Though my bags are still sitting fully packed by the door (I do dislike unpacking!), I'm happily settling back into home and my family, and thinking about all the lessons learned during my time away at Squam Art Workshops. The lever knitting is in action, I think my long draw spinning has improved, and oh, the things I plan to do with slip stitches and color! The classes were all eye-opening, educational, and most definitely entertaining. But of course, I believe that most learning happens outside of the classroom...or, more accurately, that the whole world is our classroom. Such was certainly true in the woods of New Hampshire last week. Some of the lessons and reminders I brought home with me ....
1. Knitters (and crocheters, and makers of things in general) are amazing people with big, big hearts. I still can't get over the yarnbombing, I really can't. Everywhere and anywhere, and all for the simple and beautiful purpose of making people happy. (It was all tidied up at the end of the gathering to be used again next time, when surely the collection will grow.)
2. I am most decidedly not a people photographer. I just can't do it. Each time I left our cabin with camera in hand, I'd say, 'today, I'll get some pictures of people, I really will." and each time, I came home with more photographs of trees or rocks or my yarn, or a room in the moments just before it was flooded with five hundred people. I worry about making people feel uncomfortable, or that my photography skills won't capture their beauty the way it really is. And so I don't, and then I take another photograph of my yarn, and well, I think that's just how it is and I'm beginning to be just fine with that. Let me assure you, though, that I was not alone in the woods as my photographs suggest. But rather, there were hundreds of women (and some amazing men) - each one of them gorgeous and happy and more often than not, draped in hand knits. (Christine got the people photos. She's good like that.)
3. I believe I have found a Canadian doppelganger in the form of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. I dare say, so many of the best and the most funky sides of ourselves are mirrored in each other. I deeply admire her commitment to her family and the earth, and am inspired by her work ethic and the powerful and positive way she uses her voice. I am incredibly grateful for her friendship. Our cozy little cabin of just the two of us looked like this (above) every night. What more could we want than to sit by the fire, knit our matching hand spun yarn and sip red wine? Yes. Good times I'm carrying back home with me. (Though that lady's got some crazy ideas about swimming. I'm blaming it on a poor Celsius to Fahrenheit translation. How'd I get talked into such craziness?)
4. I am completely, and utterly hopeless with directions. This I knew, of course - I still stumble my way around the streets of the very (small) city in which I grew up. But for some reason, my farm-loving, self-declared hippie sensibilities want me to believe about myself that in the middle of the woods, I can make my way around. Not true. Not at all. And that there doppelganger I mentioned? Yeah, her either. Together, we spent a lot of time looking at trees, wandering hopelessly, waiting for someone to come along and rescue us. It's a good thing we like each other so much, always have knitting in hand - and a very good thing for all that yarnbombed knitted i-cord that gave us some hope of finding our way to and fro (like a lifeline, that icord!).
5. I am officially the crazy lady who brings her own food with her everywhere she goes. I'm not fighting it anymore, just embracing it. It is not a reflection of the food at Squam - everyone around me was quite delighted with it all. I'm just a creature of habit. My hard boiled eggs and my own butter and my favorite black tea? These things I cannot live without. And so yeah, I carry my butter around in a jar in my purse. That's not so weird, is it?
6. The opportunities for connection are everywhere. I believe this to be true in all of life, but there's something about this little microcosm of a gathering that makes it so bright and clear in my mind and motivates me to return home looking for them in my everday too. Throughout the days at Squam, there are endless moments in which a real and true connection can be made - sitting alongside a stranger in a class and striking up a conversation about what's on their needles which leads to a conversation about our grandmothers, walking through the woods is just long enough (especially if you're following me) so that there's time to move past the simple pleasantries and get to the good stuff, or finding a dock and sitting with friends for hours dreaming and laughing (and knitting, of course).
7. The Saturday night Art Fair is a most dangerously wonderful thing. (Look! There are people in that photo!) At just two and a half hours long, it's a fast and furious fair - I especially love that as a vendor. There's no time wasted hanging out at a booth twiddling one's thumbs - it's busy and full of energy the whole time. And dangerous? Yes! I gave myself a ten minute walk-around, stepping out of the Taproot booth to shop and managed to do an impressive amount of damage in that time, strongly enabled by all the fiber-loving folk around. (Peer pressure of the most fun kind.) Button goodness (from Melissa Jean), ceramic delights (from Elizabeth Benotti), handmade clothing love (from Em Falconbridge), and oh my goodness, that yarn (from Woolen Rabbit). 875 yards of worsted weight in a dreamy butterscotch colorway for which I am happily taking (Mama) short sleeved (likely, because of the yardage) sweater suggestions. Have something for me?
8. I love connecting with readers. I am not a speaker, I do not like teaching, but I really do love talking to people. One at a time, in the real world. Almost all of my work is done alone - and quietly - as I write this blog or those books or edit that magazine. I love that work (and the silence), but it is fueled and encouraged when I can put faces with names, and shake hands, and talk with you about your days, and mine and how much we all share in common. Thank you, to everyone who came by to say hello in the Taproot booth Saturday night. It was such a full night of good conversation which has me returning to this box of a computer feeling energized and inspired to keep going. Thank you for that.
9. A Taproot Gathering at Squam is going to be fabulous. I was excited about it before last week, but being there and literally walking through it all has me really excited. Much of my time this week was spent preparing for September - meeting with our awesome caterers (the food is going to be out of this world!), talking with some of the teachers that were there, and planning with Elizabeth a few more details and big surprises (that we'll share with you in the coming weeks!).
10. I am married to an absolute angel of a rock star. This I knew, but oh, I was reminded. I left, in his capable hands - five children, three pigs, four sheep, two cats, a duck, somewhere around seventy chickens (and forty more that arrived - by surprise - while I was gone), a full and active garden, the house, and a list of birthday parties and ballet classes and swimming lessons to attend. He did it. He did it, like he does everyday, by being flexible, and with grace and an even temper and a lot of humor. I know each time we checked in by phone that there was so much more he could say - about how hard it was, or what bump he was encountering in that moment - but he didn't. He gifted me all those days away so fully, and I am very grateful for that.
Returning home, my house was clean (seriously. rock star.), and my children filthy and happy. I was so glad to see them, I had missed them so. But the time away? It was a gift for us all, really - I'm coming home energized, centered, ready to give, and though I didn't think it possible - even more in love with these six people I'm blessed to spend my days with. Which, I think, is the best possible thing I could have brought home.