Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Tiny Glimpse of Work in Progress

Working out the pattern for Ottawa. I use a program called Stitch Painter, which I quite like. Is it totally cheesy that I used a maple leaf? I had to closely examine the teeny tiny one on my permanent residency card so I probably messed it up anyway.

This is one of the ceramic pieces with added elements - pieces of paper I collected along the way with crocheted embellishments. It is actually not finished - still need a couple more things to complete it.

Heading there soon! Did I mention I am flying to Toronto? La la la. No problem about that, no siree. The thrill and exhiliration of pure panic.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Full Knitting Mode

One benefit of having a Zen practice, not often mentioned in books, is that when one needs to be up early and knitting, it is possible to do so without great effort or fanfare. Up early and paying attention to detail.

Could be zazen or it could be one big-ass knitting project.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Workity, Work, Work

This is my big work week. The week in which I play Dan. That is to say, I get up and head out in the morning and don't come back until suppertime or later. Dan plays me, which is to say, he takes care of everything else. It is good to shake up the roles a little now and then but my oh my, how quickly we have adopted each other's stance. Me: grumpy because he doesn't understand the stress of impending deadlines and expects me to come home all happy and ready to join the crowd. Him: grumpy because I am not appreciating how hard he is working to make this all happen. More lessons than, perhaps, we care to learn.

In any case, I am heading out very early this morning and hope that work goes quickly today. Things are shaping up but it still feels like mostly potential. Process is lovely but I need a little product too.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Season of Love

Yes, there is much pain, suffering and cruelty in the world. But there is much love too.

Right now, I love this.

The woman in the middle knit everyone in her family a bright, colourful sweater. And it made the news! (In Wales.)

From our slightly less colourful family to yours...

May you offer and receive much joy and love as we approach a new year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Within Darkness There is Light

Unlike many, I love the dark days of winter. There is a kind of enforced hush that falls across the landscape, even here in noisy, bright New York. Maybe it is because I am deep into reading Kristin Lavransdatter, but this year I am really enjoying the light and the lack of light.

This morning, it was particularly lovely.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

You know what they say, right?

Friday night I started to feel increasingly worse and worse - my nose was running non-stop and my throat was getting raw and scratchy. But I managed to maintain a state of deep denial until Saturday morning when I had to admit that spending several hours on a bus in close contact with other people (people I like and admire no less) could be considered something of a public health hazard. I called in to give up my seat on the bus and fully admit that I wasn't going anywhere further than the living room couch.

It was a disappointment on so many levels - no bus ride, no funeral, no seeing Jimon in the costume in action (with lights and music!), no meeting James for the first time, although it turned out that he was sick too. But no attachment, right? It still kinda sucked.

Ever the one to make lemonade from lemons however, I did knit a bit. Ontario is starting to look like something, if not a province exactly.

(This was taken several days is beginning to be fleshed out).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Work, Play, Life, Death

We passed a major milestone over here. For the first time, Finn and Lucy took the subway on their own. Considering I only just started allowing them to cross the street on their own, without holding my hand, about two years ago - we have come a long way. It still freaks me out more than a little but I know it is important to allow them to have their experiences, make some mistakes, do things correctly, learn firsthand how to navigate their hometown. (I am always amazed when they call NYC their hometown...I am definitely still a foreigner). I guess the hard part is that the possibility for fatal mistakes is so large. It is a big, bad city after all. And yet, most of us manage to get around everyday, mostly without incident. Now they will too. One more string cut, one more step away from the nest. It's great. It hurts!

But what, you say, does that have to do with Ontario? Well, by taking the subway on their own, they allowed me to get in over three hours in my studio to work on Knitting Sprawl - Ontario. Look how big Onatrio is! My fears of not having enough work to show in Peterborough were pushed aside by the flood of ideas that just a little quiet makes possible. Now I just need the time to carry them out. I have my sights set on the time between now and New Year's Day. Sure it is holiday time and all that implies, but to me, it is quiet time.

