05.21.2018

Just a very quick post to share a few pictures from our last short section. It started pretty wet… we counted 131 of these little red efts one morning while walking in a cloud.

But then the skies cleared and the trail traversed the Roan highlands and it was pretty glorious.

05.17.2018

I took fewer pictures the last few days and looking back at those that I did take, there is a striking uniformity to the palette if not quite the subject matter. Spring green is on in these mountains.

When we walked out of town last, it felt much more like summer, though. It seems that I have either never experienced real humidity or I have blocked it out. Because it’s been rather a shock for me. The most confusing are the days that are overcast and cooler but equally humid. I’m a comfortable temperature but my body is sweating profusely and everything we have is vaguely damp. It’s disorienting and terrifying if I think too much about the expanse of summer in front of us. I have never wished so fervently for rain while backpacking.

Of course, it wasn’t the kind of rain that cleared the air and moved on… It was the sort that started with thunder and lightning and torrential rain that made trail tread indistinguishable from creek bed and then settled in for another day or two.

And so we found ourselves waking up in a shelter on Wednesday morning warm and dry, putting wet hiking clothes back on and packing up into wet packs and setting out with the intention of walking our first 20-mile day of this trip.

It was very wet but never really cold. Spring forests look remarkably similar whether they are dripping or not. Our feet spent 8+ hours in socks fully saturated with rain and mud. There were old football stories told and bad 90s pop songs quoted.

And we got to camp beat but feeling really satisfied that we could pull out a long rainy day and be just tired at the end of it. It felt fitting that it was our one-month anniversary on trail. There has been a long feeling of tentativeness these last few weeks, but I am exhaling just a bit more. We’re finding our way, and finding our trail legs.

05.12.2018

I have found myself in town and short on words once again; it seems to be a recurring theme of late. I am full of thoughts that I want to capture while I’m walking but somehow they evaporate when I am still. So, I give you some images from the last stretch of miles.

The northern Smokies were just as fabulous as the southern parts, maybe better. Lots of ridge walking and expansive views, neither of which the AT is reputed to have too much of.

And then an abrupt transition as we found ourselves following white blazes on a guardrail to pass under I-40 about two miles outside the park.

Returning to lower elevations, it is apparent that the season is changing, with the bright shades of new leaves moving higher up in the forest canopy. More and more things are looking familiar as it all comes to life. I am both enjoying more shade and lamenting the reduced views as everything fills in.

And we found ourselves in a most restful spot, a quiet corner in an old Victorian home where the plaque in our room tells us that the very first AT through-hiker slept right here on his journey in 1948.

We left home four weeks ago today. It feels like an age, and yet we are still finding our way. We feel strong and morale is good, unless you ask around 3p when the legs are tired and the joints start hurting and descending among rocks and roots and mud feels like each step has the potential to be catastrophic. But then we find a place to camp, and rinse off the day’s miles in a creek and eat a hot meal and lay down to rest accompanied by a chorus of owls or coyotes or squirrel chatter, and it’s all more than worth it.

05.06.2018

Three weeks on trail, it’s not long by any objective standard but the days are starting to accumulate so that each one feels less distinct and more part of a whole something.

I has two quotes bouncing around my head this last section…

“But complete freedom, it turned out, is not what a trail offers. Quite the opposite – a trail is a tactful reduction of options. The freedom of the trail is riverine, not oceanic.” (Robert Moor, On Trails)

“Everyone is trudging along with as much dignity, courage, and style as they possibly can” (Hafiz, 1320-1389)

Sometimes I’m flowing with the river of the trail, content to see where it will take me; sometimes I’m trudging along trying to hold onto a bit of dignity. But I am remembering how it feels to just surrender to the trail, to the weather, to this body. Again and again.

We passed a couple of milestones as well. Clingman’s Dome is the highest elevation on the trail. It was mostly just a big expansive view of white cloud when we were there, which seemed somehow appropriate – a little reminder from the universe that the real landscape to explore on this trail is the inner one.

And the 200 mile mark!

