Randomly on a Wednesday

1. I finished a washcloth while I was thinking about what to start next. I did what I always do with washcloths, 30-ish stitches (this one is 32) with worsted weight cotton (the cheap stuff) and garter stitch borders. I whacked Bee Stitch into the centre of this one – because I think it’s nicest, but I suppose the world is your oyster if you’re not as obsessed with Bee Stitch as I am.

2. Do any of you remember way back when knitting online was all about The Knit List (this was so long ago that it was an actual listserv) and knitting washcloths was a big deal. Huge. Whole webpages devoted to it, massive lists… I swear it was an actual fad, and this was before Ravelry or Pinterest so it was seriously hard to get a good knitting fad going.  I don’t know what came over any of us, but it was a bright and noble time for the humble washcloth.

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3. These pictures make my bathroom look clean. It’s not.

4. I’m still working on that pair of socks I mentioned yesterday, but I feel like I might be coming down with another few washcloths.

5. You know, I was just looking at the patterns for a bunch of washcloths, and it would appear that most people call them dishcloths. That doesn’t seem right. I’m not washing dishes with them, and I don’t think I ever would. Do you? Would you? Doesn’t it seem like if you’re going to handknit something to rub on things, that you should rub it on animate things?

5.b That just autocorrected to “intimate things”.  No comment.

washcloth 2016-08-31

6. I guess maybe the person washing the dishes is animate enough, but it still seems like I wouldn’t be making the most of its knitting mojo. When you use them in the bath, the thing doing the washing and the thing being washed both get to enjoy it. (Although it’s usually going to be the same person who’s using it and being washed, so I guess that’s still just one person pleased by the cloth no matter what you use it for, but I’m standing by my position. I’d rather be pleased two ways.)

7. Although now that I think about it, I suppose that an argument could be made that the act of washing dishes could be elevated by having a really nice cloth to do it with, handmade tools making everything you do a little more lovely, connecting all the work you do with your hands together in circle.

8. Screw it. I think they’re for the bath.

 

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Lunatic

You know, it occurred to me over the course of the last week, as Jen and I packed the car and left for a week of camping with two little kids, that it was a bit of a lunatic move. We were going pretty far North (Canada has lots of North to choose from, but we picked Lake Superior) and the kids are pretty little (four and almost nine), and the weather can be crazy, and we would be so far away for so long… there were a lot of ways that it could have gone wrong. Unbelievably, everything went right, or when it went wrong, Jen and I reached down into our parenting experience and figured it out.  Sure, a week long camping trip into the wilds with little kids is ambitious, but they’re Canadian kids, well acquainted with the woods and the wilds and the women going with them were (or at least we like to think of ourselves this way) strong campers, with great skills. (I mean that. You should see either one of us light a fire.) I can cook anywhere, neither one of us minds being dirty, we’ve got good gear… the wild cards were going to be the kids. Before we left, I imagined that sort of episode where someone’s socks fit funny and that ends in an episode of helpless sobbing, or the fruit gets cut wrong  – you know the one, that thing where a kid asks for sliced peaches, receives sliced peaches and then loses their mind because you should have understood that sliced is code for “don’t slice it” and there’s no going back.

Grownups can eat peaches both ways, but kids? I imagined fits in the car, breakdowns in the tent, dirt that couldn’t be managed, pillows that smelled funny and couldn’t be slept on… and Jen and I with only our camping gear to mitigate it all with. While a few of those things happened (I admit it, I am the MORON who cut a pancake into pieces that were way to small to be tolerated.) The week was perfect, and a big part of it was planning. There were activities for the kids every day, and I brought a sketchbook to be our journal, and every time things threatened to get wild, another magic thing surfaced out of Auntie Stephie’s Super Secret Fun Bag.  We had scavenger hunts, and drew pictures, and painted…

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We collected rocks, and found the best ones on every beach. We looked for the best swimming spots (holy crap Lake Superior is cold) and made giant bubbles. We hiked, and tested the muddy places in the road to see if we could get through, and we made sunprints, and cooked things on sticks, and talked about the safest way to light a fire.

 

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We read stories (all of Little House in the Big Woods in a week) and put flowers and leaves in the journal to press, and the one day it rained like there was no tomorrow, Jen and I remembered that we had good sense, a car and credit cards, and got those kids to a hotel to dry off.

