I’m having too much fun to possibly tell you all of it, and besides, I’ve only got about 24 more hours before I leave this lovely place, and there’s still so much to do. The beach beckons, and I’ve only seen a little of the jungle, and there’s Spanish grammar I haven’t mangled yet. I’ve got knitting on the wharf to do, and little anoles to watch as they blaze through the garden. I have a single ripe mango I haven’t eaten yet, and big plans to munch it as I sit on the sand, juice running down my arm in the heat before I wander into the ocean to swim myself clean. In short, I’m super busy. Please make do with these pretty pictures until I’m home. (If you want more, by the way, I’m on Instagram as @yarnharlot.)
Today was a very good day. I woke up early, and I was lying in my bed, unable to go back to sleep because of these huge black birds that call out to each other in a way that’s as effective as any alarm. They start to shrill out to each other just before sunrise, announcing to their whole world that another day is starting, and as the sky just started to lighten, I realized that I had an opportunity. An opportunity to see the sunrise over the Caribbean Sea, and to take a picture so that I could post it, and it would then seem to all of you that I am the sort of person who gets up for the sunrise.
See? Doesn’t it look exactly like I’m the sort of pure spirit who gets up and does that? Sure it does. (I will admit to doing one tiny sun salutation on the beach, but hell. How could you not?) The rest of the day marched along smartly, with one major development.
Miraculously, today I got really comfortable with snorkelling. Mum and I tried it for the first time last year, and she was really good, and goes out alone all the time, and she’s starting to look pretty savvy out there. Me? My attempts have largely been successful, though have been punctuated by episodes where I inexplicably screw the whole thing up, draw a large lungful of air, and then near drown myself just offshore.
Today was different. Today I got the hang of how to clear the thing, and how to get it on your face so it doesn’t leak, and how to keep it from fogging up – it went really well. I don’t have any fins, so I just swim along, and I don’t make good time, but I am a very strong swimmer, so I can stay out a long time. Today I remembered I’m a good swimmer, and I got the mask on right, and figured out what to do if the whole system fills up, and once I had that all sorted, it was really fun. It was… peaceful, and weird to be floating along with your face down in the water, and still be breathing. (Trick number one to snorkelling. Convince yourself that you can breathe, even though your face is underwater. It’s harder than you think. Instinct is a powerful, beautiful thing.) Today it was all going so well, and I saw some pretty fish that were blue and yellow and black, and some that were just black and white, and many fish that I know are Barracuda, and then a fish that was as long as me – and about seven of his friends, all lurking around on the bottom of the sea, trying to look innocent, even thought they all had great pointy teeth.
The moment though – was when I was cruising along, and suddenly a great chunk of the ocean floor moved. I wasn’t in very deep, and I was in a place where the sand rose up, in a small underwater hill, and below me, only a metre or two away, a big thing was going. I don’t see very well, and I didn’t have my glasses on (obviously) so I kept swimming on, and only when I was right on top of the thing did I realize it was a big stingray. I froze.
I stopped swimming entirely, and didn’t move a muscle as it winged by right underneath me, and I tried desperately to remember what I knew about them. Did they really sting? Was that a myth? What made it sting? What about that Australian guy? Was there anywhere to go? Was this dangerous? How do you run away in the ocean?
I realized quickly that he was going his way, and I was going mine, and I couldn’t think of any reason we would hurt each other if we were both quiet and sorted, and off it went, with its great long tail trailing behind it. It was huge, and it was beautiful, and I am very glad I am learning to snorkle.
Then about 5 seconds later a piece of seaweed touched my leg and I just about had a heart attack and drowned myself.
It was elegant. Knittter out.
When I was in school, I had an art teacher remind me that sometimes, the trick to finding out how something was interesting was to change your perspective. “Look around” she said. “Squat down. Lie on the floor. Look up. Find another way to look at things.” While I hardly need a way to make this trip interesting for me, I was thinking yesterday about a way to make it interesting for you, and I remembered the advice. I was walking down the street here, and stopped to consider what was under my feet. Two seconds later it was something else, then something else… Mum and I started looking at the gound – plants, tiles… interesting things that were right under our feet. It became a little game. An art project of a sort. Here then (instead of a shot of a beach that looks just like a beach) is what we walked on yesterday.
Today’s Spanish words? Pies (that’s feet, and you say it pee-es, not like the apple kind) and el suelo. That’s the ground. (I didn’t find out what floor was. I’m sort of hoping it’s the same.)
Safely arrived in Mexico – only to find that it’s a bit chilly – which is to say that instead of the -20 at home, it’s 23 here.
Not quite warm enough for swimming, and there’s a terrific wind. Still, at the risk of being sandblasted, my mum and I stood on the beach and drank our tea, and looked North. Both to see if better weather is blowing down, and because no matter how nippy we are here, we’re just going to be glad we’re not there.
It’s a good day for knitting.
