I think I joined up

You know, unless they’re darned fancy, I never really think of socks as a “project.” I mean, they’re sort of peripherally always there, and I work on them when I’m walking, talking, waiting, flying, taking the bus, waiting for the subway… and they just… get done. I think of them like they sort of fall off me. I’ll turn around and whoops, there’s another pair. This last weekend I went to Knit City (what a lovely event, and such a gentle re-entry to the world of the working) and I had lots of time that I was travelling, walking, listening, waiting, and the very first three minutes I was on my way there I had one pair of socks all done…

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Pattern: I faked it. Yarn: Must Stash, in the fab colourway “Happy Snowman”. Needles 2.25mm.

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and turned my attention to the next pair. I knit the first one on the plane,

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On the bus,

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when I took myself out to dinner. (I ate in three really good vegetarian restaurants this time)

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I started the second while I was walking.

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On the flight home…

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when I was walking downtown,

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and voila. Another pair fell right off me.

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Pattern: I faked it again. Yarn: String Theory in “Trifolium.” Needles: 2.25mm

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I just started another pair, and I suddenly feel like I’ve properly signed up for Socktober without even thinking about it. Let’s see… shall we?

one heel

I would have predicted that yesterday would have been okay.

Most of the days have been okay, or okay-ish. I have been going to the gym, and I have been sort of talking to my friends and doing my work, and I have been… okay. I went to a bike rally thing, and I answered some of my email, and I have been knitting this pair of socks, and all they need is a heel.  It’s an afterthought heel. All I have to do is snip a thread, pull out the stitches in half a row, pick them up and knit a heel. It’s easy.

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Then yesterday morning, Joe left for a business trip. That’s cool. I mean, we have to have a real life – one where we go to work and earn money and pay bills and take care of the family, and Joe’s been so great at that. I’ve been sort of a mess, and Joe has given me the great gift of being steady. It’s such a good word for what he’s done over the last few weeks. He’s been steady. I’ve cried and cleaned things with a toothbrush and been as wild as a goat, and Joe has made sure that there has been food and orderly things and been so sweet to our kids – and they’ve been great too. I feel so bad calling them “the girls” or “the kids” because they’ve been so grown-up, and so beautiful, and so terrifically, fantastically sweet. Their amazing grandmother is gone, and I know they are all gutted, but there hasn’t been a word of that to me. I’ve tried to have room to feel for their loss, but I’m not sure I’ve been great at it.  They have held me so lovingly, and turned to each other as friends and sisters, and not one of them has put their grief ahead of mine, and sometimes, as I cling to the life-raft that is everyone who loves me, I cannot believe how strong and beautiful they are.

Then yesterday morning, Joe got on a plane and left, and I was going to get up, and read email, and organize things and catch up with all of it and that’s not what happened. Instead, I got up and realized that usually when Joe’s out of town I hang with my mum, and I actually reached for the phone to call her and then some rogue grief train came out of the darkness with its goddamn lights blazing and I couldn’t get off the tracks fast enough and it hit me. Just like that.

I staggered through. I went to dinner with a friend and pretended everything was mostly  fine. I spoke with my sister and somehow managed to hold her sadness in me and hear it and know it and not lose myself entirely while I said things that I hope helped. I called the tax people and found out how much our bill is, and when I have to pay it (turns out it’s last week) and I bought toilet paper and tried to figure out why the hose in the backyard that’s supposed to be on some auto-thingie that Joe set up isn’t working right and I texted a friend who didn’t text me back and called a friend who didn’t have any time, and the whole time I worked at being a grownup and punctuated it with wild private sobs, and inconvenient jags of crying during which I held that damn sock and tried to knit one stinking heel onto the thing.

I didn’t get it done.  I didn’t manage a thing. The hose is still broken. The bill is unpaid. My bedroom closet is a disaster, and I realized that I am not sure that I am ready to be without my people, and still, here I am. It’s Tuesday. Joe’s gone for a few more days, and I’m getting on a plane before that, and I’m here by myself – and it’s so weird to be at loose ends, because usually I really like this – being alone and rattling around our house by myself, and I can’t tell you how embarrassed and surprised I am that this late into my forties I cannot cope without my mother, and dammit, I really just want to finish this sock.