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We saw a beach that was all rocks, big as your head and shaped like dinosaur eggs (Montreal River) and another one where the rocks were round and amazing (Gargantua Bay.) We swam in Old Woman Bay, we walked the sand bridge to Bathtub Island.

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We talked about peeing outside (totally permissible, under specific circumstances) and ate raspberries off the bushes. We went to Flowerpot Island, and rode a fast boat, and Jen and I tried to stay up by the fire at night, but we were terrible at it.

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We made a whole week of magic for those kids, and they were awesome.

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The lunatic part turned out to be that Jen and I both brought our laptops so we could work remotely, and so much knitting that we could have set up a yarn shop in the woods. In the span of a week, I knit a single sock. That’s it. It turns out that the only thing I had time to make was a pretty great week for two little girls.

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In the end, that’s not so bad.

 

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Away with me

Ah, Friday, where the heck did you come from? This week sped by, as I tried to get caught up, and was thwarted at a few turns. Most notably, I smashed the everloving daylights out of my phone on Wednesday evening. (A stumble in the dark, and I prevented a fall with an outstretched phone, which in retrospect was pretty stupid. I heal and have health care. My phone, not so much.) The day dissolved into a journey to the Apple Store, which turned into a wait at the Apple Store while they repaired the phone, and a period of three hours in which I had no phone, which was odder than I’d imagined. It reminded me of my mother in a power outage. She’s the smartest person I know, but outages are her kryptonite. She goes from activity to activity – “Balls, the power is out and I can’t put the TV on. Never mind, I’ll listen to the radio. Dammit, the power is out, the radio doesn’t work. I’ll do a little ironing. Son of a gun, that won’t work either. Never mind pets, let’s plug in the kettle and have tea….” You see how it goes, and that was me with no phone. I decided I’d listen to podcasts while I waited, remembered I had no phone, decided to listen to an audiobook, remembered I had no phone, decided to check my email instead…. I was the living embodiment of my mother in the dark. At one point I realized that without a phone I didn’t even have a clock, and approached a stranger. “Excuse me, do you have the time?” She was holding her phone, and looked at me like I’d just asked her if she could help me shear an alpaca, right there in the Eaton’s Centre. “The time?” She goggled, and I had to tell her that Apple was holding my phone hostage, and I don’t wear a watch because, you know. I use my phone for that. She checked her phone, told me the time, and then asked me when I was getting my phone back. Her response was a bizarre mix of incredulity and sympathy, and I could tell, as she clutched her phone a little more tightly, that she was imagining what it would be like. “Wow” she said, when I told her it would be a few more hours. “I know” I sighed. “It’s a difficult time.”

A cleverer knitter would have seen the phone thing coming, and perhaps taken a sock or  printed out a nice reliable paper pattern to take with her, but as it stood, I’d handed the PDF version of my pattern over to the Apple people, and couldn’t even knit. I did try for a while, using previous repeats as a guide, but it was slow and silly. In the end I bought a dress with birds on it, and then a book – since I’d given my current book to the Apple people in the form of my phone.  It all ended well (except that I sat in something yucky on the subway, then I stepped in gum, and a bird crapped on me and some dude with a questionable grasp on reality yelled at me on the sidewalk) and I got home, and decided to essentially end it all nicely with a glass of wine (2) and a nice long knit. That knit (now that I had my pattern/phone) back again, finished the Ghazal Cowl -

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Well, it’s almost finished, I’ve pulled out the provisional cast-on I did at the beginning, and I just have to graft the two halves together, but I yesterday must have been some sort of sacrifice to whatever force of destiny decides how my days go, because when I’d done all the repeats I could, and ended on the right row, this is how much yarn I had left.

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That there is a winning game of Yarn Chicken, and a perfect ending to a knit using handspun. When I’m done the graft I bet there will be less than 10cm of remaining, and that was worth stepping in gum for. (I am less sure about the phone.)  Tonight I’ll graft, and then block, and then I guess I have to make another decision. I’m off on Sunday with the indomitable Jen and her two girls, to whom I am an honourary Auntie, and we’re headed far, far up north for some Canadian fun and games. Tents, canoes, camping and hunting for fireflies. A Thelma and Louise roadtrip – if you add in two little kids. There should be tons of knitting time (the drive is 8 hours, for starters) and I’ll be packing along lots of wool. We are going far enough North that summer is already gasping her last there, so it will be all fires, and sweaters, and hunts for fairy houses through the woods.

