Friday, October 30, 2009

Laval est Bleu

While in Montreal, I met with Stephanie Heureux, the director of Galerie Diagonale. Diagonale one of the very few, if not the only, not for profit fibre arts galleries in Canada. In December they are having a fundraising event that includes asking artists to contribute a small work based on the theme of "blue" or in their case "bleu".

I decided to contribute a piece that was as much about doing some Knitting Sprawl experimentation as anything else. I started with a photograph I took of a new development in Laval, Quebec.

Then I boxed out a square and photoshopped on a grid pattern.

Then I experimented with knitting in fair isle. First I tried to copy the photograph nearly exactly, using a combination of fair isle and intarsia techniques. That was a quick recipe for madness so I tore it out after about an inch. I decided to be broader in my interpretation of the photograph and more traditional in my fair isle technique. Also, no intarsia (what was I thinking with that anyway?).

Here is the result:

It's ok. I think I will send them the three pieces as one piece. But as far as Knitting Sprawl goes, I am not so happy with it. I really am not interested in making such a direct translation of photograph to knitting pattern. This isn't about technical knitting achievements (as if!). Somewhere in all that process, the poetry was lost.

So, I will have to keep looking. I know Laval is in there somewhere.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Major Advance on the Sewing Machine

I was deep in the ju-ju yesterday but I think I had a break through.

The Mirror Ball Suit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

If Your A Crank And You Know It, Clap Your Hands

Confession: I really don't like Halloween.

I know, I know. It makes me Crank #1 around here but I can't help it. I wish I liked the whole thing - dressing up, candy, walking around the neighborhood - but I really, really don't.

Fortunately I have not passed on this possibly somewhat Puritanical dislike of Halloween to my children. They embrace it enthusiastically and badger, I mean, nag, I mean, force, I mean, ask me to deck out the house with some scary effects and help get their costumes ready. They have had some good costumes over the years. Of course there was the requisite princess for Lucy for a couple of years and Finn was once Harry Potter. But more often, they have been a little more creative in their thinking. Finnian was an excellent Tintin - it helped that he looks just like him anyway. Lucy was Katherine Hepburn's character, Susan, in Bringing Up Baby one year, to the sometimes delight and sometimes deep confusion of our neighbors.

We may be crossing yet another threshold this year, however. Finnian is still undecided but he will most likely be some kind of vague ghoulish kind of creature that carries many weapons. I think it is a teenage thing.

Lucy still likes to work very hard to find just the right idea. The year before she was Katherine Hepburn, she was a leaf bag. For people not living in New York, a leaf bag was a brown paper bag that the city handed out to its residents to use to gather their fall leaves in that were then collected and made into compost. The leaf bag was a good costume. It was good because it was so easy - cut a few holes, glue on some leaves and voila.

This year, I am not geting off so easy. No, this year, Lucy wants the Mirror Ball Suit.

I am not kidding.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Unexpected Quiet

It is a rainy day here which means our ten-hour, out and about day just became much more relaxed. I am trying to hide my glee from my two grumpy children, for whom this rain has dampened one of their favourite days of the year. They participate in a play acting games day in Central Park each week and today was the day when everyone gets to wear costumes and run around with Styrofoam swords for six hours. If this be the height of geekdom, then we are, ourselves, geeks.

But there is the rain. Instead of tending to the needs of medieval lords and other more mythical, mystical beings, I am preparing for the dyeing demo at Wave Hill (happening this Sunday!) and putting the finishing touches on the description for the Simmons College project. Thank you rain!

Just for kicks, here is a photograph of a little piece of street art that we saw in Chelsea the other day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Same Inside

As part of my Ango commitment, I took a one-day workshop at ZCNYC with poet Miranda Field yesterday. (The link is to an interview with her about juggling her work and motherhood -it seems to capture her voice so well - and you can follow other links from there to her work.) The workshop was advertised as being for non-writers, which may not be totally accurate in my case but because I definitely don't consider myself a poet, I signed up.