And a few more images from the Smokies, because they have been so fabulous…

04.26.2018

Hello from day 11 and my first attempt at blogging from my phone. At the laundromat, trying not to resent town for all the chores it requires. On the other hand, it is raining outside and I have a roof over my head. Which is also a pretty good summary of this last stretch of miles.

After a beautiful day leaving town, our days ranged from damp to drenched. It was wet and stormy enough that we took an unplanned zero on our third day out and holed up in a shelter while the worst of it raged. In one three-day storm, I went from happily riding it out in our tent to skeptically moving into the shelter to gratefully squeezing into the last possible shelter space mid-downpour to opting for the shelter out of laziness on an evening that was maybe threatening rain.

And similarly, I swore that I would never use my phone service away from town and then the first storm blew in and we were headed for higher elevations… so we checked the forecast from our tent and made the call to sit out the six inches and 50 mph gusts. And I was reminded, yet again, that there are good exceptions to every rule.

After yearning to find routine in the first few days, I’m yearning for the imagined routine and simplicity of dry days now. It’s always something.

The trail is starting to feel familiar, as we learn the landscape and our bodies learn to navigate the terrain. Starting. It’s all so tentative, a good morning has me thinking maybe I’ve crossed some magic invisible line and then my knee screams down a steep descent and I find myself contemplating five months of knee pain. Neither is true, of course, but when each day feels like an odyssey, it’s easy to get caught up in it.

04.20.2018

Our plane landed in Georgia last weekend but it’s taken most of the week to feel like we fully landed.

Not surprisingly, week one of a big trip is all about adjusting, finding your rhythm, letting things settle. Thinking “I can’t wait until I have a routine for this” as you fumble through packing your pack, filtering your water, setting up your tent each day. Watching all your anxieties about the trip surface, seeing many of them go, finding out which ones are going to persist. And of course, feeling the miles, walking that line between finding your legs and overstressing them.

There’s a sense of waking up something old and familiar, something dormant. My body remembers parts of a long hike that I’ve forgotten.

We made our way to Atlanta on Saturday and then to Amicalola Falls State Park on Sunday so that we could wake up and start walking on Monday morning. Sitting in the tent on Sunday evening, Dean was sewing a Smokey the Bear patch onto his backpack and I was modifying my ill-fitting bra with some scavenged cord and needle and thread from my film canister repair kit.

Right. We have this move. Even if I’m not exactly sure what that means just yet.

60 miles. 5 days. Snow, sunburn, lots of wind. One small blister, a few sore knees.

04.10.2018

The big leaf maple blossoms popped in the last few days, great canopies of chartreuse. And it is feeling a lot like spring here, sunny one minute and then raining the next, blustery wind taking all the warmth out of the sunshine.

The news from the homefront is all about trip prep and it’s all mundane as can be. Getting ready for a big trip is a project all in itself, with the level of tedium an inverse function of the excitement rating of a trip. For at least the last half a year, I’ve had timelines and spreadsheets and to-do lists whose only objective was getting us out the door.

Last week was all about one big project – resupply boxes. We spent the last 3 months making food plans and stockpiling ingredients and dehydrating and generally amassing everything. And then spent last week turning that stash into actual meals and portions that fit into neatly packed boxes to meet us at a couple dozen post offices along the trail. It’s the kind of sprawling logistical project that I excel at, but keeping track of details and anticipating each next step took my full attention until the end. And then our very good friends whisked it all away on Saturday and our house felt strangely empty (unless you count the mountain of recycling because, holy packaging, batman) and I was a little disoriented.

Suddenly, “trip prep” has been reduced to a very long list of loose ends to tie up. There’s a sense of neurosis to this week, bouncing from “pay property taxes!” to “set up tent!” to “make notes for housesitter!”

Mostly the actual trip still feels abstract, but I felt a glimpse of it today. I spent the morning at the laundromat giving my sleeping bag a fresh wash and fluff, and found myself casting onto my sock needles with my first skein of trail yarn. And sitting in the purple plastic chair amongst the smell of detergent and the bustle of folks busier than me, I felt a glimmer of trail life, of how I’d be knitting these socks on the flight to Georgia and then who knows how many miles of northbound walking, and how many more laundromats along the way.