Now, a few Karmic Balancing gifts, just to make sure my luck holds? You bet.

(PS. I’ve added a teaching gig in Calgary at Pudding Yarn the weekend of September 18th to the roster. There’s spots, if you’d like to join us.)

First up, Terri Major (friend of the show, lovely lady) has free patterns for three of you. Any three patterns for three knitters, your choice from her shop. Pictured is the lovely Rose Arbour Baby Blanket, and I’d get that for sure, but Krystal L, Kristin and Lee T will somehow choose.

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Next, a trio of beautiful cases from Grace at the aptly named “Grace’s Cases“.  I love her stuff, and these cases are so pretty – of the first, Grace says “This new Basic “Anything Goes” Spillproof Needle Case has just two pages and is perfect as an expansion case or a starter case.  It is Multi-purpose in that you can store a wide variety of items.  Page 1 has 7 snap pockets that can hold either fixed circulars or lots and lots of cables
Page 2 has 13 graduated slots that can hold dpns sizes 0-9, regular or interchangeable hooks up to 6″ in length, or interchangeable tips sizes 2-15. Generous notions pocket included in cover.”  Better than that, it’s bike themed.  I hope that Kelly M loves it.

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Second “The Petite Lovely Tote. A great size to use as a project bag / bucket, or perfect for shopping at your local yarn store.  We kept it simple and clean on the inside and out. No pockets, no padding, nothing to catch on things – the space is all yours!  Measures 10” tall, 10” wide, 5” deep at base – Perfect for knit night projects!!” and also bike themed! I bet Ruth D has somewhere to take it.
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Last, but certainly not least “Cupcake Bags are divided project bags specifically designed for color work or TAAT projects. The lower portion of the bag is divided into two sections to keep your cakes from tangling and the upper portion has room for project storage.  Roll the top down to form a divided yarn bowl! Or attach a carabiner or clip to the included loop to hang it anywhere. Dual drawstring top closure.” and that’s going to Sarah E.
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If you’d like your own, Grace’s shop is here.

 From The Mountain would like to donate 1 skein of worsted weight yarn in a natural colour, and several one-skein pattern options.  Their yarn is 100% cashmere and is hand spun in Afghanistan by women who are earning a fair wage for their work.  After over a decade of conflict, many women in Afghanistan have been left as heads of household, but with very few safe income opportunities.  Spinning for From the Mountain offers them a way to earn income and be home with their families at the same time.  I hope that Chris A loves it, and where it comes from.

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Amy has a pretty gift, bless her generous heart, a kit for Mrs. Beaton’s Wrist Warmers. She’ll happily mail that sweet little package off to Emily W.

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Brenda, another pretty awesome knitter, went into her stash and came up with two skeins of IndigoDragonfly merino-silk 4-ply sock in “Partying is Hafla Fun.” She’ll be mailing that off to Julie B, and I know they’ll love it.

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Jan has an adorable bag that she’ll be sending off to Muriel T.  It’s a “Tour de Forest” bag (how appropriate!) If you can’t live without one of your own, her shop is here. (I might not be able to live without one.)

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Phew! I’ve emailed all the lucky knitters concerned, and I’ll try to get another batch up tomorrow. While I decide what knitting comes camping. Maybe something brown. That’s always a good camping colour.

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Right out of a Hat

I’m not good with choices. Have we ever talked about this? A few choices are just fine, but as the field grows, so does my anxiety about choosing. It’s one of the great things about being a vegetarian in a restaurant, most of the time there’s very little choice. There might be one or two things without an animal in it, and usually the other thing has eggplant, and there you go. Choice made. (I have a fragile relationship with eggplant. Something about the difference between the firm, shiny skin and the mushy insides gives me the heebie-geebies.)

Vital, important decisions I can manage, because I am a grown-up and that’s part of the rules, but small decisions like what to have for dinner? What wine should we order with our meal? Which skirt should I wear today? May the goddess of wool preserve me, I hate it. I hate it enough that most of the time I’d rather opt out entirely. Many’s the time that I’ve let someone else order my dinner or drink for me, or asked my kids what I should wear and then put it on. “You pick” is what I say most often. The element of surprise is just fine with me, and I enjoy it more than trying to figure it out for myself. (This only works if you’re with someone who has decent taste and understands about eggplant, that Kahlua is pretty dodgy, and that I don’t like turtlenecks.)  Generally, my zeal for decisions and choices is directly related to how many of them I’ve made lately. If I’m burdened by larger life choices, small things like what sock yarn to cast on next seem impossible, and I’ll let you choose my cocktail. I’m used up, I can’t decide.