What a treat to spend several hours only thinking about language and memories and how to communicate ideas through words on a page. The group was small so we had a lot of time to both write and listen. Before the workshop started, I did worry that this would be a touchy-feelie day of talking and writing about our innermost thoughts, and after a couple of years of observing my innermost thoughts I can safely say that they are best kept innermost. But not so. Miranda took a very intelligent approach to getting us to start writing that eliminated any possibility of too much high-faluting language. We worked with patterning and direct memories and had fun with remembering (mostly) playful details of our past and then moved on from there.

By the end of the day I felt quite awash in language but happily so. I also felt a new appreciation for poetry and the act of creating it with words. That might sound a little distant coming from someone who was attending a poetry writing workshop but one thing it did for me was reaffirm that my poetry, if I have any to share at all, will come through a visual language. As much I thoroughly enjoyed our day, and even as much as I thoroughly enjoy writing, I know it isn't what sings me to sleep at night. I think that it is best left to others.

On that note, here is one poem that Miranda shared with us that I found very, very beautiful. It is by Anna Swir, a Polish poet, taken from her book, Talking to My Body. Translated by Czeslaw Milosz.

The Same Inside

Walking to your place for a love feast
I saw on a street corner
an old beggar woman.

I took her hand,
kissed her delicate cheek,
we talked, she was
the same inside as I am,
from the same kind,
I sensed this instantly
as a dog knows by scent
another dog.

I gave her money,
I could not part from her.
After all, one needs
someone who is close.

And then I no longer knew
why I was walking to your place.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Merry Christmas David!

Almost a year later, but at long last I have finished David's Christmas sweater. It took attending 11 knit nights across Upper Canada to do it, but dag nab it, I did it.

The only benefit to taking so long to finish this sweater is that I could tack on other accomplishments. Now it is David's Christmas sweater as well as his Congratulations on Completing Your Ph.D Sweater AND his Congratulations on Getting Your Tenture-Track position Sweater. It never pays to rush, I tell you.

I cropped the photo because the flash was less than complimentary to David but I left his smile. One of pleasure or just relief? We don't know.

The pattern is His Llama Cardigan by Veronik Avery and I knit it in Cascade 220 Heathers Olive. There are some very nice design touches to this otherwise simple sweater such as shoulder seams that fall on the back of the sweater and sleeve cuffs that are made to turn up, which was especially nice for David, who has long arms.

Wear it well, David, as you go forth into academia.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

At the End of My Pencil

In August I committed myself to participate in the fall Ango as a member of the sangha at the Zen Center of New York City. Here is how they describe what an Ango is:

Ango (literally "peaceful dwelling") is a traditional intensive training period common to virtually all schools of Buddhism. Ango traces its history to the time of Shakyamuni Buddha and the early sangha. Each year, as the monsoon rains began and the monastics’ usual custom of wandering through the countryside was not possible, the sangha would gather together to practice intensively. This enabled them to deepen their practice and polish their understanding through the indispensable teachings of the Three Treasures—Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

The Mountains and Rivers Order (of which ZCNYC is part) has developed a very holistic approach to Ango that encourages a deeper practice for the lay community without diluting the original intention of this time period. One commits to adding one period of sitting zazen each day, begins to memorize a new piece of the liturgy, takes up a daily work practice - just five minutes of conscious attention to a daily routine, takes up a body practice and participates in the assigned art practice, the theme of which is determined by the abbot of the monastery.

Although I knew that I had an extremely busy three months ahead, I committed myself to participate because I imagined each of the practices acting like shoring posts holding up and making steady my shaky ability to accomplish all that I had agreed to do. I wish I could say that it has worked out that way but I have often had to compromise - the demands of three weeks on the road (and four people to a room) were sometimes too much.

I keep telling myself that it is just my first one and they won't always be happening at such a busy time, which is all true. But even in my compromised state, I have felt some changes to my practice that can only happen when you ramp it up a bit.