Almost there.

divided

As the start of our Appalachian Trail hike nears, I’ve been thinking more about prior trips. In 2007, I hiked from the Mexican border to Yellowstone National Park on the Continental Divide Trail. A couple days later, sitting in a coffee shop in Bozeman, Montana and processing my prior three months, I sat down and these words poured out. They were a mass email then (ah, the quaint old-fashioned mass email) but mostly hold up at capturing the long hike experience for me.

divided

no job. no schedule. all i need is all is i have. in my pack, on my back. a route to follow, a narrow swath of this country to see. the continental divide – the place where waters part, pacific and atlantic.

trail. a gentle path, just wide enough for one foot traveler? or maybe a jeep road, forest road, gravel road, highway, stock driveway, cow path, no path… pile of rocks, sea of sagebrush, beaver swamp, creek bed, canyon, ridgeline, line of cairns, nothing…

where’d it go? i don’t know… find your way. topo maps, backwards guidebook, compass, gps. follow your trail instincts, game trail, path of least resistance, probably uphill… if all else fails, go norther.

walk. desert heat, open range, barbed wire, “keep out”, cows… grassland, mesas, mountains. snow-capped, snow-covered… post-holing, going nowhere, everyone going their own way… mountain forests, mountain meadows, mountain ridges, mountain-sized pile of rocks. walk. up. way up. down. straight down. rain, wind, hail, thunder and lightning… glorious sunshine. sunrise, sunset. just walk.

95 days following the divide… never a dull one. i know fatigue and frustration. i know strength and satisfaction. the futility of self-pity and the immense comfort of shared misery.

thanks for making my summer immeasurably more joyful, for reminding me all along the way that i am never alone.

04.01.2018

I’ve dropped in here to give you a recipe. A recipe for granola, to be precise. Which seems absurd, because I leave for a 2,000-mile hiking trip in less than two weeks and I’m back from a weeklong meditation retreat and it feels like the earth is tilting toward spring so quickly the daily increment is noticeable and I haven’t gotten around to showing you about half a dozen finished knitting projects in the last couple months… and let’s be honest, no one is asking for my granola recipe.

But this afternoon, while Dean was taking a shift at the meal assembly station on the dining room table (with the scale – accurate to one-hundredth of a gram! and vacuum sealer and spreadsheet), I cranked out 3 batches of granola for our trip. As I pulled out the recipe and collected my ingredients, I couldn’t help but think something along the lines of “you probably could have just BOUGHT the granola”.

But then I had the first batch ready before the oven could get up to temp, and I caught myself reflecting on how I feel a little more adult, a little more like I’ve arrived somewhere in life, for having a stock granola recipe. One that comes together in a few minutes with one bowl, one measuring cup, and one measuring spoon. One that I never get tired of. One that suits my tastes in granola precisely. The one that finally converted me to eating granola regularly.

And I thought maybe one of you needed that little boost to your quality of life. So just in case, here it is:

Granola (adapted from somewhere on the internet, but I’ve lost all trace of where)
3 c rolled oats
1 c chopped cashews
1/2 c almonds
1/2 c pumpkin seeds
1/2 c sunflower seeds
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Combine above and mix well. Then add:
1/2 c maple syrup
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Mix well.
Spread evenly on a sheet pan (lined or greased) and bake at 325 for 30-35 min. Stir after 15 min.
Yield: approximately one gallon

PS – I hope to have more to say soon, whenever I manage to stick my head up from the trenches of final trip prep.

03.12.2018

You can see so much blue sky through bare branches. Three straight days of sunshine and mild temperatures and it feels like spring is everywhere. My first nettle harvest, the first dandelion bloom, the honeybees out collecting pollen… I can hear the frogs nightly now, and I startled the great blue heron from the wetland near the garden two days in row. Even the fenceposts are sprouting charming new life.

The whole sense is one of waking, a little rumpled, but hopeful about what the day might bring.