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Such was the place I found myself in today. I’d finished a pair of socks over the weekend, and I’d grabbed another ball of yarn at random and cast on, just to have something in my bag, but today (after I sat at my desk all day writing which is nothing but making big choices) when the time came to pick my next proper project, I couldn’t do it. Completely stuck. Here’s a whole house full of yarn and patterns and after a few hours of research (that’s what you call hopelessly pulling skeins out of the stash, waiting for them to speak their destiny and then putting them back which they refuse to tell you) I gave up. I decided I’d go into my office and the open the yarn bin by my desk (judge not lest ye be judged) and the first yarn that I saw, that would be the yarn I used.

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Theoretically, I like everything in my stash, so I couldn’t see any way for it to fail.  The first thing was the handspun that I finished right before The Rally.  Long, uneven stripes of colour, in silk and polworth. Fine, I thought that’s fine – it even helps a bit, actually.  Mittens are out, because they won’t match in a horrible way that will make me wild, socks can’t be undertaken for the same reason (also, it’s worsted weight-ish, and socks that don’t fit in shoes are awkward.)  A scarf would be too short (I only have about 200m) A hat wouldn’t work because it’s handspun and I’d want to use all of it up, so… that sort of left cowl, didn’t it? I put out a plea on Twitter, and then I took the first reasonable suggestion.

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It was Ghazal.  Comes in a bunch of gauges, easy to change for however my yardage works out, has a little slip-stich thing that should look great with my yarn. I cast on (provisionally, which was fantastically ironic to me) and began. I feel good about it. I think it’s going to work – which is great, because I’m not sure I could face the trying to choose if I was going to rip it out.

Now. Will someone tell me what to make for dinner?

Exactly what you need right now

I was sitting here, fingers poised over the keyboard, wondering what I was going to say to you, and let me tell you, let’s talk about what all of Toronto is talking about. The heat. Dudes, it is so hot. It is record breaking hot, and despite being really muggy, it’s the driest summer we’ve had in 75 years. The only really significant rain was the stuff that pelted us during the rally. (Go figure.) Everything, people, plants, trees, dogs… everything is wilting, and it’s all we can talk about. This morning it was hotter in Toronto than in Mumbai – and it’s not like they’re having a cold snap. As I type this, at the end of the day with the worst behind us, it is 43 here, with the humidex. (For my American friends, that’s 109 Fahrenheit.) Today on the un-airconditioned subway (it was at least 40 degrees in there) the guy next to me softly swore under his breath, and then apologized.  “I’m just… so hot.” he said, and I nodded sympathetically. It’s so hot that it’s impossible to get anywhere looking good. Opening the door to go out is like walking into a wall of heat, and by the time you get to where you’re going, you’re soaked.

As we approach each other, to shake hands or embrace, it’s preceded by a pause, then a statement – “Sorry, I’m pretty sweaty” and then nine times out of ten the mission is aborted, or you do hug, and both of you feel bad about the outcome. Today I was walking up the hill to the house (Amanda said “Oh, Mum, what were you thinking?”) and I stopped at a red light, and stood there with the sun beating down on me, and I felt a river of sweat run from the nape of my neck all the way down my body and into my sandal, and I realized that if I stood there for a few more minutes, I’d be standing in a puddle. (Yes, I realize as I type, that the astute among you will have worked out that if sweat can make it from my neck to my toes in a straight shot, then I wasn’t wearing underclothes. Knitters, my pets. If you can give me one decent reason based on proper good sense why a woman wearing a dress shouldn’t abandon underthings in these kinds of temperatures, I’ll grudgingly put them back on, but until that time, I’ll be embracing one of the advantages of the humble skirt.)

It is so hot, that my mother, out for a walk, found herself by the lake, and overcome by all of it, walked straight in, clothes and all. She has, she said, zero regrets.

All of this makes it especially awesome that I have fixed and finished a pair of mittens.* Warm, comforting mittens, that despite their beauty, make me hotter to even look at them, and I cannot conceive the emotional state I’d be in if I tried them on.

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Unknown yarn stashed at least a decade ago, pattern loosely based on chart #68 from Latvian Mittens, 2.25mm needles, 72 stitches around.