Boy, are things every moving fast around here. I got home from Madrona Monday night (Well, technically it was Tuesday in the small hours) and hit the ground running. Yesterday was Sam and Lou’s birthday, her 21 and him 3, and a good time was had by all, I think. Sam had her favourite dinner with the whole family there, and I’ll have to see my little guy when I get back.
Get back? Yup. I’m out the door again. This time for what has become my traditional winter trip with my Mum. It’s Mexico for us again, and today I’m dumping sweaters and scarves out of my suitcase, and dumping shorts and tee-shirts in – although there’s one scarf I’d like to take with me. Fox Paws.
It’s done, and I’m so in love with it that even a tropical climate can barely dissuade me from wearing it. I blocked it when I landed in Seattle, and it was dry in time to be worn all over Madrona.
It got the proper number of compliments, and how could it not. What a beautiful thing. Absolutely worth the fuss.
Pattern: Fox Paws, although I only did 4 repeats across- to make it a scarf, rather than a wrap. It was a good move I think, this size is more practical and wearable for me. I knit until it was longer than a full chesterfield, I’d say it comes in at about 2m long (that’s about 6.5 or 7 feet, for my American friends) and it’s the perfect, perfect length. I’m glad I didn’t wimp out.
Yarn: Rowan Fine Tweed, in Arncliffe, Keld, Bainbridge, Tissington and Dent. Two balls of each – with a good bit (about 8g) left of each ball when I was done. Needle: 3.75mm.
I’m in love with it. I could take pictures of it all day, and it’s currently hanging over a chair in the living room, where if I thought the cat would stay off it, I’d leave it – just as a piece of art. (As it is, if she puts a single claw to it, I’ll have her killed, so for both of our sakes I’ll move it.)
Having a scarf like this makes me almost glad it’s winter, although not glad enough to not be thrilled that I’m off to warmer climes. This time tomorrow I’ll have knitting in hand, bum on the sand, and toes in the ocean. For now, I’ve totally got to wind some yarn, pack a bag and polish my Spanish. I can’t wait to have an adventure with my mum. Last year we learned to snorkel. This year? Who knows.
This is a quickie, since I’m just changing planes in Vancouver before flying to Seattle, for the annual textile party that is Madrona. (By the way, if you’re around, I’m signing books Friday after class, and if you bring yours, I’ll sign them. I don’t think there will be any for sale, so bring yours, or a bookplate, or something. I’ll sign anything. Almost. I have a few standards yet.) I can’t wait to get there. I’ve been doing Madrona for years and have a soft spot for the event that’s hard to explain, but I’ll tell you about it as we go along, and maybe you’ll get an idea. This morning I packed two things of note. First, an unblocked but totally finished Fox Paws.
Fox Paws is seen here yesterday one half cat short of a chesterfield, at the exact moment that I realized that I could totally finish if I blocked it at Madrona, so I charged off and totally crushed it. I finished really late last night (don’t talk about what time, it makes me want to nod off where I am) and it’s tucked into my bag, and it will have a swim and a pat when I arrive. I can’t wait. The other thing I brought with me? One of the reasons that I was so anxious to finish Fox Paws.
That yarn totally needs to be a size four sweater by Monday night.
Don’t panic early. It’s going to be fine.
(PS. I’m aware the blog has been up and down, if you’re a tech type, the problem is that the HTTP keeps deciding to be unresponsive, and has to be restarted. I’ll look into why when I land and have a chance to get on the phone. In the meantime, try not to worry too much. It comes back up after a bit.)
No, Fox Paws isn’t done. It was supposed to be – or at least I thought it would be done today, and maybe it would have been, if things hadn’t gone a little pear shaped. (By a little pear shaped, understand that I mean that me and that piece of knitting have suffered an insult to our relationship that I’m still struggling to work through.) I was knitting along, minding my own business, packing for Madrona in my head (which is not as effective as actually packing, but you know- it’s a start) and all of a sudden, it stopped working. Now that I’m used to it, Fox Paws has a rhythm I can see. There’s certain points where I can check in, and know if I’m spot on, or if something’s come off the rails. There’s spots where decreases line up, and increases go on top of other increases, and now that I’ve learned where those landmarks are, it helps a lot. If I get to one of those spots and things aren’t working, then I know I missed something, and back I go – just to the beginning of that repeat – or the last place it all made sense. So, that’s what happened this morning. I got to a place where I check in, and it didn’t check out, and so I swore gracefully (I’m getting good at it) and tinked back, and had myself a little do over. Still wrong. Back I went again, and still wrong. I tried a few more times, and then figured that I’d done something really stupid a few rows back – something like knitting four together instead of five, or missed a little yarn-over. A klutzy little manoeuvre that left me short a stitch. I looked for it, didn’t find it, and in the grand tradition of knitters everywhere, I fudged. I did one less decrease so that it would start lining up again, and carried on. This – for the record, didn’t work. Things stayed screwy, likely because I’d compensated in the wrong spot, and a few rows later, when I was just about out of my mind trying to get back on the horse, I saw this.
