Maybe Cloning

Home again, home again. I wonder how many times I’ve typed that over the years.  It’s a miracle I’ve never followed it with jiggity-jig, which is absolutely what I’m thinking. (This is the exact moment when one of you scans the archives and comes up with sixty-three times I’ve followed it with exactly that, not a one of them I’ll recall.) These last few weeks, I’m bucking the feeling that as I do all the right things, I’m in all the wrong places. This feeling was summed up on Wednesday morning as I missed the Bainbridge Ferry by about 20 seconds – despite careful planning and what should have been a foolproof plan.

I stood there on the dock, watching it sail off, and thought to myself “Well, that’s about right” and sat down to knit until the next one came, mostly content. I was on my way back from Port Ludlow.  After realizing that Susan’s funeral was going to be held during the retreat we just had there, I’d decided to go anyway. Actually, I hadn’t as much decided as I’d realized that there was just no way I could be anywhere else. The retreats we host are pretty tiny, and there’s only three a year, and there’s just no way to change when they are only a few weeks out.  It was difficult to see the family load up and head for Ottawa while I got on a plane for Seattle, we all felt bad about it, but every time I felt like I was in the wrong spot at the wrong time, I reminded myself that I was of service to Susan when she was alive, and that meant a lot more to her than my attendance at a service.  (It has been my experience thus far that other than in your imagination, dead people really don’t hold you to account much.)  It turns out that it’s not as much that I’m in the wrong spots – it’s more that I can’t seem to be in two places at once.

The rest of the week passed in a blur. The retreat was super busy, with Debbi welcoming a grandchild just days before we gathered there, and then it turning out that she actually was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and having to go home a little early.  (I know she wished she could be in two places as well.) I did conference calls for the Bike Rally on my lunch breaks, I answered email between class and evening events. I caught a break when a crazy winter storm whirled through Toronto on the weekend, cancelling the first training ride of the year – and relieving the feeling of being in the wrong place when I couldn’t attend it. Thursday exploded in a jet lagged blur- trying to get all caught up, and yesterday… technically I don’t remember anything about yesterday except I ran out of time to do everything on my do-do list and dinner was a salad with mint. That’s all I’ve got.

Little Elliot’s first birthday party is here tomorrow. I was in Texas two weeks back on his actual first birthday. I sort of felt like I was in the wrong place that time, but it was really the right thing to go to the fabulous DFW Fiber Fest and make up deserting the year before, though I did feel a little pang when the pictures of the birthday boy arrived on my phone.  Thankfully, our little guy is blithely unaware of the calendar, so we shifted it so I could be here for the big celebration. I’ve been pushing hard all week to get his birthday sweater finished, and I can admit today that I’m not going to make it. This hasn’t stopped me from trying, inexplicably.

Pretty, isn’t it? It’s Hearst, and the yarn is Alpha B Yarn “Kiwi B”, an Australian Polworth that she dyed just for one of the Strung Along retreats a few years ago. The colourway’s named for the co-ordinates of Port Ludlow. (If anyone’s coming out to Knot Another Fiber Festival next weekend, she’ll be there I think.  I also think there’s a few spots in one of my classes, the lecture one – Knit Smart. Fun and useful, I promise.)

Today, I should have been at the rescheduled first training ride, but I woke up with tons to do, a birthday cake to bake, a backache, and the absolute inability (emotionally speaking) to push my road bike over the snow piled up by the garden gate. Maybe if I did have a clone I’d be willing to send her out into the cold to ride, but as long as it’s me there’s just no way.  I’ll wait for the temperatures to at least be double digits before I get out there.

If you need me, I’ll be here, more or less, baking cake, answering email, looking wistfully at my bike and my knitting, thinking that this would all go a lot better if there was two of me. Peace out.

At the End(s)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

After Years of Failure, Knitter Proves That She Can Be Taught

PORT LUDLOW, Washington, April 13th, 2018

In a Stunning reversal absolutely nobody was expecting, this morning Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, upon finishing her Russell Street shawl-scarf thing, had only fourteen ends to weave in, out of a total of about fifty-eight (58) for this project.

“I can’t even explain it” the knitter said, while looking visibly pleased with herself. “Everybody talks about how they’re going weave in the ends as they go along, but I actually did!”