2.25.2018

See the hopeful new leaves? And the spray of blossoms almost unfurled? And how it’s all covered in ice? I feel you, osoberry. I so feel you.

I started writing this post a week ago, after I woke up to discover a wet white blanket that pretty abruptly altered my weekend plans. But I just kept complaining about the weather, possibly the most uninteresting topic of my many. So I left the draft open, thinking I’d come back to it when I actually had something to say. It’s now a week later, and I’m still complaining about the weather.

In the meantime, it melted just enough to actually drive all the way up the driveway once midweek before we got another couple inches. And this morning I can see enough rock through the snow once again to seriously consider bringing the car up from the bottom of the hill. But the forecast shows rain and/or snow for the another few days and I’m not sure I’m prepared to tempt fate that directly.

February. One way or another, or every way at once, it seems to be a test of endurance.

I took an extra-long weekend last week, and with all the time I wasn’t spending outside, I did manage to crank out most all of my sewing for our hike. I snapped that photo above at one point when I was struck by the juxtaposition of my old sewing machine and the techy silnylon fabric I was working with.

Taking a closer look, there are so many things I love in that scene. First, obviously, the avocado Kenmore sewing machine, manufactured in 1969-70. The typed label on top of it with my mom’s name and phone number from when she took it in for a service after buying it from an auction for me, a few months before I finished college. The original manual, with the dated image of a young mother and daughter on the front and the “Dear Homemaker” letter inside the front cover… that is remarkably useful, sitting out because I referenced it as I was adjusting things for the slippery fabric. Behind my machine is the sewing basket that was a Christmas gift from my Grandma Axtman as a teenager. The gold stork scissors is a favorite from my sister. So many layers to these ordinary useful objects.

There was nothing too exciting in the trip sewing, mostly the pile of stuff sacks and ditty bags above, along with a rain cover for my pack and a fair few pack modifications… changing out the side pockets, rearranging straps to work with a new top lid, that sort of thing. But it’s ten more things marked off the endless list.

I can feel things shifting again as our departure draws nearer. For so long, the to-do list just grew longer and longer as things got more real and we filled in all the details. But it has started to get shorter now. Partly because we’re working every day on prepping and drying food, making or buying gear, and generally making the countless tiny decisions that go into any endeavor of planning. But perhaps more so, the list is getting shorter because it gets pruned. Seven weeks feels like a scope of time that I can wrap my head around. Seventeen working days. Three weekends when we are both home. However you measure it, our remaining prep time is finite.

And then we’ll be standing on bare ground in Georgia and whatever we managed to get done will somehow be enough. Soon.

02.11.2018

The early signs of spring are popping up in all corners right now. I am delighted by these signs when I remember to get outside and notice them but between the moments when I remember are plenty full of gray and rain and the kind of desperate psychic hanging-on that is February.

But this bit of wattle fencing has been an unexpected balm. No, really. The simple act of constructing it has been so happy-making that it’s pulling me off the couch on even the gray days. I have a handful of elderberries that I started in pots last spring and need to get into the ground, but they’ve been languishing for lack of deer protection. Sure I could go with welded wire hoops like the ones that are littered around the rest of the yard, but frankly, I just can’t bear to see any more welded wire hoops. So after re-watching some Tudor Monastery Farm, I decided on a whim to try my hand at wattle fencing. We have an abundant supply of sprung maple and really, what could have improved about fence technology in five hundred years?

Well, my post pounder made setting posts a lot easier than the wooden mallet I watched them use, but after that it’s taken nothing more than a pruning saw and a hatchet. The weaving is the sort of thing that is hard to walk away from… you find just the right length or get just the right tension… and need just one more here and then one more there and then… I do not aspire to craftsmanship or beauty, I’m happy with functional and whatever materials are at hand, but even so, I really like the look of it.

Of course I’m still assuming that it will keep deer out but there are enough easy pickings to be had around here they don’t tend to challenge defenses too much. We’ll see. Now if I could just figure out how to construct a deer-proof hedge around the perimeter of the orchard, I’d be really smug about my sixteenth century property management.