Yup. A dropped stitch. See that little cream coloured one that’s in the wind? Rat bastage. At that point I did the only mature thing. I contemplated some sort of ninja fix, decided I’d come too far to have it be less than perfect, and I ripped out several heartbreaking rows.
This, my friends, is the reason why some knitters drink in the afternoon, which I didn’t do, but I understood the urge completely. A considerable amount of time later (really, really considerable) I had it back on the needles, and it was working again.
Still, that little episode cost me my only knitting time today, and so instead of being finished, Fox Paws is one small curled cat length short of a chesterfield, and I can’t spare any more time to wrestle with it. I’ve got workshops to prep for – and the Madrona Teacher Talent Show for Charity to finish pulling together (and I still have no talent – apparently not even for knitting) and well. The idea that I’d get on a plane on Wednesday wearing this bad boy is starting to be pretty freakin’ unlikely. All because I dropped one stinking stitch.
Today, knitting and I have a pretty dysfunctional love-hate thing going.
Can’t talk. Knitting Fox Paws.
Two more repeats accomplished, and the end is truly in sight. I’ve got a scarf I love the length of, and it’s just about the length of the cushions on the chesterfield, so when Fox Paws covers that distance, it’s done. (Maybe plus a little bit. It’s not like you want to wimp out when you’re making something that’s taken this long.)
Still, I need to make a pair of socks, and Lou’s Birthday is coming, and I have another scarf to knit and… c’mon Fox Paws. Let’s tango to the finish line.
Today is better. I’d say that everything is smoother, and it’s all evening out, but the truth is that last night I made a determined and clever decision to care less. It’s easy, when things are chaotic and wild to start thinking that if only I had my scene together, the world would just smooth itself out. Another list, two more post-it’s another tremendous effort to pull it all together – nope. A bunch of this is simply beyond my control, and I’d do well, I realized to remember that. Some parts of life are just a ride you’re on, and you really can’t get off until the next station. Until then, you just smile, nod, do the best you can to be cheerful, and wait until you can high-tail it out of Dodge. That’s my plan. In the meantime, a miracle has happened.
I’ve continued to work on Fox Paws, and it’s been this… thing. it’s something I knit on, something I like, but it’s been going so slowly that to imagine it as a finished object would have been folly. I’m not making a scarf, I’m just knitting Fox Paws. It’s sort of like yoga or something. You go, you do it, and it’s pleasant, and it’s a thing that you do, but it’s not like there’s a finish line. A time when you’ll have accomplished yoga, and you’ll stop and do something else. Fox Paws has been like that. The finish line seemed so far away as to be an unlikely goal. Last night, that all changed. On a whim, for no reason other than I felt like it, I draped it around my neck in between rows. Really, I was more reinforcing that idea that I wasn’t making a scarf than anything else, but lo and behold, it’s actually pretty long.
It is long enough that for a second, I could see the future. A future where I am not knitting Fox Paws, because the exercise actually ended, and I got a scarf. I scarf I wear on my body! I took it off and measured, and I measured a repeat, and I thought about how long it takes me to knit a repeat (tip: a long time) and I realized that I’m eight repeats from done. Eight. That’s it.
It prompted this amazing thought, something I’d given up thinking about 20 minutes after I started knitting this. I think I’m making a scarf.
How about that.
It would seem, my friends, that I have once again developed a case of RMT (Reverse Midas Touch) in which everything I touch turns to …well. Insert your personal opposite of virtual gold here. Decisions thought made have come unmade, everybody seems to be changing their minds on things, the oven light burned out* (actually, about nine lightbulbs in the whole house burned out all at once – it was like a movie where a demon moves in) all our things with batteries are dead, the washing machine smells funny, this morning my computer took leave of its senses and forgot its password for the mail system (really? REALLY?) the thing we did to the roof to try and fix the ice problem really, really didn’t work, the cat doesn’t seem quite right, I can’t find any of my subway tokens, my bank card stopped working (stupid chip) and I’ve had to show a remarkable amount of personal flexibility to cope with it all, which is not exactly my strong suit. (By “not my strong suit” I mean that I’m about as good at is as worms are at the hand jive.) Case in point, my computer froze about five minutes ago and ate the entire big post I had written. I am spending a rather ridiculous amount of energy on not going completely bananas and I have responded to this in characteristic fashion.
I’ve resumed knitting Fox Paws. If there was ever a knit that could give me a sense of order out of chaos, this is it. I can’t explain why fussy knitting would fix things being too fussy, but such are the mysteries of the craft. I’m going to keep knitting on it until I stop feeling like I’d be a danger to others if I put it down.
*It really isn’t a tragedy that the oven light burned out, but how trippy is it that I’m 46 years old, have cooked a lot my whole life, and that’s the first time it’s ever happened. I actually had to look up how to change it. I swear I’d never even considered the possibility that they burned out.