Tomorrow, however, I will take a step away from all the work and play to attend the funeral service for Daido Roshi in Kingston, NY. This too will be mixture of experiences and emotions - the bus ride up with sangha, the service itself, meeting a friend for dinner, then a performance tribute to him in the evening and a bus ride back to the city. A long day but one that will be fascinating and moving, no doubt.

And I am looking forward to seeing one particular performance in its final state. I assisted Joy Jimon Hintz, a senior monastic and Dharma Holder, with her costume for the dance she has prepared for tomorrow evening. Jimon was a soloist in a well-known dance company before becoming a monastic and it has been very interesting to work with her to create her costume. Not to mention that it has pushed my somewhat rusty sewing skills to a new level.

Then, yesterday she pulled me aside with the words that it was "honesty time." Immediately, I thought, "oh no, here it comes - she will finally reveal me as the fraud of a seamstress that I know I am!" But no, she just wanted my opinion about how the dress looked on her. Oh, there you are my friend, my ego. Maybe Jimon felt that too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

How Sad is That?

Things have been hectic around here, what with holidays and deadlines and such. I don't have any photographs, which are usually the driving force behind blog posts, so I have been quiet.

In the meantime, a couple of fellow Cooper Union alum and I have been having a conversation over on Facebook about the state of representation of women in the NYC art scene. Apparently the 2010 Whitney Biennial is nearly 50/50 split between men and women - a very, very rare thing indeed. I made a snarky "it's about time" sort of comment but the conversation drifted into deeper waters from there.

The truth is, if you check out the NY Times Friday gallery section, you will notice that most, if not all, the exhibitions reviewed are by men. If you look at museum exhibition schedules, they too are still heavily male dominated. Museum collections: check. Major galleries: check. It seems that, even in 2010, women are woefully under represented. But to say that aloud these days is very uncool. Like Feminism happened, you know, back in the 1970s so what's your problem? Still whining about that old thing?

Here is one thing I wrote about this situation:

I remember being in a project at Art in General that included monthly talks by various curators (both men and women). Some of them would talk to me ahead of time to get a little more information about my work. I will never forget the way the whole conversation once just sank and I was instantly dismissed when I mentioned that I wanted to touch on issues of labour, time, women's work, etc.. It was like I said I was using hearts and rainbows to show the joy of life or something. I could almost hear the curator, a guy, erasing the words "serious artist" from next to my name. Naturally I never said that again!

My friend pointed out that she sees a majority of women when she attends artist talks, visits art schools, or goes to grant-related workshops. And often women over 40 (do they even exist? I wonder...). So where are all these women showing their work? Oh, I get it! They're not.

Also, she pointed out that most of her CV is filled with exhibitions curated by women. I find this to be true as well. Do men not like our work? If so, why?

This poster was made by the Guerrilla Girls almost 25 years go, but it is still completely true. How sad is that?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Warping Thread is Here! The Warping Thread is Here!

Millimeter by millimeter, we get closer to actually using the giant loom that is taking up valuable real estate in our living room.

Monday, December 07, 2009

I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No

Here is the start of the Ontario piece. I am creating pieces that go with the porcelain pieces I made for each place we visited. Then the rest of Ontario will be filled in. There is a lot of the rest of Ontario, by the way.

I was rushing to complete at least a small section of this so I could take some photographs for the invite for the Art Gallery of Peterborough exhibition in January. For some reason, everything I have made related to my Knitting Sprawl project has been either crochet or made of paper or ceramic. Hello? It's Knitting Sprawl, not Paper Sprawl or Porcelain Sprawl. But nothing like a deadline to spur a little creativity and problem solving.

I hope I got decent photographs because I will have exactly no time to make further changes until later in the week. Tomorrow is an all-day Boston affair - early morning train to make a late morning class at Simmons, the afternoon spent in their extensive archives (I am looking forward to this!), then back on the train and home by nighttime, if all goes well. I am depending a lot on Amtrak, which is always dicey, but here's hoping.