1.28.2018

Consider the photo my nod toward truth in advertising. It’s still January here. And as good as it felt to hit 50 degrees yesterday for a few short hours yesterday, it still looks like this by four o’clock every afternoon.

I’ve been watching the light, waiting to feel that shift from the stasis of winter, the first tentative nod toward spring. We’ll reach the halfway point between solstice and equinox this week! I can see it in the afternoons, the pale light hanging on a little later but the mornings feel as dark and close as ever here. Then this afternoon, I was caught by complete surprise to find that the first soft, shimmery gray willow catkin buds have appeared, so that falls firmly in the “nod toward spring” column on my ledger.

Not surprisingly, the thoughts bouncing around my head today are awfully similar to those I wrote about a week ago.

After a few weeks of feeling overwhelmed by the increased sense of urgency around hike preparations, I’m settling into the rhythm of the daily tasks. And all those little daily steps are adding up to some real momentum. I have nearly finalized my meal recipes after a few successful trials this week. (Yes, grits can totally be cooked on an alcohol stove! And dried delicata squash is a success! Home dried brown rice was a bit toothsome, but totally palatable!) Today I cleared off an entire shelf in the pantry and loaded up the dehydrator with a big batch of blueberries… The next step is to stockpile all of the ingredients. We have a mountain of drying to do, but we are marching onward.

In the other sort of hike prep, I got out for a longer walk again yesterday. I did some more exploring from home and like last time, it was very gratifying. “The corner” is a little business hub about 3 miles from our home, with the only road option being the main highway. The shoulders are wide so it’s not bad by bike, but I have never considered walking it. Inspired by my last walk, I set out yesterday to see how I might get from here to there with as little shoulder walking as possible. And the answer turned out to be so much less than I expected –  a couple hundred yards! My route involved our neighbor’s field, some state park land, a short established way trail to the dead-end end of a residential street, then said street, service roads through the school athletic complex, and a bit more field at the end. At 45 minutes, I couldn’t have gotten there any faster taking the highway and my alternate was quieter and much more interesting. So yeah, I’m still feeling pretty motivated about changing my perception of the walkability of our little town.

I also appreciated seeing these kindreds while I was out (ironically on the brief highway shoulder section):

In knitting news, I don’t have any photographic evidence but I can report there is sweater progress. Not entirely of the sort I planned, but that should be a surprise to no one, including me. Last fall, I started working on a sweater for Dean. Here it is in mid-November:

By new year’s that scrap of a body had slowly grown to about 10 or 12 inches. And I even more slowly accepted that it was not the intended size. Gauge! The trickster of the knitting world struck again. I had knit a swatch, a big swatch even. I knit said swatch in the round, because I have learned the hard way that my gauge is different between flat and round knitting. But… my needle collection is rather hodgepodge in certain sizes, including size 2. So my 16″ circular metal needle was a different brand/style than my 36″ circular metal needle. And, no surprise to you, wise reader, they produce entirely different gauges. So my sleeve (narrow tube, 16″ circular) was just fine, but the body (large tube, 36″ circular) was not. I even put everything on waste yarn and soaked it and then blocked it out and no, it really isn’t going to grow two sizes.

All of which should mean that I need to undertake the heartbreaking (but let’s face it, entirely familiar) task of unraveling a lot of knitting and trying again. But wait! I made a fateful decision to make this sweater from a “yarn” that mostly falls apart if you try to rip it out (unspun Icelandic if you really care, but mostly, just trust me). So that sweater is in a permanent holding pattern while I decide how/if/when to proceed.

Which means that I was able to work on a sweater for me, with very little guilt and it has been zooming right along. I finished the (very plain) body up to the armpits and am currently working on the first sleeve, and feeling pretty keen to finish two sleeves and join it all up. A fine consolation prize for January (if you’re me anyway, maybe less so for Dean), and I’m off to work on it right now!

1.20.2018

Hello from the heavy gray of deep January. It feels like a dense cloud settled down and has been sitting on top of us for the last few weeks, blurring all the edges of things and blocking out enough sunlight that the whole day is a suspended state of half-dark. Except for the sixteen hours when it’s fully dark.

