Now, where did I leave that?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blessed Imbolc

In a few minutes the sun will set on this oh-so-cold last day of January, and Imbolc begins.  Imbolc has always been the most sacred of holy days for me, the night and day that honors Brighid, the threefold Goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft, 'my' Goddess, the One to whom I promised heart and hands one day in a labyrinth in 1997, a time--and promise--that changed my life.  Ten years later we had a misunderstanding, Brighid and I, a falling out.  She never promised me a rose garden, but the thorns pierced my heart and soul; I expected that service to the Goddess to be a joy, and felt deeply betrayed when that service to Her became servitude to another's vision.  When walking away from the work I believed I'd been called to, I walked away from the Goddess as well.  And the spiritual loneliness has finally led me back home, back to the understanding that seasons change, the oceans ebb and flow, and what we're called to do may also change, ebb, flow like the tides of our lives.

Tonight I'll honor Her, ask Her blessings, Her guidance, and offer my deepest gratitude that while I turned my back, She never left....

Blessed Be....and Blessed Imbolc, 2010.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Of Movies and Recuperation

So twice a year my job entails a couple of weeks of semi-madness: loooonnngg days of fast-thinking, never being quite prepared enough, the frustration of knowing some things could have been done better, disappointments and successes, the determination to do it all better the next time, and even the satisfaction of a job well done. Yesterday wrapped up the January version of that time of year, but I wasn't there for it.  Midweek a nasty cold wormed its way in, setting off bronchitis and asthma and wearing me out totally before I could quite make it to the finish line.  Deep sigh.  So I stayed home yesterday, trusting my very capable staff--without whom I would be lost--to see it to the final hours while I stayed home glued to the couch, too weary and sick to even knit. 

Today I feel a little better, and since Linda is off at a beekeeping class (yes, beekeeping!!), I treated myself to a repeat showing of a wonderful movie we saw this past Summer--Julie & Julia.  It's one of those films you wish could just keep on going; the acting is marvelous, the story simple but magnificently done. If you don't know the plot, it recounts, side-by-side, the story of how Julia Child 'became' the Julia Child we all 'know', and the tale of Julie Powell, who decided to cook and blog her way through Childs' Mastering the Art of French Cooking....I loved every second of this truly charming juxtaposition.  I confess it was that movie that made me seriously contemplate blogging.  I began a private blog a couple of years ago, intended to serve as a journal of sorts for us to record things we did in the garden, discoveries we'd made, a calendar to track when things bloom, and so on, but since blogging felt--and feels--a tad narcissistic, I'd been reluctant to publicly dip my toes into that particular literary pool.  Julie & Julia didn't dispel that notion, but it did nudge me into deciding that maybe a teeny bit of narcissism could be good for the soul, a good workout for tackling some major writing down the road, and if we're honest, writing is a somewhat self-involved pursuit anyway--and that too can be good for the soul, if seasoned with a dash of balance!  If you haven't seen the movie, it's light fare that makes you go back for seconds, and well worth the viewing.

Besides that indulgence, I finally picked up my knitting again....hadn't touched it since last Sunday because I came home too tired at nght to do more than shower and crawl into bed, but this morning it was soul-nourishing to feel the softness of the alpaca against my skin, hear the comforting click of the bamboo needles against each other, and see the dark green rows grow before my eyes.  And, laying on the seat of gorgeous gold and burgundy  $25 flea market 1940s swan-arm chair that my beloved had reupholstered for me for my birthday last year, is the Winter issue of SpinOff!!!  I've been longing to read it and subscribe ever since seeing it last Fall.  It's sort of like understanding one or two words of Spanish and subscribing to El Diario, but as I learn the language and culture of wooliness, I trust it'll make more sense.  In the meantime, just looking at the pictures and gleaning what bits of information I can understand will be a true delight!!  In fact, if you'll please excuse me, being an instant-gratification kind of womon, I can't wait any longer....