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Into the Christmas box they go. Someone pass me a cold drink.

*Winter is coming.

I didn’t say it

I am not going to suggest, gentle readers, that knitters are a specific sort of person, or that we all possess the same personality traits. I’ve met knitters from all over, and there’s not a single thing that I can point to and say “There. That’s how you can tell. He’s tidy. That’s a knitter thing.” * I’ve met knitters who have their household supplies organized alphabetically, and ones who live in homes that are all in a tip. Those two things aren’t even related. I’ve met knitters who’s knitting is a total mess, but you’d feel comfortable licking any surface in their supernaturally clean apartment, and knitters who knit with a precision and attention to detail that would make you weep, assuming you can find a tissue somewhere in the disorganized mountain of stuff they keep around them. There is simply no predicting it, and I’ve given up trying.

You can’t say all knitters are young, or all knitters are old, you can predict their gender statistically, but men make up too much of the field to be able to say for certain. I can’t take a guess at your politics, and I can’t say that you like wool, and if you’d like to start the knitter equivalent of a bar-fight, just get yourself twenty knitters in a room together and say something like “Straight needles are simply the best.”  We are a random crew, and the only thing I can tell someone for sure, is that you have no idea what a knitter is like, or what they like – except for knitting.

That said, I feel confident that there is not one among you can argue with the idea that knitters can be a little… detail oriented. That it can be easy for us to lose ourselves in getting the minutia of something tiny right, to spend forever nailing down something so that it is knitterly and perfect.  Take the braids on this mitten, for example.  I have taken the time to reverse them, so that the braids on the left mitten point left, and the braids on the right mitten point to the right, because knitters, that’s just darned elegant. Will anyone every notice? Will a single person outside of this blog ever think to themselves that they’re just that little bit more perfect? Maybe not. Maybe just me… and you.  That kind of attention to detail isn’t something that everyone notices.  You might not have done it yourself, you might not have chosen to spend your time that way. You might look at it and think “wing of moth Stephanie how can that have been your goal” but not a one of you is going to say “that is stupid, doesn’t make a spot of difference, and is not at all the difference between knitting that is a 9, and knitting that’s the full damn Monty.”

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It is freakin’ beautiful, and perfect, and perhaps the reason that I missed the big picture. Those braids are the very essence of perfection, and balance, and … well, not nearly enough to make it so you don’t notice that I’ve accidentally reversed the colours on the entire mitten hand on the second one – but I didn’t notice until I went to take a very smug picture to show you.

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How’s that for attention to detail?

PS. Someone’s going to ask for the pattern, so here it is.

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That’s the chart # from Latvian Mitttens, the number of stitches I cast on, the row I put the thumb on, how many stitches the thumb is, the row on which I started the decreases for the top, and the type of decrease I used.  Boom. It’s all I need. (Except apparently to pay attention. Speed Kills, kids.)

*I will admit that the number of knitters who have a fondness for bags of all kinds seems to be somewhat telling, and we do seem to be rather preternaturally attracted to office supplies, but it may be a causal relationship. We probably start out normal.

And now for something completely different

Have I ever told you about the Bike Rally Blues? They’re just what it sounds like. After months of lead-up and all the work, and then a really intense week, you’re suddenly left with just your real life – and in a lot of cases, the mess it’s in after you dropped it to go ride your bike for a week. (I know a lot of Rally folks who’re weeping into an overly full inbox as I type this, and I might be one of them.) I’ve spent the days since I got home sleeping, working, working, working, working, and sailing with Joe – and any family we can get on the boat. (I’ve also eaten just about any food that gets in my way. I’ve been so hungry the cat would be in danger were I not a vegetarian.)

One thing I haven’t been doing a lot of is knitting. Some every day, for sure, but like last year, my hands were a little sore by the end of the ride, and so I’ve just been knitting enough to stay out of prison. Today though, today is the day that all that changes. My hands feel better, I’m itching for a knit-o-rama, and I have a plan. Today I’m going through the stash, taking a look at what I have, and then… wait for it, I’m going to consult THE CHRISTMAS SPREADSHEET.  I’m planning a month long investment in getting December under control. It’s a bold plan, and one I’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s probably going to result in a lot of socks, at least until I can get the spreadsheet to jibe with my Ravelry queue, and invite a few scarves into my heart.  I’m also going to go shopping this month for a few things – buy a few gifts, and see if I can lighten my December load, and spread the holiday budget around a bit. Every year I swear I’m going to act early to make the holidays more relaxed, and this year I’m going to make it happen.