I have meant to write at least a handful of times over the last few weeks. But somehow the gray stole my words before I got them out each time. So today, I bring you the remnants of those ideas, the scraps that January hasn’t yet rotted.

Ok, this is really a December tablescape. But I found the image on my phone in January. Because I have a phone that can take pictures again. Well, sort of. After three years of not having a smartphone (following two years of having one) and lots of feeling smug about having arranged my life so that I didn’t need one, I was forced to admit that it was really the best solution to lots of needs for our trip this summer. I haven’t brought myself to connect it to any service just yet, but just seeing it sitting on the coffee table in its waterproof case feels like one of the thousand tiny ways that this trip and all the preparation is feeling more real every day. Like somehow, the turning of the calendar switched something from “we’re going to do that” to “we’re doing that”.

Given how many miles I hope to log this year, it felt appropriate to ring in 2018 by walking 18 miles with a friend. We had this gem of a day to do it, maybe the last one that was cold and clear. We didn’t walk any pristine trail or even a walking path, but connected country roads and backstreets through town and a few county parks, walking from home out to the beach at a nearby state park. And it was fantastic – the weather, the six-hour conversation, and also the route.

Moving through our community and local landscape on foot allowed me to see all sorts of places that I had never noticed in a decade of living here. It really got me thinking about the places that are conducive to walking that I don’t notice, and about reclaiming a place for foot traffic in the places where it’s been crowded out. I hope to do a whole lot more walking of this sort – a kind of community wayfinding, and a way of fitting it into the landscape that exists rather than reserving it as a separate activity. I did a lot of walking like this when I was a city dweller, and I am long overdue in adapting that mindset to my rural existence.

The novelty of blue sky! Just a random snap, captured on the ferry ride home last weekend. With remnants of clouds hanging low over the water, perhaps with the rest of my words hidden inside.

01.01.2018

We marked another new year by spending a few days at the beach. I’m so adamantly not a beach person, but somehow that just doesn’t apply in the dead of winter.

I could really just skip writing this post and refer you to the one from this day a year ago. It was very much like all our other beach trips – lots of meandering walks, staring at waves crashing, and taking too many photos of moody skies and the endless Pacific. The challenge of collecting just the right beach rocks (this time to complete a beach rock rainbow, inspired by a great one I saw laid out on driftwood our first morning). Hours for reading and journaling and board games and knitting. And snacking all day, just because it feels so indulgent to me to eschew proper meals.

Side note: somehow we ended up with WAY too many cookies this December. Like I’ve been eating cookies every day for a couple of weeks and there’s no end in sight. When we were baking, I was sure that it wasn’t enough to get us through the holidays. I have no idea how or when I lost all ability to judge cookie sufficiency but I’m a little bit terrified in a very vague way. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever actually thrown away homemade cookies but I can’t see how else this is going to end.

So, happy new year! I hope it’s filled with endless possibility,  like ocean horizons and too many cookies.

12.29.2017

I got a burst of creative inspiration this week in the midst of so much doing very little. And this particular inspiration was very specifically about extemporaneous quilting. It seemed to come from nowhere, but I can trace its roots to the sentimental clothing retirements of late and thinking about reusing scraps in rag rugs or other projects.

I wasn’t willing to use any sentimental bits on my first attempt, but the bin of fabric leftovers and irresistible thrift store finds was generous. I quickly got sucked into the piecing and cutting and just seeing what would emerge next. Of course then I decided I could turn my playing into a throw pillow and that took several times as many hours as I imagined it would… but in the end, I replaced a generic Ikea pillow and sparked all sorts of ideas for future projects. A win from the week of doing very little.

 

12.27.2017

We woke on Christmas morning to fresh snow, so I went for a walk to watch the light come up. The snow felt very congruent with my general plan for the week, which was to stay home and do very little. It’s been a good plan, the last few days filled to the brim with very little.

Midwinter

Happy solstice, dear readers. I celebrated the shortest day with a long walk (a day early). This time of year usually feels like it calls for introspection, but introspection in motion was even better this year. I walked twenty miles on the local rail trail, flat and cruisy (boring if I wasn’t so recently charmed by it).