The art practice for this Ango is centered around a quote from Dogen that speaks to intimate language and "not understanding". To explore these ideas, which I am deliberately being vague about, we have had to work with one object (or idea) each day sticking with one medium and discipline. The purpose is to quickly get bored and begin to move beyond our understanding, or rather, what we think we understand.

I have found this surprisingly difficult. First because we have to choose our medium and stick with it, a minimal approach that goes against my way of working very sharply. Then I have discovered that I have a lot of baggage about being "an artist" that clogs up my ability to see something in a straight forward way. And thirdly, I have grown to hate my object and the medium I chose, which I guess is also the point but it kind of sucks. I suspect this is where I am supposed to be but I have been really feeling grumpy about it. I mean, this part was supposed to be the easy part of the practice.

Then, this morning, I came across this essay by British painter, Bridget Riley. She explains everything so clearly that I feel quite re-inspired.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Just Say Yes

We are back from our New England weekend. Thanks to the wonderful Jan (not the Nova Scotia Jan but the blogless Pawtucket Jan), I was able to drive to Westerly, Rhode Island, drop the children off with their grandparents in an exchange in a "Park'nRide" parking lot that would have made a Mexican drug lord proud before whisking back onto Rte. 95N to South Attleboro, MA, in time to negotiate the not-uncomplicated parking system that involves folding up dollar bills into tiny strips and inserting them, one at a time, into a big board all while sweating the fact that your train is due any second and you are parked so far away that even Usain Bolt would be feeling a certain amount of anxiety. But I made the train and caught my breath while enjoying the wonderful MBTA system, arriving in Boston with enough time to gulp down some soup among the Northeastern students (students, students, everywhere in Boston!) before heading to Simmons College.

Here is a photograph of their beautiful main building on campus that I stole from their website (did I carry around my camera all day? Yes. Did I use it even once? No.)

That is my long-winded introduction to saying that we had a very productive meeting and the project is underway. I will be working with a group of students taking an advanced arts administration course, among many others. In fact, the project will involve as much as the student body and greater Simmons community as possible, as well as sites around the campus in addition to the gallery itself. I think it will be exciting as it develops.

At the heart of the project is one simple question, what does it mean to say an unconditional yes?

I am especially interested in learning some answers from the young women who attend Simmons. As a group, they are poised to make some important choices about their lives and I am curious to learn about the depth from which they make those decisions. Further, there are institutional answers to that question, and answers from faculty and staff. There will be space in the gallery for everyone to create a response.

This is how it stands at the moment.

I started thinking about this idea some time ago actually. I heard a story that, I think, was attributed to Dogen, where he described Zen practice as being like a child leaping into their parent's arms - total joy, total freedom, total trust that they will be caught safely. Unconditional yes.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Beantown Hub

This morning we head to Boston to begin plans for an exhibition at Simmons College, which is an all-women's college right in the heart of the city. The exhibition will be a site-specific project that will include working with a group of students. I think it will be quite interesting but I am starting (starting?) to feel slightly (slightly?) panicky about getting all this new work created to meet all these deadlines.

But la la la - it will all work out.

In the meantime and apropos of nothing, here are three websites where we have been wasting many of our precious minutes.

Awkward Family Photos

Cake Wreck

Regretsy (this one is a bit R-rated and very snarky - just to be warned...)

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - New Hamburg, Ontario

The final stop on our Knitting Sprawl tour of Upper Canada was New Hamburg. Sonya was quite tickled at seeing all the German names of towns in this part of Ontario and was very interested to learn that, only a generation ago, German was the first language spoken at home for many families.

We spent the day traveling around this part of the province - Kitchener, London, St. Jacob. St. Jacob had been recommended to us by our innkeeper in Toronto but it turned out to be more touristy than authentic so we didn't linger too long there. Actually, we lingered long enough to browse some antique shops, of which there were many. Sonya found a copy of Mein Kampf translated into English among the used books in one shop. I didn't realize it but Mein Kampf is banned in Germany; it is illegal to own a copy of it. So seeing it sitting on a shelf was like finding some horrible, yet fascinating object for Sonya. I could tell she was alternating between total repulsion and complete attraction. The power of the forbidden fruit.

