This August, my husband started a tradition that will live on forever. Instead of buying “stuff” for my birthday, we started bringing our picnic dinner to the beach at 4 pm every day and enjoyed the quiet, afternoon sun at WoodNeck. We extended our respite through sunset–and that was something else.
Every day we saw the sun go down at a slightly different time and often in a dramatically different way. Sometimes it was a hot ball of fire slowly slipping through a cloudless horizon. Other times, the clouds filtered reflections creating a light and color show that was exquisite and exciting. The “after sunset show” was so often a surprising, exhilarating encore. We soaked it all up. It was joyful– and it’s not over. We repeated this ritual every day, not only through August, but through September and now in October when it’s not too cold or windy.
Truth be told, a few days ago we did bundle up with sweat pants, woolen socks, hats, finger-less mittens and ate grilled swordfish on top of salad and warm rice. A bottle of red wine and a thermos of hot coffee were at hand. I can see us doing this for a very long time… maybe not every day… but it will happen again soon, and it will be grand! Here are just a few snapshots that capture a small part of the magic.
On August 10, 2015 I will be celebrating my 63rd birthday. That’s half way to 126 years, in case you’re wondering. Here are the most important lessons I learned this past year. Some were biggies and some were small potatoes.
1. Teaching three yoga classes a week and practicing every day is very good for me: mind and body.
2. Learning to “Let it Go” is hard work and worth it. As a Catholic school kid, I never let anything go. In fact, I’m really good at still holding on tight to some perfection garbage. This year it was time to delete bothersome junk from my head. Amen.
3. Staying connected to a few, good, soulmate-friends is better than having a long list of half-assed ones. I’m finding that I am losing patience with the daily drama/soap opera and blather that can be ever present, if I let it. Gone, baby, gone!
4. Decluttering and simplifying is harder than I thought. Through the past 12 months I’ve worked to get rid of stuff that doesn’t make me happy and isn’t useful. I’m learning that I don’t have to have a stockpile in order to have what I need. My excesses are most obvious with my books, yarn, fabric and to-do lists! So I’m learning to consistently use the library instead of buying books (unless I really love the book). I’m also learning to work with the fiber I have already bought. So often I go through my stash and realize, this is really good stuff. I should buy this— oh wait— I already did! It has felt good to use what I have, make something beautiful and then enjoy wearing it.
5. I learned that serious medical stuff is wicked scary. A mark on my vaccination ended up being melanoma, and surgery took care of it. It’s one of those, “Hey, I never noticed that” situations— even though I thought I was alert and conscientious about skin cancer. So now I’m learning to be hyper-vigilant but not neurotic about it. I don’t go to the beach until after 4 PM, I’m lathered up with great smelling sunscreen, and I wear a silly, big brimmed hat.
6. Writing is rewriting. I’m working on a couple of writing projects and hear my words as a professor echoing off these walls. Fewer thoughtfully chosen words are better than volumes of babble. Each sentence needs to do something meaningful— not just take up space on the page. Every revision teaches me something new— and I like that.
7. Short lists are better than long lists, which is why I’m so proud of myself at ending this at number seven and not feeling obliged to go to ten!!!
Hope this coming year is the best year yet. I bet it will be. Cheers to all.
We start this day with a morning walk to WoodNeck Beach– always a wise decision. The weather is perfect, the birds are singing, and there is always so much to quietly observe. Daisies grow so much better along the path than in my garden. Waterlilies float on the marsh, not close enough to photograph, but beautiful to see. Sandalwood and honeysuckle fragrance waft in the salty breeze. The poison ivy is bushy and shiny– it almost looks pretty– until you think about it a bit more. Sand crabs dig perfectly circular holes leaving lumpy trails of debris behind. The beach is empty and beautiful with the tide going out and the damp sand is easy to walk on. A few sun salutations are in order. Then we walk into a plover family: mama, dad, and four little ones just born yesterday. They scamper on the sand and are uninterrupted by man or beast. In 26 days, they will be gone. The little ones learn to feed themselves and who knows which ones will return next year. The lifeguard chair is turned on its side still, but it won’t be long before more folks arrive and soak up the rays, play in the sand and go for a swim.
It has been a long winter. Mother Nature sure did show her strength, endurance and beauty. But it is now Spring here on Cape Cod, and I’m loving every second of it. These photos were taken at Spohr’s Garden. Usually a zillion daffodils are in bloom by this time of year. Not so this year. No complaints here!
VR Handspun Alpaca yarn
Priced per ounce approx 3 oz
Kahuna 66 yards $21
Victory Ranch Handspun Alpaca
4 oz 82 yds $10/oz
I had the delightful task of test driving two skeins of Victory Ranch’s Handspun Alpaca(www.victoryranch.com) and giving an honest review. My experience with alpaca includes working with mill processed, commercial alpaca yarns as well as hand spinning alpaca fleece from Winslow Farm, an extraordinary animal sanctuary in Norton, MA. Victory Ranch’s skeins are akin to neither, so this was a new adventure.
The skeins arrived with photo hang tags letting me know that the chocolate color yarn is sheared from Bacchus–who looks quite adorable and very happy. The creamy white skein is sheared from the lovely Kahuna. So from the very beginning, knitting with this yarn is a very personal experience. It is not anonymous, mass produced, standard issue, same, same, same yarn.
What does it look like? Both skeins are soft, smooth, and resilient to touch. The natural colors are beautiful and rich. The diameter of the strand is varied; at first, this worried me. Would this create an uneven fabric or make it challenging for me to maintain a consistent gauge?
Stitches have clear definition albeit it nubby; the ribbing has elasticity and has character. This yarn comes from a real animal, whose picture I can hold in my hand and whose good energy and warmth I can feel. Yes, there was an occasional piece of plant debris that is easily picked out.
After three inches of ribbing for an extra warm brim, I switch to Bacchus’s skein and stockinette for the body of the hat. On size six needles, I consistently get gauge at five stitches per inch with this fiber. Stitch definition continues to be excellent. The hand of the fabric says “touch me!” and the yarn is strong as well as flexible and soft. Some stitches are a tad plumper than others, but my objective is never to have my knitting look like it is machine made. The fabric has a gentle drape. The two colors work so well side by side, like organic chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Yummy in all ways!
Blocking consists of a long(3 hour) soak in lukewarm water with no-rinse soap. The water does turn grey, and I repeat with a second and then a third soak until the water is clear. The fabric gets even softer, holds its form, and stitches become more balanced. It dries beautifully and holds its shape after lots of use.
I always like to compare my experience with what is promised on the ball band. Victory Ranch notes that alpaca yarn is hypo-allergenic; I had no allergic reaction at any point in playing with this yarn. That is a big plus as many of my friends and family are allergic to wool but want the warmth it has to offer. Yes, this hat is warm–the warmest in my multi-hat collection, and it breathes, so that I’m comfortable and don’t have a sweaty head. The label says it’s smooth as silk, and I completely agree, but what I like even more is that it has more “give” than silk and holds its shape.
In addition to the technical success of working with this alpaca, I appreciate that this is a one of a kind yarn created by animals I can picture in my head when I wear this hat. These animals are treated humanely and loved. I confess that I now follow the alpaca gang on Victory Ranch’s Facebook page. Best of all, there is more gorgeous yarn from Bacchus and Kahuna’s friends. I can’t wait to play with the chunky weight next. Think of the possibilities….