It’s Christmas in August. Who’s with me?

Six Days

Dear Bike Rally,

On Friday, the final day of the Bike Rally, I was thinking about this post. I’ve come to see that the Rally always has a thread that runs through the whole thing and connects it for me, and it puts that ride in context and gives me a way to write about it, or process the enormity of what it’s like to do this thing. The feelings the whole week of the rally are gigantic and I always feel a need to organize them, and so there I was, riding along, and casting about trying to give all the feelings a home.  We were sweeping that last day,  so it was quiet, and I had mostly stopped trying to fill up that quiet with chatter at Cameron (mostly) and had turned inward, to think it over.

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Here is what I thought: This year’s ride was hard. Please don’t confuse that for one minute with unpleasant or awful, Bike Rally, you know I love you, but every year something changes, another element comes into focus, and something else shifts out of its way to let it exist. One year it rains a monsoon and the theme is triumph. One year I gather new and old hearts to me, and the theme becomes friendship. Another year everywhere I go I feel the sense of belonging and wonderful acceptance that is the Rally, and the theme reveals itself as community.

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This time, I can admit that I was out of step – focused on things in my own life.  I came into it worried, and I remained out of step the whole time. When I was ready to be alone, I was surrounded. When I wanted to be with others, I found myself lonely. When my sister texted, sick and upset, I wanted to get off my bike and be with her. When Joe called with a little family crisis, I wanted badly to be with him, rather than at (an admittedly fun) campsite.  When I wanted laughter, some people around me were crying, and a few times, when I had given myself to tears, the happiness around me was hard to hear. I struggled to keep up when I rode with faster riders, I wanted to be like the wind when I found myself in the company of riders slower than I am. It rained. I was cold. It was hot. It was hard. This year’s magic was there, and I could feel it, even through all that, though it was quiet and complicated magic, and I couldn’t give it a name.

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This year, the theme was not the incredible sense of community and warmth that surrounds everything on the Rally, although, oh… it was there in the faces of the people who sign up for it. It would take all day to recount the thousand kindnesses I saw you give each other.   It wasn’t the sense of personal triumph over the difficulty of it all, though I cried like an idiot at the finish line as that swept over me again. It wasn’t the way I was able to embrace the gift of being able to look at everyone I love who does this thing and think again and again about the joy I take in knowing such incredibly decent human beings, and how lucky I am to call them my friends and family. This time it was something else that moved to the fore, though it was stealthy.

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It was this: It is easy to take the personal joy from the Rally as your only reward. It is easy to let it make you feel strong and heroic,  and it is easy to feel a sense of accomplishment when you climb off your bike at the end and hug that close to yourself. It is simple when you ride with your team, or when you sit in the evening and talk about your day. It is easy, and maybe seductive – to want to say “look what I did” and feel proud, and don’t get me wrong Rally, you should be proud. I am proud. The thing is a freakin’ epic, and that you got on your bike for it should make you so puffed up that people can hardly stand you – but it wasn’t the thing.

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On the morning that we were in Kingston, someone who works for PWA came to talk to us. She told us about a typical day. She told us what’s accomplished in a day, what she does, what they all do, how they move from joy to heartbreak and task to task,  and how they do that every, single, day – day after day.  I was so moved, though it wasn’t until that last day, riding, or today, writing – that I’ve pulled together what it means that it was that moment that stayed with me.

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Darling Bike Rally, this time, I struggled with generosity, though I am loathe to admit it. The Rally, while it is an amazing experience, doesn’t owe me squat. It doesn’t owe me happiness – it doesn’t owe me sunshine, or community or friendship, or a sense of personal pride…  or any of the other things that I get every single time as a byproduct of what I agree to do. It is not an exchange. I will get something of value, I always do, but I am lucky if it is those things, not entitled to them, and I don’t get to complain when they aren’t served up to me on a silver platter, but when they are overshadowed by something bigger, something more meaningful, if harder to embrace.