We also stopped into a bakery run by a Mennonite family who happened to have a bevy of daughters who all looked remarkably like me. It was a little disconcerting to walk into someplace totally new and see myself behind the counter and working in the back. Myself, if I wore a little white hair covering, homemade dresses and possibly a more innocent look on my face.

Naturally we immediately began speculating about how our lives would be if we moved to St. Jacob. I, of course, would take up work in the bakery. Sonya would work in the antique store. We would have Amish husbands and ride in buggies pulled by horses....and so on. Truthfully, we did this every single place we visited, and not on purpose. We immediately projected ourselves in to the landscape and community and built an imaginary future life - within seconds of arriving! It became clear to me that this kind of fantasy dream life needs to be more overtly part of the project because I think we are not so unusual in doing this. Indeed, I suspect much of the new development that we saw is the result of just this kind of fantasy.

Oh..and there was one more thing we saw in St. Jacob.

Move over Potato World!

After all these adventures - and more - we headed to New Hamburg and a shop called Shall We Knit located in the downtown area. May I just say that if you have the opportunity to visit this shop, please do. It was among the nicest I have found anywhere. It was a lifelong dream of the owner to open it, and she has really down an amazing job.

And there was a lovely knitting group there too.

They filled us in on this part of Ontario in general and New Hamburg in particular. One fascinating tidbit was that most of the downtown businesses are owned by women. There was solid agreement that this fact contributed strongly to the feel of community and welcoming in New Hamburg. Sonya and I had been asking most of the groups if they felt that the need to get together and knit was gender driven. Nearly everyone said no and listed some groups of men who get together and knit, but I am not so sure. It was very interesting to find a place where this impulse went beyond knitting and extended to businesses and, in fact, a whole community.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - Whitby, Ontario

So, where were we? Ah, yes....just outside of Toronto....

Following our less-than-successful adventure in the heart of darkness otherwise known as Kensington Market, we packed up our troubles and headed east, for about an hour, to Whitby. To be brutally honest, I didn't have high hopes for Whitby because we had driven through it on the highway two times already and it looked, well, it looked like what I am seeking: suburban sprawl. Why that meant it would not be great, I don't know. Completely irrational, actually.


But when we actually got off the highway and cruised around town, Whitby had more to offer than first glance indicated. All the developments we rode through were actually quite small by local standards and really quite green, in that there was a good amount of green space around them, along with biking trails and other indications that this was a livable place for human beings.

We soaked up the scenery and used up a good amount of videotape before heading to Kniterary, a yarn shop in downtown Whitby where we were greeted with large smiles and other signs of welcome that washed Kensington Market right out of our hair. Indeed, we were whisked upstairs among a group of women who wasted no time in making us feel right at home. They discussed honestly their town, which had grown from 15,000 in the 1970s to well over 100,000 today. Not suprisingly, traffic is a major problem and the change from quiet small town to sizable bedroom community has not been without troubles.

It was very refreshing to hear such honesty. I think it is easy for groups to become cheerleaders for their hometowns - it is natural enough to want to impress visitors, so I have worried a bit about getting the real scoop. The Kniterary knitters didn't worry about that - they pointed out the advantages to living an hour from Toronto (access to world class health care, arts, culture, airport) as well as the down side (the aforementioned traffic and the loss of the small town feeling that was among the original draws for some).

More than that, they had great chemistry. The group was lively, smart, funny and irreverent. We liked it. A lot.

I liked it so much that I totally forgot to take a photograph of the group (although I have excellent videotape). So, if you want to have a little taste of life in Whitby, please have a look over at Geri's blog. She is a retired school teacher who has taken up knitting and spinning with a passion. See what I mean - lively, smart, funny and irreverent.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

John Daido Loori Roshi, 1931-2009

Daido Roshi died yesterday morning at the monastery in Mt. Tremper. Click here for more information about him, the Mountain and Rivers Order that he founded, and his art and teaching.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Stay tuned for Whitby and New Hamburg! And I am still interested in thoughts on Toronto...