As told to this reporter, at the outset, Stephanie looked at this project and realising that there were so many ends, was able to look into the future and see that (as she so eloquently put it) “this was going to be a total %^%$#-show.”  At regular intervals throughout the knitting of this accessory, she then stopped several times and worked on a bunch of the ends so that it wouldn’t all face her at the conclusion.  “I could just tell” she exclaimed, shaking her head incredulously “that if I left them, if all of those ends from all of those mini’s were staring me in the face when I was done, that I’d put it off until later.” (Here, this writer did not ask if the “later” that she was speaking of was actually that thing Stephanie does where she shoves mostly finished knitted stuff into closets for seven years rather than do a little bit of finishing work.)

“I just told myself that I wasn’t going to be that kind of knitter this time…” she said, while blithely ignoring that she has yet to weave in the remaining fourteen ends. “I can’t believe this happened. I made a commitment, and I followed through.  Do you see this? I actually wove in ends as I went along. This doesn’t really happen. I’m like a unicorn.”

When last seen, she was entirely smug, an emotion she scarcely deserves, since she’s really only just done what she was supposed to all along, and fourteen ends remain.

-###-

Fine it was tofu

Yesterday I left the snow and general crap scene of weather in Toronto, and made my way here to Texas, where I’m at the DFW Fiber Fest, an event that I really adore.  It’s got a great vibe, and they’re such nice people, and I thought that even before last year when they were so sweet when I bailed on them to go home for Elliot’s birth. I like them so much, and am actually so grateful for that gift that I am here again, even though it means missing his birthday. They let me be there for the most important one, I can miss this for them, and I got to see him for Easter before I came, and it’s only a day, and you get it.

Truthfully, I was feeling sort of bummed about Easter. It’s usually such a nice holiday for us, low pressure, and all the Spring birthdays get rolled into it, and we have a great dinner at my mum’s and this year I felt like it wouldn’t come together, no matter what I did.  In the end (and I know you’re probably tired of hearing this, but it’s still a problem over here) I realized that I was trying to make it just like the Easters at my Mum’s, which obviously can’t happen because she’s not here and we can’t go there, and I gave up. You’d have thought that I would have figured this out at Christmas, but I didn’t. I accepted that it wasn’t going to be the same, that I couldn’t force it (though I tried for a bit) and I made some new traditions, as many as I could think of – though tried to keep them rooted in the way we do things.  My mother wasn’t there to make a ham, and we don’t eat ham anyway, so I made a vegan ham.

(Fine. It’s tofu. Whatever. My brother eats ham and he said there was “nothing wrong with it” which isn’t a completely ringing endorsement, but is a pretty ecstatic reaction for a carnivore to have to a vegan ham, if you ask me.)

Every year my mum asks me to make this braided bread, but this year I somehow couldn’t so I did bunny buns that I thought Elliot would think were funny. (He did not, but Samantha loved them) and every year I decorate one egg really beautifully as a gift for my mum (she had a whole bowl of them) and so this year I did a bunch.

I figured the girls are all adults, old enough to appreciate them.  I did make the same cake my mother always made, and though not everyone with a spring birthday could be there to celebrate (another stumbling block stumbled upon) Sam and Alex blew out their candles, and Elliot had a practice run. (So far, not his jam.)

We saw Joe’s  family, and we had an egg hunt with the littles, and I knit Elliot some lamb shoes so that he matched the other wee ones.

Pattern: Lamb Shoes, Yarn: Random handspun I found in the closet.

They are charming, and fun and fast to knit, and they come in adult sizes which is something I am really, really resisting out of some sense of decorum that only I feel.  (Everyone else in the family wants me to let go of that sense, and make them all lamb shoes. I think I might have established some unreasonable expectations over Christmas.)

Overall, it was okay – good even, if you try really, really hard not to compare it to other Easters, and just let it be it’s own thing, which is what I am doing, mostly.  Everyone assures me that this odd sense that nothing is right and I’m screwing it all up will pass with time, and I hope so.  There can only be one first of everything without my mum, and we are getting through it.

I mean really, what can be wrong as long as you can look at those little feet?