As I laid awake this morning, trying to imagine how I will complete everything and wondering how it is that I have double and triple booked myself yet again, I realized I need a strategy for saying no. I absolutely LOVE everything I am doing, but I have fears about needing to cut corners to make it all happen, and I don't like cutting corners.

How do you say no and feel good about it? Hint: it is that second part of the question that is the real kicker.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Lucy's Poem

Every evening for the past month or maybe longer, the phone has rung and the caller ID says (literally, the thing talks in weird robotic female voice), Pub Interest Co. Since this sounds suspiciously like someone asking for money, I don't answer it. I give happily and readily to several groups, but not over the phone and not in the middle of supper, thank you very much.

This one caller has been persistent, and regular. We know exactly the time of day when the phone rings and "Pub Interest Co" comes warbling out of the handset - of course right in the middle of supper. Finally, Lucy decided she would answer the call and she started making up reasons why I was unavailable. First it was simply that I was busy but she quickly moved on to more, shall we say, esoteric answers. The last one was along the lines of "getting rid of pollution at this time of year". Please don't ask me what that means.

Yesterday she decided to prepare a list of answers to have at the ready for the inevitable call. Here it is, as written:

Robyn A. Love is busy:
She is canning in her spare time
She is at a meeting
She is sleeping
She is having lunch
She is a yogini
She is ordering a pizza
She is making a magnet
She is taking a picture of me
She is eating Cheez Whiz

Such a beautiful poem!

But you know what? Last night, they never called. I think my efforts on behalf of reducing pollution at this time of year finally put them off.

Monday, November 30, 2009


For all the joriki I may have gathered over the past couple of weeks, I am still finding hard to really dig into what needs to be done in order to meet my deadlines. I always have this issue, I suppose.

I don't really think of myself as someone who procrastinates, and yet...

Here is a cool sock project that has been amusing me to no end. The machine knitted piece was hand painted in the design you see. I marked the halfway point and then began to unravel it and knit it up into a pair of socks. The sock colour pattern was a complete surprise. I have finished one but I think the other will have to wait. The deadlines are pressing just close enough that real panic is setting in.

Or maybe not.

Yesterday, instead of working on Knitting Sprawl, which will be seen as a work-in-progress at The Art Gallery of Peterborough in early January, I decided that I had been off the wagon long enough. I got out my wheel and spun up two sets of fibre from Spunky Electic, then plied them to make a light DK weight yarn - over 400 yds worth. It is a combination of merino, silk and BFL.

This is not for Wee Ball Yarns, which I have set on "Pathetic Mode" over there. I am going to knit it up myself. Someday.

For now, back to my maps and charts and ceramic and yarn. Peterborough is calling me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

An XX Perspective on Sesshin

Over at Dalai Grandma, the author of that blog writes about her experiences studying with Zen teachers who are male and how that can and sometimes has become slippery given the patriarchal history of Zen. It is a problem for most religions, as far as I can tell, but perhaps one encounters it in Zen even more so since the intimate experience of working face-to-face with a teacher is so integral to the practice.

To help shift the balance a little, here is my distinctly female take on sesshin, such as I have experienced it.

When I was in labour with my firstborn, I was scared. I was scared of the pain, the promise of pain and of the whole thing that loomed ahead - the experience of being a parent, a mother. I would go so far as to say that I was so scared of all of it that I was able to will my body into drawing out labour as long as possible. I say this now, in retrospect. At the time I am pretty sure that I thought I wanted it to be over with as quickly as possible but the events of that time seem to suggest otherwise.