It’s one stinking heel. I’m going to try again tonight.

 

And lo, such a thing exists

As much as I thought it might not, time is starting to assume its normal course.  The days are starting to be the length that I expect them to be, not stretching out in front of me like a desert I didn’t bring enough water to get across.  For a while there I had to be so busy just to fill those days up. Walking, riding, swimming, cleaning, organizing… if I stopped too long and tried to do something like write or knit then I had too many of those pesky feelings all at once and had to clean out another damn closet. Now I’m mostly okay as long as I don’t think about how Thanksgiving is in two and a half weeks and I really don’t know how to manage that holiday if I can’t have it with my mother and where do we have dinner now for all the holidays and really I’m going to have to move because my dining room can’t hold everyone and… see. There it goes.  I’ll worry about that next week when it might not result in having to clean all the grout in the house with an old toothbrush after jogging 3km.

The point, before I started worrying again, was that things are okay enough now (oh man who is going to make the pies) that as long as I stay sorted, I can knit, and it feels like it helps a lot, and what’s really interesting is that this idea, that once the shock passes, that knitting is going to be a really useful way through grief… It’s not just me who thinks it. My inbox (thank you, thank you, thank you for the wonderful notes and letters and thoughts, I am reading them all, even if I can’t answer) is chock full (okay there are five) people who have written to me not just to suggest that knitting would be helpful (because there are a lot more than five of you who think that) but to call the kind of knitting they think would be helpful “Grief Knitting.”  These charming knitters have even gone so far as to cite the specific projects that they think would be the most helpful, and you know what’s interesting? They have a lot in common.

All the projects are challenging – challenging from the perspective of that particular knitter, for sure, but challenging none the less. They were kinda tricky for the knitter to complete, and they took up some of that scary mental energy that comes with grief. (Oh no mum always makes the turnips too.) All the projects are things that sparked a tremendous amount of joy and pride – the knitters think what they made was beautiful, and feel that they did a good job… and finally (here’s where it gets weird.) All of the projects but for one, were for babies.

Think about that. It’s a pretty compelling bit of information, and it makes me feel better that the two things I’ve knit since my mum died are both tiny things.  First the little hat, and now Elliot is bedecked in a matching sweater.

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It’s beautiful to be sure – the yarn is Northampton, but with a bit of a twist. It was the natural colour, but I gave it to Judith to dye at the last Strung Along retreat, and it went for a swim in her indigo pot.  It’s a beautiful blue now, and reminds me of her when I look at it, which is really quite nice, and it suits Elliot pretty well.

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The pattern is Gus, and here’s where it didn’t quite fit the bill to be Grief Knitting, it was pretty easy.  The pattern’s well written – so I didn’t struggle with anything at all.  I’ll have to try something from a less competent designer next.

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I tell you this, even unfinished (which it technically is, I’m waiting for the buttons) it does spark a tremendous amount of Joy.  Part of it is that little face, and the other part?  It is the pockets. I can’t tell you how much I love pockets on a baby sweater. It gives me an unreasonable amount of happiness to think of two perfect, tiny pockets, in a proper, handy spot… all for someone who has absolutely nothing to put in them.

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Delightful.

Well that’s just unfair

Yesterday I finally shook my head clear of the fog it’s been in, and decided that it was time to get myself in gear.  I went to the grocery store. I planned a good dinner. I cooked that dinner, and I fed it to people I love.  I managed to say something vaguely supportive to a friend, and when the lady in the queue ahead of me in the shop was annoyed about how many bruises were on the apples she’d chosen, I somehow magnificently managed not to say anything that even remotely suggested that her problems were totally ridiculous to me (and should be to her) unless they involved a dead mother.

I even sat down to work for a little bit – to start getting caught up on the chaos that is my work life.  That’s right, my mum’s been dead two weeks, almost to the hour, and I just yesterday managed to acknowledge that I have to earn a living, and contribute meaningfully to the charity I’ve promised my time to, and I did that.  I sat down, thought something like “C’mon Steph, get it together” and moments later, my laptop had a complete seizure and suffered a fatal stroke. I’ve had that beast since 2011, I planned the first Sock Summit on it, that’s how old it is, and now is when it leaves me.  It’s a joke, I tell you. I can only assume that it was depressed by the goings-on around here and decided there was nothing left to hang on for.  (It was wrong. I swear I was pulling my scene together.)  I took it as a sign, a sign that I was supposed to be knitting, and set about making our wee Elliot a hat. (This is Canada. Winter is coming. Winter is always coming.) I’d had my eye on this Garter Ear Flap hat from Purl Soho for ages, and I had some MadelineTosh DK (so aptly called “Happiness”, which is just what I’m looking for) and a little math and whammo – that pattern works just fine.

