I went to the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY this past weekend. (We stayed in Hudson, NY, in a beautiful B&B in the woods, which is whole 'nother post. For now, let's just say I'd like to move.) I really love the Sheep and Wool Festival. It's like a giant farmers' market for fiber enthusiasts. Just like the farmers' market, it offers a wonderful way for knitters, crocheters, spinners and others to see where all that fiber comes from, and how it gets from the animal (or plant) all the way to that gorgeous hand knit sweater or shawl or whatever.
I spoke to the people who made a lot of the yarn I bought. I got some natural (undyed) alpaca yarn from an alpaca named Anita, for instance. (I didn't get to speak with Anita herself, unfortunately, but her owner was awfully nice).
We saw herding dogs give a frisbee demonstration. We saw some sheep and even some angora rabbits being sheared. I stopped by the Journey Wheel booth, because ChuckieT has been incredibly enthusiastic about having me learn to spin lately. And I got drawn in. I bought a gorgeous drop spindle (it looks something like this) and the owner of the booth spent fifteen minutes teaching me how to use it. Then I went to another booth (I'm embarrased to say I didn't write down the name) and said "I'm a brand new spinner, and I'm told I should start with this kind of roving." The owner of that booth wouldn't let me buy anything. She gave me samples of various kinds of fiber to practice on first. She wouldn't let me pay!
And that's, I think, what prompted me to post. The generosity that's inherent in the fiber community is astounding. I've been trying to figure out why? What most of us have in common is really only the love a particular craft. Otherwise we're as different as any given random sample of the population. And yet I've seen it again and again. Knitters and crocheters making blankets and scarves and sweaters to send to people who need them. Afghans for Afghans, the Red Scarf Project (note: this link is to a zip file with the poster for this year's project). Chemo hats and newborn hats for hospitals. And those who are experienced seem to feel that it's just another part of the craft to pass it on to anyone who wants to learn.
Is it something about the ancient nature of it all? That's part of what I love about knitting. That my grandmother taught me how to do it. And she learned from her mother and grandmother and so on and on. And so it's a way to touch history. My own as well as that of the human race.
I don't know. I do know that two strangers can be sitting somewhere, say on the subway, ignoring one another as strangers tend to do.
But let one of the bring out some knitting and if the other is a
knitter too, they'll start talking, compare projects, maybe even let
each other know about a great knitting meetup. Email addresses may be
exchanged. Help will surely be given if needed.
I promised elves, and elves you shall have. Behold, the Eflin Oak:
These are only a few of the little folk that crawl all over this venerable tree. (Which is actually a ten-foot high stump, and not a living tree anymore. It wasn't harmed in the carving.) When I was an undergrad, I spent a semester in London, living near this magical oak, in Paddington. It was one of my very favorite places. It made me tremendously happy to be able to see it again.
Incidentally, when I asked a couple of young guys working at a coffee kiosk in Hyde Park where I could find the elves, they didn't know what I was talking about. They were only about a quarter of a mile away, at most. Weird.
There are few things that relax me more than wandering through a park with no schedule. In fact, wandering through a city with no agenda, no schedule and no demands - yeah, that's part of what made my trip to London so fantastic. When I'm walking, my mind starts to release whatever's been pent up. Ideas come. Stories peek out. Problems begin to find their solutions. Stress loosens its grip. I love to walk, and I don't do it enough through my own city anymore, so it was like finding a little present that had been tucked away in a pocket. A piece of myself that I hadn't realized I hadn't been using.
With all the walking I did while I was there, my body began to let go of things, too. I'm looking for ways to keep that up now that I'm home and forced to sit down for most of the day. I started with walking to the train station this morning instead of taking the bus. Which had the added bonus of waking me up.
But back to London. A curious bird kept walking over and staring at me while I sat on a bench in Hyde Park eating my lunch. As soon as I got out my camera, though, he walked away (of course). But later, he was back. What are you lookin' at? he seemed to be saying.
He had friends, too. (That's the beginning of the Serpentine in the background.)
These roses perfumed a ten-foot radius. Aaaaaahhhh...
Playing with my macro lens. Does anyone know what these are? They make a cool fairy forest up close like this.
Wellington Arch. The sky was cooperating in this shot, don't you think?
And a tribute to a princess.
Next up, Kensington Gardens and an elfin surprise.
I've been in London. No, I didn't see the Queen, but I stayed near her palace (Buckingham, that is.) I love London.
I don't have pictures to share on this computer, but they will be forthcoming soon.
One of my main goals while I was there was to get to the Tate Britain (the pre-1900 collection - most of the post-1900 works are at the Tate Modern), to see the works of J.M.W. Turner. His works, to me, are like pure emotion, the way music is pure emotion. They are like frozen crescendos.
My notes, written in their presence:
J.M.W. Turner. Rage. Light. Ecstacy.
Man vs. Nature. The insignificance of same. Blah, blah, blah. But how does it make you feel? Sublime. Awed. Bubbly in the chest. Like seeing grand and sweeping music frozen on canvas. Like seeing myself. My insides. Light and dark and crashing. Almost, I want to weep. [Okay, I got a little carried away.]
Breaking the haze.
* * *
I went to visit John Constable's work, as well. The two were so competitive, how could I not? His work reminded me of dark fairy tales (are there really any other kind?). I kept looking for the ogre in the idyllic woods. Maybe it was because the day was cloudy, and the Tate relies heavily on natural light. But it seemed to me there was a sadness inherent in his work. I'm not sure I've noticed it before.
* * *
Being in the company of Masters brings my own creative urges to the forefront.
I know all the platitudes about creating one's own life and making one's own luck. And persistence winning the day. And also that it's better to be safe than sorry. I think that last one is the one around which I've been building my life lately. And I am safe. As safe as I can be in this uncertain world. But I'm also a little sorry. Being back in a city where I was young (I spent a semester there as an undergrad) reminds me of what I was like then. Naive, yes. But adventurous. And creative. And I thought I would spend my life being creative. Which I have done, to a certain extent. But I've been concentrating too hard on the safe part. Holding on to steady paychecks and nice clothing. I didn't used to be like that.
I didn't think in terms of what was possible then, only what I wanted to happen. And so a lot of what I wanted materialized. Can I make that happen again? I'm going to try. Perhaps a few visits to the Met are in order.
I didn't know just how much I really needed this vacation until I took it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that, while physically home, emotionally and mentally I'm still vacating. As for the Nothing Doing, behold:
Is this not the most beautiful, restful-looking spot? I spent some time here reading, and a lot of time staring into space, listening to the brook rush by and hoping the mosquitoes didn't find me too quickly and make me leave. This spot is on the grounds of the Fairy Tale Cottage (otherwise known as Auberge des Glacis, in Saint-Eugene de L'Islet, Quebec, about an hour from Quebec City).
We also spent time in Quebec City itself (Joyeux Annivarsaire 400e!), the Adirondacks, and a little place in Vermont that's the smallest city in the United States, Vergennes. Vergennes is the perfect city, if you ask me. It has four things I find essential: chocolate, shoes, goodrestaurants and a yarn store (which, unfortunately, I wasn't able to get to). Plus a yoga studio, a massage therapy place and a cute clothing shop. And it's very close to Middlebury, which has two more yarn stores, lots more restaurants, a college and all kinds of good stuff. And in between...an alpaca farm. That's right, I met an alpaca. I pet an alpaca. I gazed deep into the beautiful black lash-fringed eyes of an alpaca. Fortunately, I did not get spit on by an alpaca. But I did take some alpaca yarn home.
Okay, like I said, my brain is still on vacation. So I think I will let the photos do the rest of the talking. Enjoy!