The beauty of the Rally, the magic of all of it and what makes it so powerful, is that you don’t get to pick what is going to happen, or how it will feel. Like living with HIV/AIDS, like cancer, like parenting or friendship or rain, what happens, happens, what it dishes out, you eat up, and you don’t get to decide when it stops, or how it stops or what your day is like. You just have to keep going, even if your air mattress deflates every night until you toss it in the garbage in a fit of rage, even if you have to tell Pato that if he rides to the top of a hill at 30km an hour again you’re going to knock him off his damned bike because nobody likes a show-off, even if you stand in the rain and laugh uncontrollably because it’s better than crying, or even if it just so happens, that sometimes people need you to give them – more than you need them to give to you, even if it’s not how it feels at that moment. The only separation between the Rally and all those other hard things, is that the Rally is six days. Just six. No matter what happens, or how hard or wonderful, or challenging or surprising or rewarding it is, there’s just six days, and we are asked to meet that with our bigger selves.

almostend 2016-08-02

This year, the Rally asked for generosity, asked all of us to be part of a bigger thing, to step up fundraising, to try harder, to give more… and to make those six days what they need to be, not for ourselves, but for PWA.  Now that I see that, I’m more than okay. Together we raised more than a million dollars, and we did that with our amazing families and communities and knitters and that it only cost the sweat, flat tires and tears that it did?  It’s another Bike Rally miracle, another gift, on top of all that I’ve gotten before. In the end, I remembered that it’s about that generosity, giving happiness, time, energy, money, patience, love, sweat, and about 70 inner tubes. It was swapping six days of my time to change things for someone who’s got a lot more than six days ahead of them, and I was humbled, or at least I hope I was.

Love,

Stephanie

 

Now we ride

Today was a wild thing. I thought yesterday was wild, with picking things up and dropping things off and trying to find other things, and I can’t tell you what a massive case of the screamin’ heebies it gives me to try and pack for an escapade like this. It’s not so hard, packing for 8 days away. I do it all the time, and I’m pretty good at it, but if you throw in cycling and camping, all of a sudden you need a bunch of things you don’t usually when you travel. (For example, I don’t usually pack everything for a week away into individual large ziplocks by day. For the Rally? Two words. “Rain” and “earwig”.)  This morning I got everything I needed for the week into one big hockey bag. My tent, my tarp, my sleeping bag, my clothes, my team stuff, my knitting (some of it) my flashlight… everything. I stuffed it all into the boot and I drove over to pick up Pato, and after I picked him up we came back here so I could get my camping chair. That’s not so bad, missing one thing, but it threw the whole system into question and I’ve been worried about what else I don’t have all day.  We scooted over and got Ken, and kept on going until we got to the wild and weird place that’s Packing Day.

On packing day, you get two Rubbermaid bins, and all your stuff goes into it, and then you put it on a truck and that’s it. (Well, that’s not quite it if you’re a Team Lead or a Steering Committee member, and Ken is one of those things and Cameron and I are two of those things, so we were committed to stay until the end.) Once your stuff is on the truck, you don’t see it again until the end of the first day of riding – so… you’ve packed your shoes, you’ve packed your purse (because you’ll need it in Montreal) and you spend the rest of the day in your second favourite shoes and you’re wearing clothes you don’t like because you packed everything else, and your wallet is gone, but you have a debit card… It’s a crazy scene.

I took some stuff over to Erin after that, and then dropped the car off to Amanda (still young enough to want it every time we’re out of town) and now I’m home, and I’m tired, and I’m headed for bed because tomorrow has a 5am wake up call, and…

And I know I said I’d do Karmic Balancing gifts, but poppets, I am so tired, and I don’t think I can start the rally this tired, so I’m going to bed, and I promise I’ll do them all when I get home. (There’s a lot. Like.. more than 50.)  In the morning I’m going to get up, and I’m going to fulfill my part of the bargain. Despite the heat, and my incredible middle-agedness, I am going to ride my bike to Montreal.

I’m nervous. I have a terrible cramp. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but let me tell you this. I haven’t forgotten I love you all. Riding my bike makes no difference at all to this charity. I could ride it forever and it wouldn’t matter at all. It’s your donations that make the change, it’s you that has an impact on the world. I’m just…. a knitter on a bike, and you are amazing.

I’ll do my part tomorrow. Thank you for yours.

(PS. If you’re looking to follow us as we travel, I might not be able to blog, but  instagram is a great bet.  I am @yarnharlot. Cameron is @thesilverboy, Ken remains @five12plus, Pato’s at @_patovr.  If you like what you see, you can make our phones ding by clicking on our profiles.)