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It’s sweet as pie, actually, and Meg put it on him after dinner (that’s a lie. I rammed it on his wee head so fast it made his head spin around) and we both agreed it made him look properly like a gnome, and cackled about that for some time.  (There is a very, very great deal to be said about how much a tiny person can lift spirits.)

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Suits him, doesn’t it? He’s so happy and unaffected by all that’s going on around him, and making him little things is such a balm for my heart, and Meg’s too, I think. He’s been nothing but light and sunshine over the last little bit, and for a minute or two I didn’t even mind so much that my mother and my laptop were dead while he smiled at me.

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Today was all about starting him another sweater, because I see now that he’s the secret to sanity over the next bit – and somehow trying to whip my iPad into shape to do at least part of the job of my laptop for a few days before I can figure out how to replace it.  If this entry looks weird, it’s because I’ve worked out a really odd system for getting a post up. I suspect it will be the pictures that are really strange, but screw it. Look at me! I got something done two days in a row.

I honestly never thought I’d be proud of that. See you tomorrow, if nothing else dies.

Through

Three weeks ago today, I went over to my mother’s house after physiotherapy, with the intention of running her over to the doctor because she had a virus. She’d been feeling crappy for about a week. We ended up at the ER instead, and mum never went home. She was admitted that day, and she died ten days later.  It was shocking, it was fast, and I know that I am supposed to be grateful for her sake that it was so swift, but I am having trouble finding gratitude for any part of it. I’ve been asked several times if I’m angry, and I don’t think I am – I just feel sad and shocked and tired. I’ve been trying to ease back into a real life, trying to do proper things, and this morning I went back to physio, and I bought vegetables on the way home, and I managed to do a little work.  This afternoon I’m going to ride my bike.  My current operating theory is that if I do lots of sane, sensible and healthy things, that soon I’ll start to feel sane, sensible and healthy, which I don’t just yet. I feel breakable and sad and I keep thinking that people are being insensitive, but I’m realizing I’m just sensitive right now.

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I’m knitting again too – and yes, that implies I stopped and I mostly did.  The day after mum landed in hospital we were all to leave for week long family vacation to Nova Scotia. Me, Joe, the girls, Alex, the baby, Joe’s parents and siblings and Frankie and Luis, and my little niece Myrie and brand new baby Emmett. All off us heading off to Cape Breton for my niece Savannah‘s wedding. That’s who I was making that shawl for, the last time I wrote to you.  I had big plans to finish it and block it in Cape Breton, and give it to Savannah to wear on her wedding day.  That first day mum was sick, I told Joe and the girls to go ahead, and I’d stay home, get mum sorted (I was sure she just needed an antibiotic or something) and when I got her home I’d follow on a later flight and still make it for the wedding.

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That’s not what happened.  I didn’t make it on a later flight, I did miss the vacation and the wedding, and it was a pretty lonely week. Usually when things are bad my knitting is a good friend to me.  I know you’re probably some of the only people in the world that I could say that to who won’t think I need to be committed immediately, but my knitting makes me less lonely, and keeps me company when things are rough.  You would think that ten rough days in the hospital culminating in the worst day of my life would add up to a lot of knitting, but it didn’t. What was happening was so destructive and so terrible that I couldn’t knit. I couldn’t do something productive in the face of all that, it felt trivial to even try.  Erin and I were at the hospital pretty much all the time, and we slept there for most nights of it, and there I was, holding my knitting all the time like it was some little comfort lovie, but didn’t really knit on it.  I managed a few stitches here and there, but didn’t finish the shawl in time for Sav to have it for her day.

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It’s taken three whole weeks to manage what should have been two days worth of knitting, if that.