No Really

I have a pretty big stash, and the most amazing thing about it is really that with the exception of some weird stuff in there that I can’t really explain (moments of weakness when confronted with a yarn sale, usually) I can tell you that all of it… just about every skein, I believed with my whole heart when I bought it, that it was going to be the very next thing I knit. Usually, I buy it, and I bring it home and for a while, I still think it’s going to be next so I keep it somewhere handy.  Top of the knitting basket, kitchen counter. You know, I put it right where I can get it because I am going to start knitting it really soon, possibly in minutes.  After a few weeks of that I start to think that maybe I should take it off the kitchen counter, but I still know it’s going to be next-ish, and I move it to the canopy of the stash. At that point it’s technically in the stash, but it’s still going to be next, just after the other thing that’s sprung up.  Then I buy something else, and put it on the kitchen counter/knitting basket/ in my bag, and wait a while before admitting the truth about that, and then move that to the top of the stash, which naturally pushes the thing from before down a layer and… you see. You know. You probably do it too. My feeling is that it’s pretty normal, if you’re talking about knitters and we are.

I am completely and totally aware that I do this, that I do it almost every time, and somehow, every time I buy something, I still think it’s going to be next, even though the odds that’s what I’m going to do are about the same as the odds that any day now, Joe is going to turn to me and say “You know what, I think I’m going to throw away the 35 year old copies of High Times in the basement. You’re right dear – I’m never going to look at them again and they actually are just taking up space. I see that now.” This is to say that there’s about zero chance. So you could have knocked me over with a feather when the following transpired.

I was at a fibre festival and I was walking around, minding my own business, when whammo. I saw this gorgeous shawl/scarf thing, and there was a kit to go with the sample, and then I thought “Oh isn’t that pretty, I should make that next.”

It was this… Fall Rainbow mini set from Canon Hand Dyes (in Bruce, their sock yarn with a little yak in it) and the pattern was Russell Street. I came unhinged.  I loved it. I gave her my money, and trotted off with this little prize in my hands… and it sat there on the desk in my hotel room while I looked fondly at it and thought “That’s totally going to be next.” Then I brought it home and put it on my desk there, because that’s where you put things that are going to be next… and then…

GUYS THEN IT WAS NEXT. I am not even kidding you.  I finished something, then picked up that yarn, and started knitting it. Just like that, just like I said I would. Just like I have intended to do a thousand times, but this time it just happened.

More than that, I kept knitting it.  No, I’m serious. I didn’t start and then ram it into a corner, or replace it with something better, or be tempted off by the next thing that’s going to be next.

(I did knit a pair of socks but that’s just normal.) Knitters, I think I’m going to finish it.

It’s like a miracle.

Joe hasn’t gone to the basement yet though, so as shocking as this is, we’re probably not in a parallel universe or anything.  I’ll let you know.

 

Bounceback

One time I was listening to the radio (CBC, because I am some sort of dinosaur who still listens to the radio in my house) and I heard a piece (which I spent a long time searching for, trying to prove that it actually happened but maybe it didn’t) where a panel of really clever people were discussing the traits of super successful people, and they all agreed that resilience was absolutely the thing.

That’s the definition right there, and I realized that I’ve been talking about “resilience” without really using that word, when I teach classes where I talk about gauge.  I say that you can tell that a swatch is a good one – that you’ve got it right, when the work bounces back, when it isn’t easily deformed, and when it keeps it’s shape, even when you subject it to stress.  Things knit too loosely – it’s not just a gauge problem, it’s a quality problem… they don’t last as long, or hold up as well, and I realized for the 23476th time in my life that living and knitting are the same. I prize resilience (in knitting and living) very highly.  The ability to hold up, to soldier on… I’m not saying that you deny your feelings, or that you don’t deal with your sadness or challenges, but that you look them all square in the eye and think “Well hell, and I guess now I have to do Wednesday anyway” and then you do… even if you make a real mess of it. So much of being a good human is just showing up, I think.

I was thinking that this week… and thank you so much for all your kind words about Susan, it helps a lot. I feel like a generation is slipping past me, and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about that – except for… and I recommend this technique very highly…

KNIT MONSTER PANTS

There was a moment two days ago where I thought about knitting, and I pulled out the big, fine gauge thing I’m working on, and all I could think was that I was so sad, and supposed to be so sad and that really I should be ironing black clothes, and then something came over me, and I thought that maybe could there be a moment where I didn’t reflect on my losses and metaphorically walk sadly on the beach in the mist,  and maybe HOLY CATS maybe I could just… I could knit Monster Pants (!!!) and in the moment I felt it,  I knew it was right. Behold.