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wild & Woolly, Part II

I left off raving about my newfound crush. One has a couple of options when finding one's self falling arse over teakettle in love.  One can muster up good sense and balance, and be right-side-up again before too much water spills under the bridge.  One can throw out one's hands and not fall too far before being picked up, dusted off and set right.  Or one can surrender utterly and roll merrily along for the ride....That last one would be me.  I've discovered I can't learn enough, quickly enough.  By November I had a drop spindle, a lovely, smooth KYSpindle from The Woolery.  Who knew that wood could feel so silky, satiny? That I would delight in just stroking the smoothness?  I've had a single lesson, and have two books to refer to.  I love the tactile magic of transforming fluffy roving into something than can one day be knitted or crocheted....what a miraculous thing that mere fluff can become a sweater, a scarf!!! 

I've played with it a bit, and look forward to more lessons, and I'm longing for the day I can try this with a spinning wheel.  But baby steps are what's needed here; I'd like to learn to spin in this totally hands-on way that harkens back thousands of years.  When the time is right, I'll give a wheel a whirl.

So having given spinning a spin, my Gemini mind was greedy; mind and hands wanted to explore, itched to find more ways to indulge this nearly insatiable craving to touch and stroke, to embrace every aspect of working with wool.  Knitting seemed the obvious answer.  I'd rejected knitting as a teenager; precision isn't my strong suit, and knitting felt--and seems still--rather unforgiving.  But I needed to try.  An aborted effort from a book nearly derailed me (some things just shouldn't be learned from a book, ya know?), but then Nici McNally  rescued me with her DVD!  Her warm manner and the slow, up-close demonstrations had me casting on and practicing knit stitches in minutes.  Purl stitches make me think of the old adage about Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did, only in hgh heels and backwards, but by golly, I figured it out!  I've had crafty dalliances before, but I always walked away before it could get too serious, before anyone got hurt.  They were mere flirtations, a hooked rug here, a crocheted scarf there, a sweet but very brief fling with some needlepoint.  But this time, thanks to Nici (I hope you don't mind that I'm calling you by your first name; I feel we've bonded in our time together), and some help when I got stuck from Susan, the kind and extremely patient owner of  Amazing Threads in Saugerties, I've gone all the way (yes, I'm admitting that publicly...times have changed and no one hides that kind of thing anymore); last weekend I FINISHED a project...a gorgeous scarf for Linda:
I used Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky Paints in Londonderry, and a very basic knit 5 stitches, purl 5 stitches pattern to create a wide ribbed look. 
It's been a heady experience, the soft caresses of skin and cloud-soft wool, the intensity of our time alone together, the wild exultation when 'it' was....finished.  I'm embarrassed to say I couldn't wait to do it again.  As I write, some Inca forest green alpaca is whispering my name, begging me to come back and work on the shawl I've begun.  I'm trying to play hard to get, but, well....turns out I'm easy.  My mother would be shocked.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wild & Woolly--Part I

I guess it's time to talk about it. After all, I've hinted at it; it's not as though I've been able to keep it a secret.  People have noticed the loving looks, the gentle touches, the way it 'creeps' into conversation.  I've always been told I'm pretty transparent, that people can see on my face whatever I'm feeling.  My sister has encouraged me to come out, to actually write about it....'it' love affair.  Oh, hey, Linda will always be my true beloved, but I'm afraid that she's going to have to be willing to share.  So far she seems quite willing, indulgent even.  Between you and me, I saw the look in HER eyes, and she's not far from going down a similar path; we're not wild womyn, but this may well end up being a menage a trois.  But let me tell you how it began, on a cold, cloudy, unfriendly October day--was it really just three months ago? 