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It’s coming back now – the urge to knit is creeping in around the edges, as I start trying to feel better, or think that it’s even possible to feel better, as I start thinking about what comes next, or what a world without my mum in it looks like, since I guess that’s the one I have to live in now.  I keep telling my friends that I’m trying to have faith, some of them have lost their mothers, and my mum lost hers, and they all went on to have what looked like happy lives, so it must be that this feeling goes away, or is transformed, or you get used to it. I’m waiting for that to happen, and trying to be confident that it will – and that makes me less frightened.  As I wait and try to make that feeling of the new normal happen, I’m looking forward, and those ideas of building something or something being transformed… those feelings feel like knitting…

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and suddenly Sav’s shawl is finished.

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It’s too late for her wedding, but I’m giving it to her anyway.

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It’s a good time for beautiful things.

Mum

It is with the most profound sadness that I tell you that my darling mother Bonnie died last night.

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I would like nothing more right now than to tell you all everything. To tell you every detail of her, and every amazing thing about her and how her hands were and the incredible things she did with her one wild and precious life, and all that has happened during the brief time she was ill, but it is all too raw. I feel like her death has left me somehow ripped or broken open, and I want to be so careful about what spills out, lest I can never put it back.

A little time. A little space. I’ll be back.

Save

Save

Rest

I have been taking a few days off. Well, I’ve been sort of taking a few days off – I think they only feel like days off because I’m not riding really far, and putting up a tent and taking it back down again and trying to manage email and doing nine jobs all at once. Instead I’ve been riding my bike a little, to get around town, and to the beach, and to the marina to sail with Joe. The house is a still a disaster, the mountain of neglected work on my desk needs my attention now, but it has felt good to snuggle a baby, come up with a plan of attack, and enjoy the summer a bit. Also – knit. Not little bits of knitting found here and there, not just a plain sock because it’s all I can muster, but real, proper knitting – done in nice chunks, with a fancy pattern and beads and concentration and without worrying that the needles will puncture an air mattress.

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I’m tackling Snow Angel (a little ironic for a summer knit, I know) and it’s lovely. I had about ten million balls of Findley left over after Elliott’s blanket, and it’s such a pleasure to knit with that I’m using it again. (It’s got 730m per ball. I can’t explain the yarn insecurity that led me to buy so much. I’m rather glad I like it, because I’ll be knitting with it for the rest of my life.)

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I’ve still got a pair of socks running in the background, because beaded lace isn’t exactly the sort of knitting that goes well with taking the subway or walking or going to meetings, and also I’m me, so I wouldn’t quite know what to do with myself without a pair of socks in my bag, but I’m mostly knitting on this, and hoping to get it bashed out pretty quickly. The first section went by so fast that I got optimistic about it only taking a few days, but as with all things top-down, that initial thrill’s worn off as the rows get longer.

I’ve got just a little time to knit on it today before I head out for a meeting (and I have to do something about the kitchen. It’s sort of sticky. All of it. I don’t know how cupboards get sticky, but they are.) Maybe I’ll finish the first big chart – but I’m already dreaming of what I’ll make next. Shall I finish the paper/linen Habu thing? Maybe a pair of fancy socks? Perhaps a sweater for one of the littles, or a hat for the Christmas box, or… What are you making?

I promised I’d wrap up the Karmic Balancing gifts when I got back – so here’s a start. (It’s going to take a bit. You’re a generous bunch – I’ll do as many as I can each day.

Mary S found a wonderful way to give this year, she went for a nice long stash dive and came up with five (yup, five) beautiful presents for her fellow knitters. (Doesn’t she seem like a lovely person? Good taste in yarn, too.)

2 balls Suri Merino Luxury Indiecita, 55% suri alpaca, 45% extra fine merino (deliciously soft) for Lori N.
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3 balls Woodland yarn, 65% wool, 35% nettles for Sarah M.
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4 skeins Plymouth Earth Alpaca “Ranch” she’ll be mailing to Ariela G.
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10 balls Libella Ballet, 74% viscose; 26% cotton for Cindy M.
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1 hank Berroco Hip-Hop, 100% Wool for Flannery C who I hope makes a hat. (It would be gorgeous.)
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Sheltered

