from the waterhole, where they went to get water for drinking, cooking, and washing.

One day, a girl was going from that village to draw water from the waterhole, when the rope holding her water pot broke, the pot fell to the ground, and broke into many pieces.

This was a terrible problem.  “Oh, no!  I must find a new pot,” she cried.  She looked up.  And there, hanging from a cloud, was a rope.  She took hold of it, and pulled on it, but it didn’t fall into her hand, it hung there as if attached to something strong.

Since she didn’t know what else to do, she climbed up the rope.  And in the sky, she found a ruined village.  An old woman was sitting there, and asked what she wanted.

The girl told her story, and the old woman told her to keep walking in this sky land, and if an ant crawled up into her ear she must leave it alone, as the ant would tell her what to do.
She wasn’t sure how this was supposed to get her a pot, but she didn’t have any better ideas, so she kept walking.  And pretty soon, an ant did crawl into her ear. The girl kept walking, and came to another village, where she heard the ant whisper to her to sit down at the entrance.

If she had come this far, she might as well do as she was directed and see what happened.  So she sat down at the gate.  Some Elders came out in shining clothes and asked what she was doing there. 

Well, she thought it would look silly to these shiny, important people if she told them she wanted a new pot, even though it WAS important to her.  Thinking quickly, the girl said she had come to look for a baby.  That SOUNDED serious and important.

When they heard this, the elders took her to a house, gave her a basket, and told her to collect some corn from the garden. The ant whispered that she should pull one cob at a time, and arrange it carefully in the basket. So she did. 

The elders were pleased with her work, and told her to cook the corn.  So she did, following the ant's instructions.  Again, the elders were happy.

The next morning they showed her two babies, one wrapped in red cloth and one in white cloth. She was going to choose the one in the red clothes, when the ant told her to choose the one wrapped in white instead. 

The elders gave her the baby, and as many cloths and beads as she could carry.  It wasn’t a new pot, but it was something better.  Her family welcomed her home with joy and greeted the new baby with delight. 

Bad fortune broke her rope and her pot, but because she looked around for a solution (seeing the rope), was polite (to the old woman), willing to follow directions (from the ant), and willing to do what was asked of her (by the elders),  good fortune brought her something better. 

I adapted this story from this source: and I'm happy to have it used for any non-profit purpose.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Do you know how strong you are?

Stars are amazing, wonderful things.

This is true even when a star is not a star.

When is a star not a star?

We will come back to that question in a moment.

First, I want to tell you a story.

It’s almost Christmas. At Christmas we will tell the story of the miraculous birth of Jesus of Nazareth. But did you know that there are other miraculous birth stories of other great religious leaders? Today I’m going to tell you about the birth of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

When Muhammad’s mother Amina was pregnant with her baby, she fell into a dream. A voice said to her, “The child you bear is the best of all humankind, and he will be a leader of his people. When he is born, give him the name of Muhammad, which means ‘Highly Praised’.”

Now many legends have been passed down about the time when Amina was giving birth. My favorite is that as Amina was in labor, a white bird came and lay its wing across her, helping her to keep her confidence.

Most importantly for our story today, some people say that at the moment when Muhammad was actually born, the stars lowered themselves from the sky and made a light so bright that no one could see anything else. Or, maybe, that Muhammad himself shone with a light as bright as a star. And there are even stories which say that on that day there was a battle between devils and angels in heaven, and as the angels defeated the devils the devils fell out of the sky as shooting stars, falling down, down to their doom on the Earth.

Do you think that is really what happened?
Maybe. Maybe not. Stars cannot really come down out of the sky, as far as we know. When it looks like they do, they are really shooting stars, which aren’t stars at all but meteors, burning up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Tiny babies are beautiful, but they don’t actually emit light! And shooting stars aren’t devils or angels, either.

Still, whether stars came to earth to see Muhammad or not, whether he glowed or not, whether angels cast devils out of heaven or not, the baby who was born that day grew up to be a great prophet who founded the religion of Islam. He taught the importance of doing right, of giving alms to those who were poor, and of praying each day so that we may keep our minds on that which is best in the world.