Lo, it is the antidote to all sadness. It is the opposite of sad exits from the universe, it is a countermeasure, a remedy, proper medicine and a bloody reason to go on. (It was also fast and easy, which is never a problem.)

It is my grandson in Monster Pants, and it is pretty much the whole reason that there has been joy and light in my life for the last few days, and if you know me I am not even sorry that I texted you the picture of him wearing these, because they are the light and the joy and…

Seriously. Didn’t that just help your day? Don’t you feel better? Aren’t you jealous that Meg gets to look at that bummie all day? Of course you are, because you’re normal. Look at that and c’mon.  Resiliency, the ability to bounce back, to regain shape… elasticity.  I’m on it.

(Maybe he needs two pairs.)

Susan

Over the last half year, I have had plenty of time to reflect on the metaphors we use when people become seriously ill. We use words of violence and battles and courage – we say that someone met the challenge of cancer bravely or that they fought hard,  and when they become ill we speak of beating it, of not giving up, of winning, and if they live we call them survivors, or in their obituaries we say things about whether or not their fight was long.

A few months ago, just a very few weeks after my mother died, my Aunt Susan was diagnosed with a vicious cancer.  Susan was determined to do all that she could to stay with us, but like my mother and her husband Tupper before her, the disease wasn’t a force you could reckon with. It was unconcerned with her strength of character, her determination, or her will.  This past weekend, despite how much she wanted more, despite how long she cared to live, despite the fact that those who loved her desperately wanted to keep her, and despite that fact that losing so many people in a family in this amount of time is just plain awful, Susan died.

Susan and my mum cared for Tupper together when he was ill, and Susan was with us here when my mum was forced out the door, and I have spent the last few months driving back and forth to Ottawa, trying to repay the debt of care I owed her, and trying to be my mother, though I know I failed. My mum loved Susan desperately, they were the very best of friends,  and many times as I pulled into the hospital parking lot, I thought to myself that if there was any mercy in what was happening, it was that my mum didn’t have to do it.

I know this is the part where I am supposed to say that Susan fought bravely, or something else that is to tell you about her struggle, but I am not going to.

In skipping this tradition, I don’t want to imply that she wasn’t strong, or that she didn’t try or that there was (ever) a challenge that Susan wouldn’t take on. She was a strong person, and brave, and there for Tupp and Mum and it’s all of that  – that’s why I can’t say there was a fight. I just won’t. I’m sure it will be different for many of you, and you can use the language and words that resonate for yourselves, and your families, if it helps you to battle with cancer or illness, if that reassures you or gives you strength, have at it. Take all you need with my blessing and more – but please don’t say it to me, because today our family is on the other side.

If we say there was a fight, then we are saying Susan lost it, as did my Mum, and Tupp, and I cannot bear to have them thought of as losers who weren’t strong enough, people who didn’t persevere, or tragic figures who didn’t win a battle.  You didn’t know them, they weren’t like that. They didn’t want to go, and they would never have left us like this if they didn’t have to.

Susan didn’t lose a fight – the magic number of days she was somehow allotted had elapsed, and it wouldn’t have mattered if she had cowered in a corner and refused to go on, there was a sentence in the disease, and there was no battle for her to wage.

I am not a person who believes in heaven, or any afterlife at all.  I tried to be, after my Mum died. I tried to believe that she was going on somewhere, happy and whole – it is a wonderful idea that I wish I could get behind, and I so see the obvious comfort in it, but I lack whatever it is that lets you make the leap. I tried desperately to believe that I would someday see her again, but I can’t.  While I struggled, Susan did not. She believed that there was a time after this, a time or a place where people are reunited with the ones that they love, and although she was loathe to go, in her heart she felt that leaving this place could mean arriving somewhere else, and I was happy to support that belief. I hope she is right, or that maybe something different is true for everyone and maybe in believing, Susan made it true for herself.

Today it is my most fond wish that somewhere, right this minute, Susan, Tupp and Mum are on a beach, the Saturday crossword held down with a rock.  Mum is walking along the waves, Tupp is swimming in the sea, and Susan is sitting in the shade watching them both, so relieved and peaceful, and happy to have them back again.