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I am pretty much a coward. I spend a lot of time worrying, and a lot of time being afraid, though I am afraid of regular things, I think. I am afraid of getting hurt physically- when I ski I worry about falling, about hurting myself (mostly I am afraid of breaking an arm. If I broke a leg I could still knit, so I think it would be ok.) I am afraid of not fitting in. I am afraid of love or respect extended and not returned. I am afraid of spiders. (This one I don’t worry about. I think that if you’re not afraid of spiders you just haven’t thought enough about it. They can walk on the ceiling. That’s not right.) I am afraid of not measuring up, of doing my best and still falling short of the mark. (There’s a joke in there about how I’m only 5’1″, but let’s leave it.) I am afraid of disappointing people, I am afraid of letting them down. I am afraid that trust will be given to me, and my best self won’t be good enough, and I that I won’t be able to rise above petty thoughts or small mindedness, or that in a wild effort to live a really decent life, I’ll miss things, or grow old with regrets that all this fear held me back from amazing events, and that I’ll be some old lady with a pile of things left undone, because my cowardice kept me home. I worry that when handed a microphone I will say something stupid, or that I will hurt someone with my words, and I am always afraid that I won’t understand someone else well enough to spare them pain, or find enough understanding for them to ease the fear I feel they must have – because I have it. I worry that we are all afraid, and I don’t want us to act out of that fear, personally, socially, or politically.

All this was on my mind on Sunday, when Jen picked me up, and we gathered the few essentials we hadn’t put in the trucks the day before, and we drank coffee quietly in the backyard, reflecting on the challenge ahead of us. Let me be absolutely clear about this next one… riding more than 600km doesn’t get easier with time. As a matter of fact, I’d say it gets harder. The experience you have from the times before is enough to give you the screaming willies, and the two of us sat there knowing exactly what was ahead. “It’s going to be okay,” Jen said. “We’ve done it before. We can do it again.” Then we strapped our bikes to her car, gave a nod to the fear we both felt,  and drove to the departure point at Allan Gardens.

The minute I arrived, I remembered everything. I was nervous, and scared, and my back hurt already, and I started to be afraid of all the things I always am. (In the short term, I worry that upon departure, as a whack of riders all leave together, I will do something stupid, mostly I worry that I will fall off my bike and become a human speedbump. This has never happened – to me or to anyone, but I still think it’s a real risk, and if anyone is ever going to do it, it’s me.) Meg, Alex, Amanda and Elliot turned up to say goodbye, and we took a group shot, and I darted out for a whole rally selfie, covering (as I so often do) my nerves with humour. Then we left, and almost immediately, it started to change.

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My friends were with me. Not just the ones that I have every day, like Ken and Jen and Cameron and Pato (and when did he grow up enough to be my friend?) but the magic of the Rally that over the course of six days, makes everyone present your friend.

For six days, you are a small travelling town. A group of people committed to one thing, all living the same life, and all held by one goal, one experience. From the fastest rider to the slowest, we’re the same. We’re all trying to ride our bikes to Montreal – we’re all in debt to our donors, to the people who put faith in us to make this happen (that’s you) all of us trying to fulfill a contract.  I’ll do this hard thing, if you’ll help me by contributing. There’s nobody on the Rally who doesn’t feel the honour or the pressure of being the midpoint of those donations – and nobody who isn’t in it for the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation as the end. There were moments when the gratitude I felt to all of you is overwhelming, and moments when only the deal I’d made with you kept me going, and I know I’m not the only one.

I know I’ve written about this before. I’ve told you that every year is different. One year it’s about perseverance. (Or rain.) One year it’s about the people I know who are HIV positive, and and making a personal commitment to making their journey better –  one year it was even about loneliness, about finding strength within myself to do it by myself, a fear I freely cop to. This year, the theme was apparent from the word go. It was friendship.

Jen gave me a ride that morning so I didn’t have to ride an extra 14km. Cameron changed my tire on Day two. He knows I can do it, but he can do it faster, and it was a gift of friendship to do it for me. Jen knows I was struggling with my back, and was generous and sweet with her patience and words – cheerful to the end, that one. (You should all be so lucky to have a friend as deliberate with her love as Jen.)

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Both of them rode sweetly behind me on Day two, when my back really hurt, and I pulled ahead for a bit to have what I was hoping was a secret weep, and though both of them could easily have caught me, they lagged behind, knowing I was crying, knowing I’m afraid of that weakness, and letting me have that time to pull myself together. Darling friends.