And it turned out that the stars were very important to the early Muslims who were trying to follow Muhammad’s teachings. At that time, studying the stars – doing astronomy – was the best way to keep track of time and direction – and Muslims needed to know the right times to pray, and the right direction to pray in (towards Mecca). So the work of astronomers was greatly valued. And as people in other parts of the world who practiced other religions became more curious about how the Universe worked, they turned to the books those Islamic astronomers had written to learn from.

So when is a star not a star?

When it’s a meteor.

The stars came to earth to see the birth of Muhammad. Perhaps there was a meteor shower the night he was born – they do happen, and why not on that night as opposed to any other night? Large meteors are very, VERY bright. When they break up in the air or land they make a huge, blinding flash. When we look at something else after seeing a very bright light, sometimes it seems to glow. And we make up stories about the things we don’t understand all the time – it’s part of what humans do. I can imagine wondering if maybe a meteor shower was somehow a battle between magical beings in a realm far away from the real world I live in, and telling a story about it.

So when is a star not a star?

The other time a star is not a star is when it’s a metaphor.

The stars came to earth to see the birth of Muhammad. All that was bright and beautiful recognized the importance of this one baby. Therefore, the people hearing the stories knew that they should, too. That baby was so full of positive, creative energy that people thought of him as glowing. And the message he brought to the world helped many people struggling with their own internal demons, working hard to cast them out and turn to the side of the angels.

May we recognize the starlight in each other’s eyes this season. And the starlight in the eyes of those seeking refuge from the storm in our world right now. May we allow our own lights to shine brightly. And may we struggle towards peace.

Do you know how strong you are?
Do you know how beautiful you are?
That you shine like a star in the night?
That you blaze with your own light?

With thanks to for a very small part of this story, adapted.  May be reused for non-commercial purposes with attribution.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Knit six
purl six
sets of two rows
four rows six rows up to
twelve, patterns,
repeating, steady, soothingly same.

This is not what life is like.

Life is like picking up a
tousled hunk of yarn
pulled out of the basket
by an impatient child
looking for a string
too many times.

You find an end.
You follow the thread for a while
and sooner or later you hit a
tangle, knots and
twists and loops all mixed up

Sometimes I sit there and untangle it.
Pulling little by little until I have one
piece stretched out and can go on to
the next one.

Sometimes I grab a pair of scissors and
cut.  Enough.  I only needed a little,

But sometimes I hold the tangle
in my hand.
Amazed for a moment
at the complexity.  The mess.
I look at it and think,
this can't be solved.  It just is.

There are patterns, connections,
confusing ones,
frustrating ones,
the thread turning back on itself,
as life also does.

The tangled things will always be here,
in this moment I am living through,
right now, whatever comes after.

Even if I work through this.
Even  if I cut the cord and walk away.

Look at the tangled knot in the yarn.
Look at how it hurts.

(c) Dawn Star Sarahs-Borchelt - may be used with attribution in not-for-profit ways.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Sometimes my kids ask me about my pierced ears.  The dents where I used to wear dangly things, sparkly things, bright things before they were born are interesting, and maybe a little mysterious, and they like to see if they can remember the story I’m going to tell them and if I tell it the same way as I did last time.  It’s not a long or complicated story: I used to wear earrings, but when I got pregnant with my oldest child, my skin became much more sensitive and all my earrings irritated my ears.  So I stopped wearing them.

And that story is true.  But the other true story about them is that those are my scars.  In tribal cultures everywhere people have used scars for thousands of years to mark important transitions in life – from childhood to puberty, from adolescence to adulthood.  When I was 8, two things happened: I was ‘old enough’ to decide to get my ears pierce and my parents separated (and ultimately divorced.)  Partly I pierced my ears because I’d wanted to and it was girly and I got to wear pretty things.  But also those physical wounds, holes in my body, were marks of the wound I had taken to the spirit, the hole in my family and self.  I didn’t know that as a child, consciously.  Looking back I know it beyond doubt.