I remember hitting a point when things were getting a little hairy and I got into the hot tub at the birth center. This was about 24 hours into labour and after Dan's terrible foot cramp. It is so hard to see the one you love suffer in pain but fortunately he was able to breathe through it. But back to the story...suddenly I realized that, deep down, I had been harbouring a notion that, so long as I promised - really promised - to come back the next day, I would be allowed to go home and take a little rest and then come back and finish this thing up. As I lay in the tub with the contractions hitting me hard I fully and completely realized there was no possible hope of going home, of getting a little rest, of finishing this thing up on my terms. I was there and it was happening. Once I was able to really and truly dispel the idea that I had an out, I was able to just be in my body and ride the waves. I even managed to fall asleep between contractions. Not surprisingly, two hours later, we had a baby.

My experience at my first sesshin was a lot like that. About 24 hours in, as we began the afternoon session, I found myself feeling backed against a wall with nowhere to go. I realized that I had been keeping a little escape plan in the back of my mind the whole time and the moment had come to face it - I could give up and walk out (this is where the metaphor is a little weak - technically I could have left the sesshin whereas in childbirth, one is truly stuck there) but for me, walking out wasn't really an option. I had looked too long and hard for this place and I knew it was the right one for me. So I had to do just what I did in labour - face it full on, no holding back, no escape routes. Ride the waves. I might have slept a little there too, but don't tell anyone.

This past sesshin I had another childbirth/zazen metaphorical experience, along somewhat similar lines. Again, I had been struggling and finally settled down to really be there, really see what was there. What I found reminded me of that moment right before the baby's head comes out. It sometimes is called the Ring of Fire, although I am pretty sure Johnny Cash has nothing to do with it in either instance. That moment in childbirth was one when I felt strongly and powerfully connected to something so profoundly human that it felt almost animalistic. It touched on the thing that makes us human, not in an intellectual sense, but a full body and mind sense. Sitting with the breath and bringing awareness to the hara touched that same place. Only, you know, with less body fluids and no baby at the end.

Amazingly, it was there the whole time, just waiting for me to find it (again).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Knitting Sprawl - Ontario

While still feeling the energy and focus of my post-sesshin buzz, I made my way to the studio yesterday for a couple of hours as part of a ten-hour subway marathon day. My studio hasn't seen much use as an actual art studio recently despite all the best intentions in the world. Last year, it was part yoga studio and homeschooling play rehearsal space. Before that it served mainly as yarn and fabric storage. But given the amount of work to be done (insert whimper here), I have been straining to get there and to start really working on Knitting Sprawl and the other projects lined up on the calendar.

I brought with me the porcelain pieces I have been working on during our weekly class at Greenwich House Pottery. While traveling around Ontario, and for some reason especially while in Toronto, I began to have visions of mixing my ceramic work with my knitting. I decided to make the leap and include some of it in the Ontario piece (or pieces as it is turning out to be).

Here is a sneak peek at what has been cooking.

This is the shape of the city of Toronto. I painted our experiences on it in terms of geography. I like the "terra incognita" reference, as if what we don't see must not exist. This piece will be a stand alone with some crochet added, attached to the holes. I hesitate to say more for fear of botching up my ideas which are still rather fluid. Fluid, but gathering focus.

This is the same shape - the city of Toronto - this time in terms of how the city itself was rather unimportant and served only as a jumping off place to get to the other places. This will be part of a large piece (I think about 6' x 6') that will be knit. It will be connected, via knitting to discs of porcelain that I made for each stop on our Knitting Sprawl tour.

Here is the one for New Hamburg. The clear glaze made the painting a little blurry, but I like that it makes it look slightly aged or something like that.

Here is the beginning of the layout. The final piece will be, I think, shaped like Ontario, with each piece in its relative spot. I made a little star for Ottawa. Ottawa may also get its own separate piece.

I am also working with maps and written directions and the pile of papers I collected along the way - cutting them up, making them into books, etc.

With all the logistics of traveling and the efforts of simply being in one place and then getting to another, I had forgotten about the joy of feeling my hands work.

Monday, November 23, 2009

First There Was A Mountain

Have you ever felt that you have been scaling the mountain, sweating and working harder than you ever have in your life, only to have the fog clear for a moment to reveal that you have only actually reached the smallest of foothills, and that the mountain is still far, far away?