We went to the NY Sheep & Wool Festival, in Rhinebeck.  Who, untutored in the culture of woolly people, could have known how popular such an event is, how totally fascinating the world of sheep and wool is, or that it is indeed its own culture?  Like the Binars of TNG fame, these people had their own language and the uninitiated could only watch and absorb. We were endlessly amazed, a bit overwhelmed by the crowds, smitten by the rainbows of colors and textures.  At first only my eyes caressed, but then, as I got swept up in the moments, my hands began to wander, shy, gentle touches at first, but by day's end, they were plunging into piles of fleece and roving, greedily stroking skeins of alpaca (I blush to think of how I reacted to my first brush with quiviot). 

 I spent hours touching and caressing all kinds of wool, and Linda did her fair share of sidelong glances, taking photos, allowing herself a lingering touch or two.  We ooohed and aaahed over wool creations, like felted murals and a brilliantly-colored felted gnome world

 complete with mushrooms, petting sheep and alpacas (it's really a good thing an alpaca wouldn't fit in the back seat of the car because we'd have had alot of explaining to do to the girls--one alpaca vs the gang-of-five.....not sure how that would have gone, but for sure Linda was in love!). 

 We watched spinsters--as in, those whose occupation is to spin--

and marveled over Oriental rug punchers, and felters and knitters.  The colors of the festival more than rivalled the colors of the Hudson Valley Fall foliage.

Sometime, somewhere that day, I too drank the koolaid (did you know koolaid is sometimes used to dye wool?  Not nearly as interesting as say, onion skins, but it has to be a big hit with kids), and developed such a profound crush on wool and its mysteries. I always thought I was allergic to wool.  In fact, an allergy to wool itself is reportedly very rare. Skin may be sensitive to rougher, prickly wool, but an allergy is unusual.  An allergy to the lanolin of the wool is more common, but that day allergies were no barrier to what was happening.

We left, dragging our feet, between us determined to learn to spin, dye wool, make felt. I'll admit that on the way home we discussed attempting to raise an alpaca or two, the advantages of having sheep to 'mow' the seemingly--on a hot summer day anyway--vast expanse of grassy hill we have. Things changed for me after that.  A week or so later I was flying to Missouri on business, and as I looked out the plane window at thick layers of white cloud, instead of the usual 'field of snow' metaphor coming to mind, I saw miles of wool roving, and wanted to sink my hands into it.  Even now, I see clouds spilling down the mountains and my hands can almost feel the texture of that wool.  The initial crush has bloomed into a love affair, and I fear there's no going back.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

So how many blogs written today have started that way?  Too many to count, I imagine.  What is it that makes that moment-between-the-worlds, midnight on December 31st, seem shiny and new, magical? This first day of the new year is that one last Christmas present we missed, tucked under the tree, wrapped in the shiniest paper and adorned with a glittering bow.  That present could be anything; it embodies all the possibilities and potential, all those things we'd secretly hoped Santa would bring us but which never materialized on Christmas day.
On Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve last night (as an aside, it brought me to tears; I've watched it many times in its 37 years, but seeing Dick Clark so old, having trouble speaking, stumbling over the countdown, was painful), the word 'hope' was bandied about like one too many gingerbread cookies, and yet distilled to its essence, isn't that what we're celebrating?  Aren't we rejoicing we made it through one more year and lived to tell the tale?  Aren't we hoping and praying that the days and weeks ahead will be more successful--however we measure that success--than the year we're leaving behind in the confetti?  Aren't we wishing that just this once we really can have a blank slate, a chance to rewrite our story the way we want it to be?  Aren't we dreaming, imagining, tasting where and how we want to be when this new year draws to a close? 

I hope to end the year the way this one began, laughing with and kissing my beloved.  I hope that when this year ends I'll have met my goal of submitting a finished manuscript to the publishing house that does an annual contest; that I'll have taken charge and finally lost the weight that has posed a real threat to my health; that I spend my days doing work that's fulfilling and feels good at the end of a day; that my loved ones are well and healthy and happy; that my serious crush on fiber will have blossomed into a reciprocal love affair; that I'll have deepened my spiritual connection; that I laugh often and fall asleep each night snuggled with Linda.  That's the story I'm writing....what would you like your story to be on December 31, 2010?