I don’t wear a wedding ring and I only realized recently that my choice looks odd to a lot of people. I’ve been married twice and divorced once. My second husband is also on his second marriage, and together we decided that we would be doing things differently this time around. No big wedding with a gown and a tux, no large party with family and friends, and no rings. We didn’t even tell our parents we were married until nearly a year later.

cupidWrings

For both of us, our second marriage is about substance, not appearance. My first marriage looked good from the outside, like everything was fine. But on the inside, things were not fine, which is why I eventually got a divorce. I learned it’s more important to be OK than to look OK, so when Kurt suggested we skip the rings, I was fine with it.

But there is more to the story of why I don’t wear a wedding ring than this. I had rings for my first marriage, of course. I remember being excited about getting an engagement ring, even though I don’t like diamonds all that much. A rainbow of colors came out of the diamond whenever I held it in the sunlight. The sparkle and glory of it seemed full of promise, just like the future.

EngagementRing

The wedding band was a compromise. I’ve always preferred silver to gold, only wedding rings don’t come in silver. We went with white gold, which was less yellow than normal gold, but more yellow than I would have liked. Still, I liked the simple design we went with and wore my rings throughout my first marriage.

My first husband was proud of how much he’d spent on our rings. We had just graduated from college and neither of us had much money, so it was an extravagance to spend so much on something that was essentially useless. When we separated, I was reminded that my wedding rings had value and I tucked them away, thinking of them as a savings account. I was cash poor. I scraped my way through the years right after the divorce, terrified I would lose my job and have nothing at all. I needed income badly.

Finally, I mustered the courage to sell my rings. The dealer I approached offered me $50 total for the pair. I was horrified, embarrassed, and chagrined. As much as I needed the money, I didn’t sell them. I couldn’t part with them for so little, when I had been told they were worth so much more. It’s nearly twenty years later and they are still in my dresser drawer.

I’ve never been much of a girl for bling and I no longer think of it is an investment. The jewelry that actually maintains its value is way out of my price range. When I buy jewelry, I look at the cost in terms of one thing only: do I like it enough to pay the price asked?

My second marriage is about doing things differently, not worrying about how we look to the world and worrying instead about how things really are between us. But I let go of the one symbol of marriage I was likely to hold on to — the ring — because the whole idea was tainted by my past.

Do you wear a wedding ring? Why or why not? How do you feel about “investing” in jewelry?

During our visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, my sister and I saw raptors and lots of other birds, but there were plenty of animals to observe as well. While the museum’s focus on species that are native to Arizona limits the number of exhibits, there’s a sense that the animals are very much at home in their botanical garden setting. Many of them come from the same habitat and go together as a result.

The promise that we would be seeing wildlife was given to us as soon as we got out of the car. The parking lot had several of these unusual “do not feed the animals” signs.

IMG_6349_doNotFeed_web

We didn’t get to see any coyotes that day, but the bighorn sheep were out. They were so focused, that I never got to see the ram from the front end.

Bighorn sheep, photo by Kit Dunsmore

Bighorn sheep (ram), photo by Kit Dunsmore

Bighorn sheep, photo by Kit Dunsmore

Bighorn sheep, photo by Kit Dunsmore

Thanks to the unusually warm weather that day, many of the mammals were napping in the afternoon. The gray fox was coy, with his tail over his nose, but the mountain lion was keeping an eye on us all.

Gray fox, photo by Kit Dunsmore

Gray fox, photo by Kit Dunsmore

Mountain lion, photo by Kit Dunsmore

Mountain lion, photo by Kit Dunsmore

Not all the animals were furry. I spent some time watching frogs in the riparian exhibit. I never realized just how odd they look until I tried to draw them.

Frogs (I forgot to write down the species!), photo by Kit Dunsmore

Frogs (I forgot to write down the species!), photo by Kit Dunsmore

Looking at my photos from the visit to the ASDM, I keep thinking two things: I should have taken a lot more pictures of this remarkable place and its wonderful inhabitants and I am eager to visit again some time soon.