Ken, faster than the rest of us, came into camp early each day, and together with the faster riders, collected our bins, and set up our tents, making sure that by the time Jen and I staggered into camp, things were as beautiful and welcoming as they can be if they are also covered in spiders.

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For the first time too – a special little treat, knitting was normal on the rally, even desired – two more riders asked to be taught as we travelled along, without anyone making fun of it, or suggesting it was an old lady thing, or anything other than a way of making and being and doing. (Note to self, pack more yarn and needles next year. Best to be equipped if the plan to take over the world is finally taking hold.)

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It was more than this though, it was watching everyone do the same thing – over and over and over, fear and struggle and concern were met with kindness and a gentle word, and respect and a soft touch. Struggling riders were encouraged, crew was thanked, flat tires mended, patience given, smiles offered at the port-a-loo lines, coffee fetched, complements freely given, and so quickly, kindergarten rules took hold. Take turns, be gentle, use your words, big ones take care of the little ones… anyone who strayed from the path of this softness was taken for how they were in that moment. Tired, overwhelmed, exhausted, wet, hot, afraid… and their problem, rather than their behaviour – was addressed with compassion, and do you know, it worked the way with grownups that it does with little kids when you hold who they are, rather than how they are behaving in your mind.

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Quickly, over the course of the six days, this world took hold. They don’t call it the Friends For Life Bike Rally for nothin’ I remembered – and the power of friendship moved all of us, so much so, that by the last day, when the heavens opened and unleashed a torrential downpour upon us, the whole Rally pulled into a the shelter of a gas station and stood there, wet, cold, our final approach spoiled, the moment of glory delayed, the lot of us drowned rats by at the side of the road, it would have been easy to feel sad, or disappointed, or afraid, or something negative, but friendship had owned us all by then, and there was singing, and laughing, and smiling faces, and arms round cold riders and a grand explosion of joy as applause and bike bells rang out. Together was enough. Friendship was enough. Doing the right thing for PWA and the clients who need us was more than enough.

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Eventually the rain stopped, and we rode on, those few kilometres to the end, and were welcomed in in grand style, and there was Kim – from Indigodragonfly, who’s own sense of friendship and commitment had led her not just to donate the profits from her Rally themed yarn, not just to sponsor our tee-shirts, but to actually turn up to hug and welcome all of us. She’s a grand friend, and a good person.

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All week long, I felt it. Moments of fear supplanted by camaraderie and friendship. We are all cowards in some way. Me, I’m a dumpy middle-aged grandmother who has almost no business cycling 600km. Jen’s a mother of two walking away from her family for a week to model fierceness for her young daughters. Pato’s a young man trying to shape a world that he wants to live in, Ken is still recovering from the shoulder surgery that put him back together after his accident and showing up anyway. Cameron packed his work laptop and somehow carved out the time to do his job and the Rally – and everyone else riding met their own personal challenges. Again and again, why we were doing it came up. At dinner, at breaks, at our celebration in Kingston… and the thing we talked about was this: People are living longer with HIV/AIDS. It isn’t the death sentence that was when the Rally started. There are good drugs, help, and a sense of hope, and most of us realize that presents a challenge. In a way, supporting people with HIV/AIDS used to be sadder, but cheaper, not to put too fine a point on it. People didn’t live long enough to need years of support. The crisis was clearer, it had people’s attention. Now it must seem to so many people as though that time has passed, and it has – only to be replaced by a different need. Now grownups and children with HIV/AIDS may need a lifetime of support. They need years and years of medication, years and years of help living with the stigma that it brings, years and years of our help and belonging. It is still important.

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We all shared this fear. That even though there are still a very great many people who need help, that they will be forgotten, and that sense of fellowship further strengthened our resolve, and made us braver. For me and Jen, we reflected often on the ride that so often, given the way the world works, women lack the personal power to make choices in this way, and that riding for them felt like something a woman in a strong, privileged position could do to help lift other women up too. It felt… feminist to us. It felt like the right thing to do, despite our own fears.

It was, despite the rain, the work, the fear, the pain, and the difficulty… a wonderful ride, and I spent much of it reflecting on if I’d done the right thing. Not just in riding, or in fundraising, or in doing my best to be kind all week, but in thinking of a decision I’ve made that will shape a part of the next two years of my life.

