Happy Birthday Jim!

Today is Jim’s birthday, and since it’s my Blog and I’m his biggest fan I’m going to jump up and down and shout about it!  The man is amazing – and he’s proof that doing things that make you happy is good for the body and the soul.

We recently took a little trip “off the rock”, and for part of the trip we headed to Salt Lake City for a little skiing and snowshoeing.  Yes, we had to go south to go where there’s a lot of snow.  We could also go north, but it’s a LOT colder up there.  We went to graduate school in Salt Lake, we still know a few people there, and we really love the dry “champagne” powdery snow that Salt Lake is so well known for.  20160207 0040 salt lake brighton jim 4 r(Note that Jim’s entire outfit matches – even his skis and poles match his jacket and hat.  Absolutely none of my ski stuff matches, unless “random” is a color scheme.)  Despite our sea level conditioning and years since we last skied, we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly we got back into the feel of it.  We took it easy, but it was wonderful getting back on familiar territory at Brighton – our favorite ski area, frequented by a lot of Salt Lake locals.20160207 0051 salt lake brighton rCold teeth were our biggest problem – they get cold because it’s hard to stop smiling while we’re zooming down the slopes.20160207 0043 salt lake brighton jim zooming rWatching skiers and snowboarders jumping and sliding on rails in the terrain park was impressive – we’ll stick with keeping our skis on the snow.  The classes were also fun to watch as we were reminded of when we first learned, and the children’s classes are the best – so cute with giant helmeted heads on little bodies.  Mostly they zoom effortlessly down the slopes, but sometimes they just need a little rest under the lift.20160207 0049 salt lake brighton kids class rTo give our aching muscles a little break we also ventured out on snowshoes, enjoying the quiet of the forest…

…and the sparkle of the snow in the alpine meadows.We headed up Mill Creek Canyon, a favorite place to hike in the summer, and so different, beautiful, and peaceful covered in deep snow…

It was a great way to celebrate Jim’s birthday (a week early), and I’m so thankful for this marvelous man.

A Yarn About Yarn

This is the story of why we’ve disappeared on the Blog for so long… at a time when a lot of people think that we’re deep in the dark cold days of an Alaskan winter with nothing to do.  The truth is that the days are getting longer very quickly, and it’s not really all that cold.  In fact, many people on the island would really like to get more snow – it’s fun to play in!  We’ve been in a typical southeast Alaskan pattern of moderate temps (low 40s by day), overcast and rainy.

The weeks since the holidays have flown by, with a constant stream of events and activities around town.  I confess that I didn’t bring a camera with me to document all the fun, because if I take photos then I need to find time to edit them and I’m still far behind with all the photos from the fall.  We’ve been volunteering, going to concerts, Coast Guard Appreciation, lectures at the Library, plays and fundraisers and dinners – there’s no time to slow down!  In addition to that, my excuse is that I decided to take on the challenge of knitting a Norwegian sweater.  This project has consumed every uncommitted moment for the past 7 weeks, and I just finished it a few days ago (at 3 a.m.).  It was a lot of work, and I’m sure I’ll make some more… later.  Eventually.  Probably.

Those of you who come here to see and read about nature and adventures might be losing interest quickly, but this is about more than just some sticks and string.  Knitting can be very simple and basic, or it is a means to challenge yourself, learn new things, and solve problems.  A big, complex project like a first Norwegian sweater is a journey, and a different kind of adventure.  When you knit you produce something useful, but no matter how much work you put into it your creation is impermanent – it will pill, snag, and wear out.  I always admire chefs and florists who create beautiful things that have such a very brief existence.  You can buy socks in packs of 10 at Target for a few dollars, or you can hand-knit one pair and it takes about 34,000 stitches.  Do you prefer a TV dinner or a chef’s creation?

There’s no better feeling than the sense of accomplishment when you take on something that’s hard, no matter what it is.  Socks used to be so hard for me to make and now they’re easy-peasy.  I know ladies in town who can whip up a Norwegian sweater in their sleep, but for me it was a 7 week climb of Mt. Everest.  The next one will be easier, and so on.NansenIt’s good to get out of your comfort zone, and it’s not long after the accomplishment that I’m hungry for another challenge.  The timing of finishing this project was important – I was going to the Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat – a knitting and spinning “convention”, and I wanted to wear the finished sweater in an environment surrounded by people who understand about taking on new challenges.

Besides handling 2 colors of yarn at the same time (and sometimes 3), the construction of a Norwegian sweater is something that sets it apart.  Instead of knitting holes for the sleeves, you just knit the body as one big tube.  Then you measure the width of the sleeve top, sew some reinforcing stitches around that area on the body tube, and YOU TAKE SHARP SCISSORS AND CUT YOUR SWEATER to make the armholes.  Crazy Norwegians.  If you want a cardigan you do the same, and cut the whole thing open.  It’s called a steek.  The Scottish do a similar thing with Shetland sweaters too.  One wrong cut and 6 weeks of hard work would be trashed.20160208 0060 nansen cutting rWhatever kind of challenge you take on, you get through it by pushing yourself, and by getting support and encouragement from your friends.  Friends celebrate the accomplishments (however small), and they commiserate when things get tough.  They offer helpful suggestions and shoulders to cry on.  You can cut your sweater because no matter what happens, you know your friends are there for you.  You can do anything.

color theoryIt was truly wonderful to spend a few days at the Madrona Retreat with all those other knitters – kind, generous, friendly, supportive people.  There were spinners and weavers too – people who can dye and spin their own yarn, and then knit or weave it into beautiful complex creations in short order – humble people who can do amazing things.  Add excellent teachers and classes to all that creativity, and you have the best kind of energizing environment.  Cutting sweaters open – ha!  Let’s do something that’s actually hard!!madrona market20160212 0078 madrona spinners r

Eyes forward – on to the next challenge.  I can do this (because I’m not alone).

“Adventures” is all about doing things that are a little scary and uncomfortable.  What was once hard becomes routine, so we look for more – whether it’s cruising in remote places, getting closer to bears, or taking scissors to a sweater.  Now if I can just keep Jim from stealing my sweater…