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.


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.)