Meanwhile life zooms along - October is a big birthday month in our household and after only one day (sigh) of rest, we plunged into our schedule of classes, visits, meetings, and serious Dungeons and Dragons playtime. I eagerly await the day when Finn can travel safely by subway by himself to the latter. He is close, but not quite yet.

I want to take a moment to invite any and all to join me on Sunday, November 1st at Wave Hill in the Bronx for a natural dyeing demonstration/workshop. I will be there from 1 - 3 p.m. in front of the Glyndor Gallery (weather permitting - indoors, if not) with my dye pots and all sorts of witchy goodness. Boil and bubble! After talking with the curator and art education person, we decided to make it less formal than an official workshop, so I will be there, doing my thing, and anyone can drop by and participate as much or as little as you want. I will have written materials as well, so there will be plenty of information to share.

This event is all in lead-up to my being an artist-in-residence at Wave Hill this winter. I will be set up in the Glyndor Gallery's sunroom (the gallery is closed during winter months) working on a project that is a kind of test of ecologies. With the assistance of their gardening staff, I am collecting plant materials to make dyes with and dyeing local fleece (well, probably not from the Bronx, but as close as I can get), then spinning it into yarn. I will set the yarn out, along with a simple hat pattern, for Wave Hill patrons to take at no charge except with the promise to make a hat with it and return it to the gallery. The hats will be displayed at Wave Hill House in the spring. Everyone who knits one will get a number and, at the end, will be able to take home a hat assigned to that number (not their own). If you make more than one, the extras will be donated to a suitable cause in the Bronx.

It is all kind of a test of trust - our relationship with the ecology of the Hudson River Valley in the harvesting of the plants and making dyes, in raising sheep for fleece and in the institution itself and its audience.

Everyone also is invited to come and hang out and knit and/or spin with me two days/week in the winter, so we will have lots of opportunity to talk about trust and relationships (and knitting, dyeing and spinning). I will post more about that later.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

More on The Toronto Myth

I posted a little about my theory that there is a mythical Toronto that exists side-by-side with the real Toronto on ravelry yesterday (What? You haven't joined the group yet? Please do!) My musings garnered one response from a knitter in Edmonton who wrote, "Read your blog but couldn’t figure out what your “Toronto myth” is, particularly since I don’t know what the “Newfoundland view” of Toronto is. Being a Westerner for most of my life I smiled at the following joke. “How many Torontonians does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Answer: “One. He (she) stands there and waits for the rest of the world to spin around them.

Ok, I smiled too.

That is definitely part of what I was trying to get at, and definitely a state of mind that I think New Yorkers suffer from also. But my Toronto myth is a little bit more than that too. It also is that Toronto is the land of opportunity, has streets paved with gold, etc.. Toronto was always where people in Newfoundland went for work (now that has largely shifted to Alberta) and there is sense of it being a foreign land despite being part of the same country. This last bit may say more about Newfoundland than Toronto.

Toronto takes on a mythical feel - a place where anything is possible and things happen that are incredibly good (become a millionaire!) and incredibly bad (never heard from again…) but where nothing ordinary ever happens.

What's your Toronto myth? Or are you completely grounded in the hard, cold facts?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - Toronto, Ontario, Part 2

After my last post, Helen wrote a comment saying, in essence, that not all groups are not good or welcoming and that is just part of community - a different part, but part nonetheless. Too true! Too true!

In reflecting on the experience at Lettuce Knit, I started out thinking, "jeez, what a closed group of people" to recognizing that my own attitude and energy level contributed at least equally to the less-than-perfect experience of it. I just want to be clear that I understand this distinction.

But the thing did happen in Toronto, which was, perhaps, not completely accidental.