I hope so, because I really miss them all.  Bon voyage Susan. We love you.Thanks for everything.

I’ll just take that too

My little Pretty Thing is finished and blocking (I forgot what a super fast knit it is, the chart’s only got 62 rounds) if by “blocking” you understand that I have washed it in the bathroom sink and tossed it on a furnace grate so it dries fast. It’s going to be fantastic.  I’ve turned my attention now to my suitcase – throwing in some clothes, a few sweaters, all the stuff that doesn’t matter, and now I get to think about what knitting I’ll take.  I’m suddenly between projects.

Now, you have to understand that “between projects” is a technical term that when applied to regular people always means that you don’t currently have a project on the go.  When applied to knitters, however, this term has several possible meanings, depending on the nature or mood of the knitter in question.

A) I’m in between projects!  Translation – I actually have nothing on the needles.  I just finished something and I haven’t started something, so for the next three minutes, I’m in between projects. Likelihood: Rare, but possible.

B) I’m in between projects! Translation – I have finished my main project. I still have a few other things on needles kicking around that I could be puttering away at,  but this was the big thing I had on the go. Likelihood: Not unusual.

C) I’m in between projects! Translation – I have nothing on the needles right now – except socks/a hat/some other sort of accessory, and I don’t count those.   Likelihood: Common

D) I’m in between projects! Translation – There’s actually about seven projects on the needles in this house, but I don’t care about the other ones and I may or may not ever finish them, and frankly, I don’t like your tone. I don’t want to knit those, and therefore, they don’t count.  Those bags?  Those are socks. Everyone knows you don’t count socks. I am clearly between projects. Did you see my new yarn?  Likelihood: Yeah. That’s probably it.

Today, I’m using it that last way – I’ve got about 5 big projects on the go, and two pairs of socks (whoops, three) and I literally just looked straight through them all and thought “well isn’t this lovely. Nothing on the needles” and decided I can put whatever yarn I want in my suitcase, and plenty of it.

After all, it’s not often that I’m between projects.

Pretending

I am pretending that this week is not on fire. (It is.) I am pretending that I am totally organized (I am not) and that everything is absolutely coming together (it isn’t) and that I have all of this well in hand. (Sorry. Just laughed so hard I almost choked on tea.) Joe and I, despite difficulties of a stunning variety, are leaving for our annual holiday on Saturday. We thought we would go somewhere warm, and then somewhere adventurous, and then somewhere we’d never been, and then go on our (now) annual ski trip to Banff, and then we remembered about a few complications, like time and money and family and reality, so now we’re just going skiing, which is totally what Joe loves, and I like it too (although I am getting pretty sick of winter) and it is very hard to complain about the Rocky Mountains, because going there is almost exactly like the beach.  (See title.) I’m busy sorting my work and getting ready to try and take a week off, and I’m going to be absolutely prepared and ready to set aside all the stress of the week and our lives and be great at relaxing. (See title.)  I’ve been knitting something for skiing too – just to be prepared.

Nine years ago, just about, I knit Pretty Thing. I have worn that one a million times, and most recently, I’ve taken to wearing it skiing. It’s the perfect little bit of extra warm softness, tucked between my neck and my ski jacket, and I can even pull it up to cover my chin, cheeks and nose when it’s really cold. It works really well – not bulky, stays where I put it, it’s perfect.

(I love how this picture makes it look like I know what I’m doing. See title.)

It’s so perfect, that it would appear I’ve finally worn it out. The last time I went to put it on, there was a hole.  I know when it happened too – it was just after Christmas when we went skiing and it was -35, and the thing froze solid with ice from my breath, and it snapped as I pulled it up.  (If you do not live in a place where it gets cold enough to actually break frozen textiles, take a minute and hold Canada in your heart.) I came home that day and started thinking about a replacement – though truthfully, I did keep wearing the ratty one until now – like some feral knitter with broken stuff. (I am rather attached to it.) I went through the spinning stash, and found a beautiful batt.

It was from Heidi at the Artful Ewe, about 50g of superfine merino, cashmere and silk.  The perfect little bit for a Pretty Thing.  I spun it up, and plied it,

and yesterday I started knitting it up. (The second Bonfire is finished, if you’re wondering how my faithless needles have wandered again. I’ll show you later, it’s blocking.)

