Friday, September 25, 2009

Charting: New Territory

[Eva, our in-residence hand model, shows a real flair for combining elegant platinum and diamonds with the wonders of nature.]

It's about 7:30 here on the island-- not that I'm really into looking at the clock-- but I mention this because while the rest of you lazybones SLEPT IN, I got my butt out of bed at six and headed over to Burnt Head to sit atop the cliff and allow the sun to put on a youtube-worthy performance for me. Allow me to tell the long story of how this came to pass-- Miss No Sense of Direction finding her way around the trails all by her lonesome.

We begin with yesterday. Another magnificent breakfast-- the special was a nice goat cheese omelet. Then a small group of us headed out with Patty the Human GPS for another wonderful hike/stroll, which culminated in our triumphant arrival at Pebble Beach. The rocks here are stunning, like little round pebbles on steroids. They are enormous and baby-bottom smooth, worked over by nature's washing machine set on super-agitate. I could've sat admiring those rocks all day.

Then back at the ranch, I opted for lollygagging whilst my more ambitious knitting yogis embarked on a boat tour around the island. Upon their return, with only a subtle hint of gloating, they informed me all that I had missed: namely up close views of some porpoises and a bald eagle. How an eagle is allowed to fly bald while a pack of knitters is running loose around here is beyond me-- somebody knit that bird a hat already.

We reconvened as a group for the afternoon class, with most of us opting to sit out on the porch on those lovely big white wooden rockers. I would be remiss in not reporting that, praise all things good and wonderful, it was another Whoopie Pie day. This time we had the classic variety-- chocolate cake filled to bursting (like my pants after I ate ten of them) with delicious fluffy creme. Much progress has been made by many on various Fair Isle and instarsia projects. For my part, I chugged away ever so slowly at my cable-enhanced hat which I might just finish today. My intarsia project is, shall we say, on island time-- not in any big hurry to be finished.

That said, I have to note that even though I'm not whipping through my big project like some folks are, the very fact that after only four days I find myself not entirely uncomfortable reading charts is Major Progress. I come on this retreat namely for the laughter and relaxation. And so, for the second year running, something like stunned surprise fills me when I stop to consider that, yet again, Lisa and Susan have sneakily gotten me to improve my knitting skills, making it painless in the process. Last year my motto was, "Hey, nobody told me life was supposed to be Fair Isle." I viewed the project with trepidation but then, miracle of miracles, wound up finishing my bag before the ferry headed out.

But I had a bit of chart-amnesia when I arrived this year, having forgotten some of last year's lessons. So I initially I looked at Susan's cable chart and winced. I tried it, reverted to the written pattern, then rededicated myself to figuring out the chart. Which I did. I took that hurdle-clearing as impetus not to be put off by the ridiculously complicated looking intarsia chart supplied by Lisa and, my oh my, this attitude has served me well.

After class, we gathered for a group photo, ambushing an unsuspecting passerby to take the shot for us. (See her picture below, aiming the camera at us.) She was a very good sport. Just before the photo, somebody said we all needed to go put on all our knitted garments. I took this edict to heart, arriving clad from head to toe in everything I've ever knitted, including my trademark Over-Embellished hat and my Noro socks. Apparently I was the only one who followed the instruction so closely, thus I wound up looking like a crazed Nanook of the North while everyone else looked rather dignified.

[Unsuspecting passerby-turned-group-photographer]

Then onto Lobster Cove for a sunset picnic. Oh I just love that. Down goes the sun over there. Up comes the moon over here. I met a woman once who swore to me she listened to rocks to hear ancient Peruvian dreams. Yeah, well-- whatever. But I will say if anyone takes the time to listen to the rocks at Lobster Cover a hundred years hence, they are going to hear some very loud laughter (and maybe the occasional bawdy joke).

I know I said this was all about how I came to haul my sleepy self out of bed to catch a sunrise. We're getting there. Post-picnic, nearly all of us gathered in the adjacent living rooms to knit our hearts out some more. We had a newcomer in our midst, one Isabelle, who's been coming to the island for over forty years. She's working this magnificent sweater and she took us up on the invitation to join in, sharing some great stories in an accent so lovely it made my already harsh Jersey accent sound like some bastard street urchin.

Isabelle told us, as if reciting poetry, about the wonders of sunrise here on the island. Many knitters chimed in that they would be getting up at 6 to join her and see for themselves. I found that this pact was not unlike the "let's all put on all of our knitting for the picture" command. All night I woke up, nearly every hour on the hour, like an excited kid on Christmas Eve. Is it time yet? Is it time yet? Finally, it was time and I leapt (okay, creaked) out of bed and overdressed and dashed downstairs to find... no one but Holden who was dutifully setting out the coffee.

I thought I might encounter others along the way but no. Just me and my lack of sense of direction, hoping I might find my destination. At one point, it occurred to me that if I looked up at the sky, rather than down at my feet, I might see where I needed to be going. This is a GREAT navigational concept, people. Look UP when you're lost and maybe you'll see some little clue like, say, bright light coming from the East. So there I was, like one of the Wise Men. And when it dawned on me that I'd strayed from the trail into someone's yard, I moved swiftly and quietly, inventing an apologetic excuse in my head that I might use if the homeowners came out with a shotgun. (This is like excuses we make in our head when we drive too fast, planning a good story to tell to any cops who might pull us over.)

I spotted Isabelle, all alone on a big rock, looking utterly refreshed and serene. How she managed this before 7 am is beyond me, but maybe I can aspire toward this inner calm thing and, if I'm lucky, achieve it by the time I'm ninety. The sunrise itself was not as magnificent as it could've been-- by which I mean it did not burst like a flaming ball of red from the horizon. Instead we got a subtle lightening, and Isabelle told me about the island and shared her binoculars and the water was gorgeous and, not to make those of you who SLEPT IN feel bad or anything, but I'm so glad I got up.

Now I'm back at MH for our last full day on the island. Such a strange time warp here-- like the days stretch out but the week has managed to whiz by. How did that happen? I vow to finish my hat today before the lobster picnic this afternoon. I might even get up again tomorrow before dawn and give that sunrise thing one more shot before I head back to the urban reality that is my life.


  1. This is spike, demonstrating how to make a comment on the blog. For example, you might say-- wow, what a great post, Spike!

  2. Eva is the best!

  3. Isabell (aka Mrs. Ferguson) is actually Holden's childhood neighbor from Weston, MA - she and her family lived across the street (and still do) until Holden and company moved away in 1970. They came to Monhegan to visit the Nelson's in the late 60's and have been returning ever since.