Have you ever been to the ASDM? What’s your favorite zoo and why?

Here’s a giant squid (aka kraken) to add to my collect of strange knitted stuff (which already includes the Loch Ness monster, an octopus, and a jellyfish). The pattern is another Hansi Singh gem from her book Amigurumi Knits.

Kraken pattern by Hansi Singh, knitted by Kit Dunsmore

Kraken pattern by Hansi Singh, knit by Kit Dunsmore

In an effort to use up yarn in my stash, I mixed some yarns of slightly different weight. The white I used for the eyes was considerably thinner than the other yarns, so I doubled it, which made the knitting a little fussier, but not much.

Close up of the kraken's eye

Close up of the kraken’s eye

Making the legs was a little repetitive, although the pattern was simple enough I had it memorized before I was half-way through. The biggest challenge was picking up stitches to knit the mantle and the fins. I like the finished look of added pieces that are knit directly onto one another instead of sewn on later, but it can be tricky to get that first couple of rows knit. In this case, I think it was worth the effort.

Kraken pattern by Hansi Singh, knit by Kit Dunsmore

Kraken pattern by Hansi Singh, knit by Kit Dunsmore

I keep thinking I will start developing creature patterns of my own, but it hasn’t happened yet. I love how these project look, but they are complex and require concentration and that’s following someone else’s pattern. Making my own pattern will be even harder.

Right now, I need me some mindless knitting. I found an unfinished sweater in my closet, so I think I’ll work on that for while. It makes sense, now that spring is here. Right?

ArtStartAgain

Art is all about starting again. – David Bayles and Ted Orland, in Art & Fear.

I don’t believe in starting over, but I do believe in starting again.

Back in January, when I was taking a drawing class, I sketched almost every day. Towards the end of class, my discipline slid, mainly because I was traveling and busy. Since the class ended, however, I am drawing very little, a sketch a week if I’m lucky. I’d like to get back to drawing more regularly. I guess it’s time to start again.

Recognizing that art requires us to start again and again and again is helpful. It explains to me why it is so hard. Every drawing I make requires me to start again. There’s the anxiety of the unknown — not knowing what to do, how it will turn out, or if I will be pleased with the results. Most of my drawings aren’t successes, but I have to remind myself of that as well. I’m still learning how to do what I want to do. I’m practicing. I’m building my skills and finding what I like and what works for me. I have to be willing to make mistakes in order to get where I want to go.

And so I must start again. Every day feels like a new start, with all the good and the bad that implies. Fortunately, if I don’t pick up my pen today, tomorrow I can start yet again.

I may have given you the impression that the only birds at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum are raptors, like the barn owl and Harris’s hawks I saw in their daily Raptor Free-Flights. But visitors to the ASDM see plenty of other interesting birds, all native to some part of Arizona.

When I was there in February, I was greeted by a desert favorite of mine, the cactus wren. A little smaller than a robin, this feisty bird actually nests inside dead saguaro. I heard them calling throughout the day, and they hopped past me even in the parking lot. One came out in the open and sang his heart out for me.

Singing cactus wren, photo by Kit Dunsmore

Singing cactus wren, photo by Kit Dunsmore

When I saw a bird a top a saguaro skeleton, I half-expected it to be another wren. Instead, it was a the more common mockingbird.

Mockingbird, photo by Kit Dunsmore

Mockingbird, photo by Kit Dunsmore

The museum has two walk-in aviaries. One includes a mix of birds. I caught sight of quail, hummingbirds, pyrrhuloxia, and a beautiful black-bellied whistling duck.

Black-bellied whistling duck, photo by Kit Dunsmore

Black-bellied whistling duck, photo by Kit Dunsmore

The second aviary is smaller, and dedicated to hummingbirds alone. My photographs did not turn out well, but the most striking hummingbird we saw was Costa’s. Even in my fuzzy picture, you can see the brilliant purple neck frill this hummingbird sports.

A Costa's hummingbird, fuzzy photo by Kit Dunsmore

A Costa’s hummingbird, fuzzy photo by Kit Dunsmore

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