I love how it’s working out, though I think I will forever miss my first one.

A little luck and tomorrow it’s washed, packed and ready to hit the slopes.

(See title.)

One Half Year

A few years ago a friend told me that after she experienced a significant loss, she didn’t dream anymore.  The whole thing stopped, and her nights were simple. She closed her eyes, and slept and woke up and nothing had happened in between. This was sad and worrisome for her, she’d always loved and valued her dreams, and she was worried and frightened that they were gone forever, killed by her sadness.  It wasn’t true, they flickered back into being as she came up from the depths of grief, but I remember thinking that it seemed sad and horrible and impossible. Dreams are… well, they’re part of who you are. How can that go away?

I didn’t realize until I started dreaming again a few weeks ago, that the same thing had happened to me. I woke remembering a dream, and was suddenly aware of the stunning absence of them until now, and realized that I’d been so busy treading water that I hadn’t even noticed that things were so weird. I’ve kept dreaming since that night, and mostly they aren’t awesome yet. Largely I’m having problem solving dreams – dreams of emergencies and things that need fixing… a fire threatens our home and everyone is here for dinner – and I only have one exit to get them safe.  Zombies (more like wraiths, really) are coming and I need to get a door closed quickly with my family on the safe side… or a ship is sinking, and I have to find everyone I love and find life jackets of the right size and get them all to the lifeboats, despite barriers and difficulty. I know. I have a super subtle subconscious.

This last weekend I was in Ottawa trying to be my mother, and I’m glad she doesn’t know why, and that I’m not really good at it, and it’s not super important to the story, so let’s keep going.  On the table next to the bed there was this white noise machine that had all these different settings, and I thought what the hell. I haven’t been sleeping really well anyway, so I cycled through the settings, and one of them was “ocean”.  I thought of my Mum then for a minute, and how she always said that she slept so well when she could hear the sea, and that reminded me of our trips, and I picked it, and lay down. I wonder now if that’s what was responsible for what happened next, or if it was just random.

I was having a dream – because it was a dream I wasn’t really totally aware that it wasn’t real, and it was a dream of a party that I was having for a reason that turned out to be both funny and stupid, and I was standing in the kitchen washing dishes, and laughing and chatting with my mother. She was standing behind me, rocking Elliot, and jollying him along, and we talked about how stupid the party was, and how funny it was that I’d arranged it all, and I told her about a problem I was having, and she gave me advice, and it was completely ordinary. It was me and my Mum in the kitchen doing what we do, and she was her and I was me, and I could hear her voice, and it was her voice, and it was the way she moved, and what she would wear, and the way she smelled. It was her. I was with her.

She even gave me advice about a problem I’m having, and… let’s just pause here, and say that I know it wasn’t her. It was a memory of her,  an idea of her, and I know that I wasn’t visited by my mother in ghost form, and it wasn’t her coming back to guide or help me, and I don’t believe in a great thereafter, and I know perfectly well that any advice she gave me was really just my subconscious trying to do a little problem solving (thanks to the great advice and help she gave me in real life) and I know. I know. I know it was just a dream. Irrelevant and fleeting and not real and a moment and oh… my.

It was amazing. It was everything I have been wanting. I miss her so badly, and I miss her walk, and her talk, and how she moved with that baby in her arms, and I know my mind made her, and that is a relief. It means I remember her enough to conjure her – to accurately bring back all that was her in a way that means I have her.  I haven’t forgotten. I know this is dumb, and nobody forgets their mother, but I worry that she will fade from my mind, and I won’t know how to have back any little bit of her.

In that dream, we were easy with each other, the way we always were, and she told me that way things are, and what I had to do, and we laughed, and towards the end of this little visit, she spoke of the grief of my siblings… how they might feel right now… and something snapped. I realized she was talking plainly and easily about the impact of her own death on our lives, and I turned to face her, crying suddenly as I realized it all, and it was real again, and in a flash it ended.

I woke up crying, the sounds of ocean in the room, though I was far from the sea, and my Mum was still gone.

It was beautiful and terrible, and I am grateful and hurt, and so sad, and briefly happy, which is maybe where you are supposed to be one half year after your mother dies.

mum beach best 2018-02-28

Six months today.  I sure miss you Mum.