I’ve been accepted as a Co-Chair for the Rally. I’m putting my time where my heart is. I am pretty young, and pretty strong, and pretty privileged, and I have time and energy to put towards being the change I want to see in the world. It was a big decision, but I’m doing it, despite fear, despite being a great big chicken, and despite the fact that inevitably someone is going to hand me a microphone and I’ll say something stupid.  I’ll have to count on my friends when that happens.

I do this because the rally is the world as it should be, for six small, wild and wonderful days. It’s why despite the difficulty, so many of us suffer the “Bike Rally Blues” when it’s over. The Rally is challenging, scary, disarming, powerful, heartwarming, supportive… so many ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing, all powered by nothing but friendship to moderate your cowardice, and that is a strong thing indeed. Blog, my dear ones, thank you for being my friends on this side. Thank you for the donations, the comments, the emails… All the kindness in the world is meaningless in this without you, riding is meaningless without you, no change happens without you. You’re the magic that makes this work.

You are amazing.

(PS. Obviously I signed up for next year.)

(PPS. I am going to knit the snot out of the rest of this month.)

(PPPS. When I came home, tired, bedraggled and with all our camping stuff in disarray, Joe had cleaned the house, filled the fridge with my favourite food and wine, and bought me flowers. It takes a big man to support ideas this wild. He’s wonderful, and my friend too.)

Save

What the heck I had the shorts

It’s 6am on Sunday, the day of the Bike Rally departure, and I’m sitting at my desk, drinking coffee, and wearing my cycling clothes, because I have decided to give it a shot. My back isn’t great, but neither is AIDS, so I guess the decision was simple, in the end.

There’s always some way that the Rally gives me the willies every year – either it’s the distance or the time away or the fundraising or, something, but there’s always a new way to scare me, and somehow, I feel like this year it decided I should be worried on every level. I am stepping from here into the arms of my Bike Rally family, and Team Knit, and I know that there won’t be a kinder place for me if I struggle, and I have a lot of yarn in my bag.

Despite a thing for Shetland Lace, I’m not really into pain, so I’ve got heaps of drugs with me, and the repeated assurance from my doctor that I can do myself no permanent harm, nor cripple myself for months to come, and so not trying feels like cowardice, which is a fault of mine, but one I try to resist.

I am so grateful to each and every one of you for your support, and your help, and your kind words and for being the people that I have to tell things to. In a lot of ways, if I am ever able to be brave, it is because I don’t want to tell you I wasn’t.  Thank you for everything, I know that PWA is as grateful to knitters as I am, and so are their clients. You guys are great, you are changing the world, and literally lives are being saved with your yarn money, and it remains one of the greatest things of my life to tell  people that it’s knitters who are doing it.

I’m going to put our links here one more time, in case you’re moved over the next week, as we make our way across Ontario.

Me

Ken

Cam

Jen

Pato

I’ll try to post here, but it usually doesn’t work from my phone – for sure you can watch us all go at my instagram (@yarnharlot) or by tracking the hashtag #f4lbr.

I’m going to go ride my bike now, and try to be brave.

(PS there are a million Karmic Balancing gifts left, I promise to do them when I come back.)

Diversion

I might have spoken too soon when I said I was feeling better, so let’s just do Karmic Balancing gifts and try not to think about it. I’m taking today and knitting a sock, and working on catching up on paperwork, and trying to put my business to bed for the week that I’ll (hopefully) be away, and I’m trying not to whine. Thanks for the donations my petals, you guys are so amazing that I’ve now met my public goal – I’m looking now to blow it out of the water. Last year you guys took me way, way over my private and public goals, and I know that there’s no force out there like knitters. None. Every ding on my phone makes me feel a little better, and makes me more hopeful that this is going to be okay. Let’s hope that Karma works, and that trying to put something good out there does something good for how I feel. A miracle cure by tomorrow would be nice.

Anne at The Twisted Fleece has two beautiful gifts the first one is for Grace T:

Annehook 2017-07-27 Anneroving 2017-07-27

100 g of handdyed Shetland roving. Dyed by Anne, and the fleece came from her friends’ flock. Comes with a handcrafted (again, made by Anne) orifice hook, of sterling silver, embellished with a handcrafted lampwork bead.