Fortunately the view from the top of the foothill, however limited and tiny, is still pretty damn nice.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


This coming week I will be up at the Zen Mountain Monastery for sesshin. I will be back next Sunday afternoon.

See you then!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hungry For More

Some may know that my brother-in-law, David (yes, that David with the new Ph.D and new sweater) and I are working, very slowly, on a film about grinders.

It started as kind of a joke playing off the fact that I have a video camera and am not afraid to use it and he has a seemingly unlimited amount of knowledge, insight and interest in the topic. I won't insult you with a link or define what grinders are because I know that you know that they are sandwiches made on long bread and filled with (usually) cold cuts and provolone cheese, shredded lettuce and oil and vinegar, among other things. Some places call them subs or submarine sandwiches, some places call them hoagies, some even call them torpedoes (I mean, whatever). In southern Rhode Island and parts of southeastern Connecticut, they are called grinders because they were sandwiches made by Italian immigrants who worked in the shipyards as, yes, grinders. But you knew that, right?

This is Dan with a grinder-like sandwich purchased in Quebec City.  
Pas mal, Quebec, but keep trying.

Work on the film has been sporadic in the way you might expect for two people with rather busy lives but we certainly like to talk about the project and there have been some efforts to commit our passion to film. We even held a GrinderFest back in 2005 in which four grinder shops in Westerly, RI and Norwich, CT participated. Ok, it was really that we purchased grinders from each of the shops and had an official taste test competition involving David and his family, which to our credit, is rather large and could possibly constitute a majority vote in certain circumstances in Rhode Island.

Also, we made t-shirts.

We have actually filmed at three grinder shops: Ritacco's (the winner of the GrinderFest taste tests, btw) and Reale's in Westerly and Antonio's in Pawcatuck, CT. And we have done a fair bit of research into other places in the US where the term grinder is in use. Much to our surprise, parts of the greater Los Angeles area also use the term grinder, as do places in Michigan, western Massachusetts, and rumour has it, part of Ohio. Our dream is to go to all these places to film and really take this topic to the next level. It's not really a dream we ever do much about but, as I mentioned, we do like to talk about doing it.

The other thing we imagine is expanding on GrinderFest by convincing Westerly to host a larger competition involving many of the local and not-so-local grinder shops in beautiful Wilcox Park, which is right in the center of town. In the evening, we could screen our movie that now has the working title, Grinder Sutra. David actually contacted the Westerly town offices with this proposal in mind but got, shall we say, minimal interest.

There is so much to do to bring this important project to fruition and to fully realize the important part grinders play in local, mostly Rhode Island, culture. For our research shows that it is residents of Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut who have travelled abroad to places such as Orange County, CA, bringing with them the grinder recipe and name. Yes, there is so much to do.

It is with this in mind that I cracked open the newspaper this morning and found this article about how New Orleans is preserving po'boy culture with a large festival that expects thousands.

Surely the grinder is as important to Rhode Island's social, economic and gastronomic culture as the po'boy is to New Orleans. C'mon Westerly! We can do this!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Winnipeg or Saskatchewan or Where Ever You Are

I have put my money where my mouth is and booked an RV for five weeks in late May/June 2010. We will head north and then west and finish the travel part of Knitting Sprawl.

After our fall travels, I found the expense of hotels and meals were so great that I needed to look for an alternative way of finishing up the trip. At a certain point the idea of a rental RV crossed my mind and I began to have visions of us as homeschooling hippies: travellin' and learnin' (and knittin' and talkin'). Also, I liked the idea that we would be a little more in charge of our schedule so if something good came up we could take advantage of it, as opposed to be locked into reservations at various places.

Thus, we are officially booked with our Class C vehicle, with generator.