 

 

Yeah, that’s done too

The theme for today is “finished” – or at least I’m trying really hard to make that be the theme.  I’m just now finished with today – my bags are packed and tomorrow I’ll take them to packing day – that’s when we put all our stuff on the trucks, and then go home and have a big sleep before departure the next morning.  I’m almost finished with the bit of work that’s still on my desk, I have to take a run by Erin’s house tomorrow to finish something there, and I have a skein of yarn finished, this weeks little bit of spinning effort.  I’m almost finished organizing my bit of knitting for the ride, I’m finished the laundry, I’m almost finished getting Sam set up for a solo stint in the house while I’m away. (Joe’s away too.) We’re finished emailing the teams, I’m finished the checklist that Cameron and I had set up to tidy all our ends… and also finished? Look at this.

camsweaterdone 2016-07-22

Yup, that’s Cameron’s second finished thing.  His first was a hat for his nephew, and this one is a very nearly almost perfect Baby Surprise Jacket for his brand new niece.

camniece 2016-07-22

I’ll pause here for the collective gasp of impressed knitter breath. That’s right-  his second (well, technically third – there’s an abandoned hat kicking around his house somewhere) project was a Baby Surprise – and he knit it all by himself. (There were a few do-overs I helped him with, but I never gave him bonus rows.) Cameron can now knit, purl  – and switch between them, almost at will. He can tink back to a mistake, and pick up a dropped stitch.  He can cast on, he can bind off. He can follow a pattern,  increase and decrease, he can count his rows and he can make a buttonhole. To finish it off, he learned how to bind-off purlwise, and how to weave in (many) ends – those stripes!

sweaterfrontwhole 2016-07-22

He learned how to sew on buttons properly (this is a baby sweater, those things need to be on there really well – and he washed and blocked the little thing.

sweaterwash 2016-07-22

I’m not sure why I’m as chuffed with it as I am – I think we were tied in the pride  department when he finally finished. Both of us smoothing and patting it with our hands, and admiring how all those hours turned into an actual sweater.  A bunch of my knitter friends have been rather impressed at how quickly he’s come along, and it’s true. That sweater’s a steep learning curve, but I’ve got a theory about new knitters – I think hard things are good for them (as long as it’s doable in the end) and I think that making sure it’s interesting enough, and difficult enough only hooks them in deeper.  With that sweater, every time Cameron got bored with it, something else happened, he had to learn something more. We’d sit down after a meeting and he’d pull out the knitting, ask questions, see how it was done, and be off flying until the next roadblock.  There was the occasional worried text – usually accompanied by a picture of something perplexing happening on the needles, but mostly he just sent pictures of him happily knitting, everywhere he went.

The best part though, and I guess this is part of why I like him as a knitter so much, is that Cameron didn’t let it be a joke. People tried, I mean, there would be moments where he’d whip it out in a pub, at a game,

camgame  2016-07-22

or after a meeting, on a plane,

camplane 2016-07-22

and people would say “You knit now?” And there would be a moment, where it was clear that they were thinking about poking fun, or making a comment, or something that diminished him or the act, and Cameron would say “Yes. I do!”

There was something, something in the way he said it.  Something that revealed a distinct pleasure and pride in the act of transformation he was engaging in, that he was proud of it, something that would shut the whole thing down, and in that moment, he wasn’t just not letting them treat him like knitting was silly, he was – like all of us, saying something about handwork by not contributing to the idea that it was inane, or a waste of time, or a funny way for someone to spend their time.  He didn’t buy in to what they were selling.

It was, when he behaved that way, as though he was Properly a Knitter. This week, when he finished his sweater, we went to Romni Wool, and Cameron went up and down the aisle, and he picked yarn, and he picked needles, and he made yarn choices, and he left with his Rally knitting. It’s mittens.

He’s finished too. He’s one of us. He’s definitely not stopping. Like most of us, I’m not sure he can.

camonthego 2016-07-22

More tomorrow. There’ll be time for a post before I get on my bike, and we’ll do a big round of Karmic Balancing gifts. I want to thank all of you for all you’ve done to move us to (and past!) our goals this year. The Rally is smaller than usual this year, and there’s a real risk that we aren’t going to meet the fundraising goal for the organization, and that means that choices will have to be made about services next year. If that happens, it’s not going to be because of knitters. You’re amazing. Our links, should you be so moved, are below.

Stephanie

Ken

Pato

Cameron

Jen

Knitters all.