Anne also has 3 skeins of 100% merino worsted weight yarn. Dyed using food safe dyes. 120 yards/skein, 1.75 oz, 50 grams, and she’ll be mailing those to Kay W..

Anneyarn 2017-07-27

Belinda went for a stash dive, and came up with these two beautiful skeins of Malabrigo Lace. Turns out they’re for Helen H. Enjoy!

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The Oswego NY Coffee Connection knitters would like to donate two skeins of Berroco Weekend in colors 5947 (salmon swimming upstream) and 5966 (blue sky in summer). They’ll be mailing it out to Peg L, and I hope she loves it.

berrocoweekend 2017-07-27

Helle has two beautiful skeins, going out into the world to make a little magic. Heritage Yarns 100% tencel, colour is Sunrise Serenade 8 ounces; 1680 yards for Donna G.

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and Knitted Wit Worsted, 100% Super wash Merino, Colour: She Persisted (how appropriate) 4 ounces, 200 yards for  Lisa B.  Thank you Helle!

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Our good friend Kathleen Sperling has three lovely gifts of e-book pattern collections. First, her blanket trilogy, consisting of Cervelli, Around the Block, and The Celtic Knotwork Baby Blanket. That’s for Donna B.

blankettrillogy 2017-07-27

Then an Accessories Quartet, that’s Dambrod, Balthazar’s Jumper Socks, Jianzhi cowl, and the Addis Abeba shawl. Those are going to Jessica R.

accessoryset 2017-07-27

Last, but not least, she’ll be sending her Darling Layette eBook to Maggie B.

layetteset 2017-07-27

Tim has a set of four 3 X 4 1/2″ wonder wallets, each with five pockets. They are great for extra credit cards or cash or for giving gift cards. Those are going to Pippi S.

wonderwallets 2017-07-27

Next, a copy of a great new book from Tracy Purtscher, Dimensional Tuck Knitting.

tuckknitting 2017-07-27

It’s not out until September, so there will be a tiny delay in getting it, but when Tracy H does, I hope she loves it.

We’ve got a few from an amazing person who would like to be an anonymous Balancer, one 8oz bag of Elsie’s Discount Roving & Dyes “Amethyst”, and one in purple. The secret Santa will be mailing those to Rhea K.

purple top 2017-07-27 amethysttp 2017-07-27

Our mystery person also has approximately 20 batts, each weighing about 40 grams, of a creamy white Finn-cross roving. Hand processed by Anonymous Balancer, those are for Robyn R.

batts 2017-07-27

She’s also parting with one 40 oz. bundle of Plum Crazy Ranch Fiber Art Mulberry Silk Sliver, and one 1oz bundle of blue-green, hand-dyed Firestar, and mailing it to Linda L.

silksliver 2017-07-27

Last but not least, she’s somehow parting with THREE braids of Upstream Alpaca “Hand Painted Combed Top 100% Baby Alpaca” in “Pinot Noir” – 4 oz each braid. Those will be winging their way to Kelly M.

upstreamalpaca 2017-07-27

Emily has an amazing gift. 8 balls of gorgeous blue angora, in its original box. Emily says “It is old, though I don’t know by how; I received it from a fiber artist friend who is retiring and downsizing. Her only condition of giving it to me was that I “make something awesome”, and since you are doing that with PWA and the Rally, it only seems fitting.” I hope Holly W makes something awesome!

angora 2017-07-27

Karen Fletcher’s got a good one, TEN free copies of her pattern The Texture Block Cowl.  It’s a good one, takes a single skein of worsted weight yarn, and looks like a charming defense against the elements. (And a good Christmas present, if you’re in the mood.)  She’ll be sending those along to Kathleen R, Cherilyn P, Sarah R, Barbara J, Tara W, Jaime P, Beth W, Maggie H, Alicia R, and Belinda H.

textureblockcowl 2017-07-27

Finally, a gorgeous “Rainbow is the new black” project bag from Jan Smiley. (Peek at her shop, it’s all lovely.) This bag is for Janis M, and I hope she loves it.

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Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I’m going to go lie down and wait for my miracle. I’m sure it’s on its way. Cross your needles, everybody.