I have been only half-jokingly telling people that my knowledge of Canada stops with anything west of Newfoundland. We became Canadian permanent residents so we could live in Newfoundland - a very conscious choice and a very specific choice. This choice has meant that what I do know about the rest of Canada has been gained mostly through talking to Newfoundlanders. (Apologies to my fellow Canadians, but the people in the US rarely learn anything about their northern neighbor. In fact, it is almost never mentioned except to make jokes about it. But I think you know that.) To the point! The point is that my ideas about Toronto were formed largely from hearing people in Newfoundland talk about it and from reading books written by Newfoundlanders and seeing movies made about Newfoundland that mention Toronto. So I had this idea about it that was actually closer to myth than reality.

In meeting with knitters throughout Ontario, I quickly learned that this Toronto myth exists in other's minds as well only they usually know it is myth straight away. In fact, it seemed like the only people who actually believe this myth might be the people living in Toronto. I think I am allowed to say this because New Yorkers tend to suffer from a similar delusion.

This myth interests me greatly. I kept thinking about the goose that laid the golden egg and other fairy tales of promised riches that never really appear. Or maybe reverse Ugly Duckling - people think it is a swan but it turns out to be just a plain old duck.

There is a knitting pattern in there somewhere.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - Toronto, Ontario

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we did attend one knit night in Toronto itself. It was the evening after spending the day in Hamilton. I also mentioned that it was a little too much to try to get two groups in on one day - I was pretty fried by the end of that day but I really wanted to get the inner city perspective on things and that night was our only free evening. So, we rushed back from Hamilton, sat still for a couple of minutes and set Finn and Lucy up with some snacks and some television (I'm not proud) and headed off to Lettuce Knit in the heart of Kensington Market.

Ok, so I feel like I need to make some kind of statement here. I found Lettuce Knit to be a fantastic yarn store that I would be beyond thrilled to have in my neighborhood. The owner is very, very sweet and was as helpful and kind as anyone could reasonably expect to be, or maybe more. But the truth is, I really didn't want to go to their knit night but it was the only one that fit our schedule. I didn't want to go because I know that Stephanie Pearl McPhee goes to that knit night. I love Stephanie's blog as much as the next knitter and I especially love how she has, pretty much single-handedly, given knitters permission to feel very proud of their craft in a very public way. I admire her immensely for that. But I had this project to do and I didn't want to be mistaken for a Yarn Harlot groupie and, frankly, I just didn't want to deal with any weirdness around her celebrity that strangers coming to knit night might bring out.

That said...

Kensington Market is kind of like the Toronto version of the East Village only with funkier, more wooden, low rise architecture. I'll be honest - it was hard not to roll my eyes. The hipster scene felt a little contrived after the amazing Hamilton experience: blind Croatian women knitting and offering to take Sonya to the German Club to meet men, ukulele bands, people dealing with cancer and other illness with grace and dignity. All that all felt so real and amazing. Kensington Market felt so silly in comparison. I know on another day, under other circumstances, I would have totally loved every minute of it so I am not judging it (or I am not judging it now in retrospect. I was totally judging it then). I am just saying that, on that evening, after that day's experiences, I was viewing the whole scene through a very jaded (and tired) lens and it was coming up short. Way short.

It wasn't a very good place to start the conversation. I did manage to get a little dialogue going but it was hard. Understandably, the knitters themselves were a bit jaded and possibly a bit protective of their group and its members, which yes, included knitting celerbrit(ies). The mixture of my "get over yourself" attitude and their "we don't need you" attitude was not so good. The whole thing was just hard and a little weird and a little awkward and not really a whole lot of fun for anyone.

I'm sorry. It was me, Toronto, not you.

(Needless to say, I didn't take any photographs.)

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - Hamilton, Ontario

Mere hours after returning to Toronto from Peterborough we were up and at'em again, this time headed west towards Hamilton. Ah ha, thought I, now we will experience a true Toronto suburb!

Wrong again.

We headed to the Sackville Seniors Recreation Centre "up the mountain" as they say in those parts. A group meets there each week to do charity knitting (and crochet). When we arrived we found a very large group all working away at new projects to be delivered to other institutions and agencies around Hamilton - new babies, abused women, people with all sorts of needs were being met with handmade items of all kinds. It was very impressive - so much love and effort being given so happily and generously.