Twenty miles in midwinter was long enough that the stars were still bright in a clearing sky when we started and the sun was slipping below the treetops when we finished eight hours later. In between, we savored the slow dawn and soaked in a relatively rare winter day of clear blue skies.

There were a handful of us, a mix of existing and new friends, which made for long, interweaving conversations. I came home deeply tired and filled up in a way that I didn’t realize I needed.

It’s hard to get long days of fresh air when the days are so short. Or more truthfully, it’s so easy not to make them happen. But I need them just the same, and it’s good to be reminded of that.

It’s also good to be reminded that there is time, if we just take it. This December has meant less bustling and more long walks and visiting friends and meditating. And a marathon making session this past weekend to get packages out the beginning of the week. We still don’t have a tree, but we have plans to change that on Saturday. The necessary things will reveal themselves and they will be done. Or so I’m trusting.

12.14.2017

Hello from a pale December day at 48 degrees North. I’ve been a bit of a failure at December-ing so far this year, I just keep thinking there will be time for everything as the days evaporate and I blithely putter along, making a few things here and there and then making time for another walk. Walking feels necessary these short days, especially when the sky is blue.

Tonight I did a little sewing and listened to an On Being conversation with Rebecca Solnit and collected a few flickers of candlelight for the mind on a winter night…

“People in this culture love certainty so much, and they seem to love certainty more than hope, which is why they often seize on these really bitter, despondent narratives… they know exactly what’s going to happen. And that certainty just seems so tragic to me. I want people to tell more complex stories and to acknowledge that sometimes we win, and that there are these openings. But an opening is just an opening; you have to go through it and make something happen. And you don’t always win, but if you try, you don’t always lose.”

And a reference to this quote from Michel Foucault: “People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.”

Gray and drizzly knits

A gray drizzly December day is not ideal for homestead modeling, as you might have noticed. The knitwear to be modeled is not ideal, either. But I finished both of these projects in early October, so they are well overdue to be captured and cataloged.

First up is the cardigan, which I thought was going to be a no-brainer and turned out to be a yarn lesson. It is also the first time I have re-knit a pattern for something bigger than a hat or mitts. I knit a brown version of this very simple, lightweight cardigan five years ago and found it surprisingly wearable and versatile, enough so that it is looking rather worse for the wear.

I had good notes from that first knit, so picked out some new yarn and set about replicating the sweater. I knit it to the same measurements, on the same needles…. same same same. You can guess where this is going. The resulting sweater is not the same at all.

The brown one is knit from a merino silk blend that wants to drape. This gray one is from a tightly spun cormo that wants to recoil into the smallest possible shape. You can see what that looks like in these:

It rides up and I tug it back down. On repeat. I was sure that I had just made it too small but I laid out the old and new sweaters on top of each other and they are the same size. It’s just that this yarn wants to contract. I imagine that it would be great for something like a t-shirt that you would want to have plenty of stretch while maintaining a fitted shape. But it was a terrible choice for an open cardigan. I think it’s still wearable over something like a sundress (where it’s more of a shrug than a sweater), but it’s definitely a failure as an all-season cardigan.

Happily, I am delighted with the second finished knitting project in those pictures.

The pattern (from 1966) calls them nether garments, which I think is pretty charming. The reality is that they are usually housepants, because I live the sort of charmed life where cozy tights knit at a gauge just loose enough to be immodest are a totally valid wardrobe choice most days.

These tights were very nearly never to be. They languished in my knitting basket for almost two years and didn’t seem terribly promising. The yarn is my familiar nemesis superwash merino, so I hated knitting it. (All left over from a baby blanket project where I grossly overestimated the required yardage.) I thought the stripes were tedious to knit, until I started weaving in all the ends and had to recalibrate my scale for tedium.

All that said, they weren’t all that much knitting and they fit great and they have been in heavy rotation since the day they came off the needles. I am certain there will be more in the future. And the next time I’ll choose yarn that I don’t need yearlong timeouts away from.