Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Welcome to Monhegan Island 2008!

Posted by Spike Gillespie
Hello, everyone. I’m Spike and I’m a knit-a-holic. I also love yoga. I’ve been knitting for about ten years now and I’ve been doing yoga for about nine.
Sometime over the course of the past decade, I transitioned from purple acrylic yarn worked on blue aluminum straight needles to lots of fancy yarn knitted on bamboo, often in the round. I even—after four years of purposefully avoiding it—learned how to purl. Which led me away from my ongoing series of garter-stitch-rectangles to trying knitting patterns. Which led me to knitting books. Which led to a Rowan membership. Which found me the thrilled owner of a Rowan Magazine subscription. Which is what landed a little postcard advertisement in my lap some time ago, one that waxed poetically about an upcoming Knitting and Yoga Adventure.

The first time I heard about Knitting and Yoga Adventures, I got very excited, but set the notion aside—my life was too busy. The next time, I got more excited and checked out the website. Every time I heard from Rowan, I heard about the retreats. I’d drool and wish with all my heart I could attend. Then, one day, through a series of events, I was put in touch with Lisa and Suzanne, who host these retreats. And I asked if they might ever want someone to come and document what goes on—you know, blog posts capturing the fun.

We chatted back and forth over the course of a month or two and decided it would be a good fit for me to join a dozen or so other knitting yogis on the trip to Monhegan Island, which is about ten miles off the coast of Maine. I was so excited for the chance my teeth nearly fell out. And so I began to prepare.

By which I mean, every chance I got, I worked into conversations with friends that I’M GOING TO MAINE FOR A WEEK TO KNIT AND DO YOGA!! My friends were already accustomed to a curious craft-driven travel schedule. I just spent the better part of this summer traveling the country with my photographer/partner Warren as we researched a book on quilting artists. But a week dedicated to stretch my own body and knitting my own projects in an idyllic setting? Everyone was super jealous. (As they should be.)

Finally, the eve of departure day arrived. Warren and I set about nineteen different alarms to be sure I would wake up by 3:30 a.m. My flight was scheduled to leave Austin at 5:30 a.m. Remarkably, I was on time and, even more remarkably, so was the flight. Except for a little power struggle over carry on bags in Atlanta, my connecting flight also went smoothly and was right on time. I landed in Portland, Maine, at 12:20 p.m. Sunday about eight hours after leaving Austin. I was met by several other knitting yogis and we all gathered on the Mermaid Van, driven by the affable Dan, who’s lived in Maine for forty years, and turned his New England accent on HIGH-yeh for our benefit.

Dan got us to Port Clyde in about two hours. At which point we hopped the Elizabeth Ann, a small ferry that took us out to Monhegan Island. Okay, let’s revisit: Up at 3:30. One plane. Another plan. A van. A ferry. And then…

We set foot upon Monhegan Island. Now, I’ll Googled this little isle a bit but mostly when I travel, I like to be surprised. Often I’ll take just a few details—real or imagined—as I embark on a journey and create a story in my head about what my destination will be like. Then, once I arrive, I’m surprised and, once in awhile, disappointed or at least realize my imagination and reality just don’t match up.

NOT true of Monhegan. Being here is one of those instances where everything you hoped for, you find, except it’s a hundred times better than you could’ve guessed. The breathtaking views, the stunning horizon, the chill in the air (enough to let me wear a lot of the 50,000 hand knitted items I brought with me because, being a Texan, usually I only get to look at these things, not wear them). The little houses with the sun and wind faded wood tiles. An itty-bitty library and a one room school house. Cliffs towering over the rocks below. Seagulls as big as lap dogs and nearly as friendly. And a group of fellow knitting enthusiasts who either don’t think I’m nuts for my yarn worship, or who at least recognize we’re all in it together and are happy for the company.

My face hurt from smiling as I sat down to dinner the first night. We’re staying at the Monhegan House a pensionne style hotel/boarding house—quaint little bedrooms with community baths and showers located down the hall. The Monhegan House also has a dining room, and our first dinner was, fittingly, a Thanksgiving Feast. It was a good chance to get to know each other a bit and, though I was tempted to, I did not fall asleep with my face on the plate.

I did sleep like a rock though, nine full hours my first night, nearly a record for me. Ready, as the morning of Day Two, our first full day together, dawned.

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