I said a quick introduction and then Sonya, Lucy and I started to mingle. Finnian chose to read a book, but no one thought the worse of him for it. He was doing pretty well, all things considered.

The funny thing about this group was that, the more I tried to get specific information about Hamiton from them, the more they wanted to ask ME questions about where I was from. At a certain point I gave up and just listened to the stories that were going around the tables.

What stories! Nearly everyone was from another place - Croatia, Germany, England or the Maritime provinces - and they all had wonderful stories about how they ended up in Hamilton. And why they stayed. So interesting and so heart felt. Several people were moved to tears by their remembrances.

One thing that came clear by the end of the two hours of knitting (and by our afternoon visit with our pal, Les, who now lives in downtown Hamilton) is that Hamilton may only be an hour from Toronto but it exists as its own place. One never need go to Toronto unless there was a specific reason to do so. The people we met, with their moving, full life stories, were in no way tethered to Toronto. It was Hamilton, with its jobs and industries, that drew them to Canada or Ontario, and it was Hamilton where they raised families and where they continue to live.

The woman from Croatia, who also was blind yet knit up a storm, was very happy to encounter Sonya because she could speak German as well as Croatian and English. At one point she began to inquire into Sonya's personal life - did she have a boyfriend, etc. When the response came back negative, she immediately said, "too bad you can not stay longer - I would take you to the German Club where you could meet a nice man!" Then, as we were leaving the building, we saw yoga classes being conducted, a ukulele band practicing and volley ball teams playing. Sonya turned to me and said, in all seriousness, "I want to come back here!"

Friday, October 02, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - Peterborough, Ontario

Apologies for the long lapse in posting. We were in a sprint to the finish line with knit togethers morning and night so we were running around the province of Ontario as if our carbon footprint didn't matter. Reckless, I tell you.

After leaving lovely Ottawa (I know there is much more to say about Ottawa but I decided I would save it for the artwork itself), we headed to the Big T. I had scheduled five knit togethers in places I believed to be just outside of Toronto (and one inside). Again with the reckless. Or perhaps it would be better to say, I needed a serious lesson in Ontario geography.

Case in point: our first stop was Peterborough.

Peterborough is an interesting small city with a university so it has a cool vibe and it is tucked in some gorgeous rolling hills that are not too hard to reach just outside the charming, and active, downtown. Yes, Peterborough is a Very Nice Place. What Peterborough isn't, however, is just outside Toronto. Peterborough is lovely place, a special place. I would go so far as to call it a happening place. But to speak of it as anything but its own place is just wrong. This I learned thanks in part to the fabulous knitting group that call themselves the Elegant Spiders (great name!) and in part from the nearly two hour drive to get there.

We were met in downtown Peterborough by Kate, who not only organized a special meeting of the Elegant Spiders just for us but treated us to dinner at the local Thai restaurant. We were nearly speechless (and very full and happy). Kate also works as an animal rescue expert, which is how she came up with Elegant Spiders as the name for the group - a great story about a woman who called her because she found an "elegant spider" in the grapes she had purchased at the grocery store. The spider turned out to be a black widow! A good reminder to always check your grapes carefully before purchasing.

Anyhoo, Kate had many wonderful stories that kept even the dour Finnian in thrall and then we met the group itself at a coffee shop right nearby to the restaurant.

They happily talked about Peterborough because they all seemed to love it sincerely. In our search for the heart of suburbia, we have found all sorts of things. In Peterborough we really found community. The people in the group didn't live in the new developments that have grown up the hillside from downtown but even in those places we found children playing, neighbors talking with each other, people jogging and walking and other evidence that it didn't really matter what kind of house you lived in - if you live in Peterborough chances are you feel a sense of community.

Oh, and a friend in distant Toronto had told us that Peterborough also had one of the best Value Villages in Canada (for the non-Canadian, Value Village is a chain of large thrift/close out shops), so naturally we had to check out that claim. Maybe it was my mood, but I didn't really get into it. Yet I had to acknowledge they had something going on when I came to this aisle:

Peterborough. Yes.