I had a hard time the years I was 12 and 13, too.  A lot of it had to do with my relationship with my father, although not all of it.  When I was 13 I got another piercing.  This time I did see it as a mark on my body, not just for fun, but at the time it symbolized my triumph over that hard year, over the hard feelings.  Now I think, maybe marking pain with more pain isn’t really triumph, but at 13 I thought it was.

Maybe to become a mother in my 20s, I had to let go of those wounds.  I still carry the scars on my body, but I no longer decorate them, call my own or others’ attention to them, plan how to emphasize them each day.  In my body, or my mind.  Trying to do that irritated me, distracted me from what I needed to do.

It makes me wonder what it would take to let go of other scars I carry in my body and soul.  My chronic but fairly mild asthma might be due to allergies, but I also know my lungs are scarred with grief.  My thighs and hips, breasts and back and belly are scarred with stretch marks from the physical, fast growth of puberty and pregnancy, but I also know my skin is stretched from the emotional and soul growing I did at those times.  The skin on my foot and ankle is still discolored after breaking the ankle two years or more ago, even though I can walk and run and jump on giant trampolines with my kids now.

I can see the scars on the bodies of people I love, too.  Sometimes I know or guess what the scars reveal about their souls; other times I don’t. 

The way we see ourselves, the way we see others reflects into how we see God.  I realized today that I don’t want God to be unwounded.  I don’t want a God who has no scars.  I do want a God who can show me how it is possible to grow beyond my scars.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Terrible Things

This morning in worship I told a story about myself as the Time for All Ages.  I don't do that often, but the topic of the service was growing up UU, and since I did, it seemed like the right thing to do.  Here it is:

When I was 8 years old, my parents decided to separate, and eventually, divorce.  My parents separating was a terrible thing to have happen to me, even if it was the right thing for my parents to do.  Some of you have had a terrible thing like that happen – some of you never have.

Sometimes when something terrible happens our minds make it so we don’t remember a lot about it, and that happened to me.  I don’t remember a lot about being 8, or about my parents separating.  But I do remember some things.

One thing I remember is the day that for hours and hours, everyone in my house was crying.  My mother was crying, my father was crying, I was crying, and my two brothers were crying.

And I remember going to stay at my grandparents’ house, with my mother and brothers, where we would continue to live for the next 5 or 6 years.  Even though that was one of my favorite places to be, because things were different, it was strange, we were all unhappy, and nothing felt right.

And I remember that the next morning was a Sunday morning, when my grandmother usually went to the UU Church of the Restoration in Mt. Airy to decorate the altar.  That day, she took me with her.  My grandma and grandpa had been taking my brothers and I to church there every week for most of my life.  But I don’t think I had ever gone early with her to do the decorating before then.

The church was different early in the morning before anyone else arrived, even the choir director or the minister.  That church is made of stone and dark wood and stained glass.  It was so very quiet.  It was dimly lit.  My grandma was there but she was not asking me to talk to her about what was wrong or think about it or anything.

We took out a beautiful cloth to put on the altar.  We found some dried flowers to put there.  We got some candles and put them in fancy candle holders. 

I felt safe, and at home, for the first time that terrible week.  And at that moment, when I finally felt safe, I knew that I would be okay.  Maybe not everything would be okay or the way I wanted it to be.  But I would be okay, on the other side of the terrible thing that had happened to me.  And I knew that I was loved and accepted, both by my grandma and by something bigger than either of us that I could feel in the big, dark, cool building around me.

And it may be that being part of a UU congregation can give you something of that same feeling: that there are places that are safe, where you can be at home, even when things are difficult or terrible at home or at school (or work) or out in the larger world.  It may be that growing up UU will help you know that you will be okay, that you have the resources to make it through even something very terrible, no matter what.  It may be that being UU will help you to always remember that you are loved.