Should be interestin'.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Bumper Crop

While Gillams may be under snow about now, here in Sunnyside we had a glorious day of sunshine and warmth. I took advantage of this to harvest our jerusalem artichoke crop. Why do you have a jerusalem artichoke crop, you may ask. Truthfully, I never really wanted one but when a neighbor plants something new in their backyard, chances are that, for better or worse, we will be harvesting that plant soon enough as well. One of our neighbors many "experiments" was jerusalem artichokes, so now we also have them.

Hey, if you can't beat'em, join 'em.

Here are some heirloom tomatoes that may ripen a bit more off the vine to be a cheery yellow colour.

I think that might be the last of them.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Some of the results of the dyeing workshop:

Black walnut on merino yarn, I used yarn that had been mordanted with alum but I know I didn't have to use any mordant since the tannins in the walnut are enough. I am not a huge fan of brown, but this one really catches my eye.

Some BFL fleece, unmordanted, in black walnut.

Onion skins with alum mordant.

Onion skins with tin mordant. I added too much tin to the pot so while the colour is amazing, the mordant is breaking down the fibre. A stupid mistake that comes from not knowing much about tin mordanting. Now I know.

That fibre in the middle is mohair dyed with tea. I collected every tea bag I used for about a month in a large jar filled with water. It got The results were well worth it, however. The colour is so gorgeous, especially on this glossy mohair. Again, no mordanting since tea also has a lot of tannin.

Such fall colours! Such fun! I want to get back at those dye pots.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Context is Everything

Wave Hill was alive with colour yesterday. Although the skies were grey, the landscape was beautiful and it served as a lovely backdrop to our experiments with colour from the dye pots. A small group that came by for the workshop/demo but, to me, it was just the right size. I had pots of indigo, onion skins, red cabbage, black tea, and black walnut going and people could try out fibre I had or they could bring their own, which a few did. I also had mordanted fibre and yarn with alum and tin so people could experiment with how they create different shades.

Owen, a boy of about seven, came with his parents and stayed the whole time with great enthusiasm. It was wonderful to see him so excited by how you can make colour from ordinary plants and household leftovers. Brece and Helen both came, which also was wonderful because I got to visit a little with them and because they both bring a great deal of knowledge of all things fibre-y so the workshop became a real sharing of information.

The indigo pot did not fail to inspire many oohs and ahhs for its magic but the black walnuts were not far behind. I had them soaking for three days before the workshop and they made an amazing dye - the most gorgeous warm reddish brown. And it was one time when the smell was actually kind of lovely, like taking a deep breath from the forest floor.

I was able to do a little PR for my residency project that will happen in the winter, encouraging interested people to come back and knit or spin with me. The project is growing or perhaps deepening is a better term. I want to explore the mutual relationships between people and the natural environment at Wave Hill and the institutional relationship between Wave Hill and its audience. I think of it as a study of two ecologies that overlap in many ways. While I was hashing these ideas out, I learned that ecology actually means "house study" which seemed very appropriate for what I wanted to do. Thus the project is called House Study/Handmade.

As I have started collecting things to dye, I noticed that the staff have communal coffee and tea and a little kitchen space, so I asked them to save their tea bags, etc., so that I can dye not only with the plants but with the things that the people their use in their daily routines. I like that I am collecting these items, as well as the leaves and twigs, to make a kind of portrait in dyes of Wave Hill. Same thing, only different.

After that day of colour and context, I saw this over on Wild Fox Zen and it could not have been more appropriate.

Remember: don't believe everything you see.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Yesterday, Today

The Mirror Ball Suit was a big success - Lucy hated to take it off. One person even recognized it. Finnian finally decided to be a chef, complete with a slightly bloody butcher's knife. Thus costumed, we made our way to Hoboken, NJ, for a party and trick or treating - a two-hour journey via public transport. I was moaning and groaning about combining two of my least favourite things - Halloween and New Jersey - when Lucy said to me, through clenched teeth, " Do not ruin my Halloween." She was right. I shut up and we had a good time. Although trying to get back home along with about a million people all ready to party at the annual Greenwich Village Halloween parade was not so, whaddayacallit, fun.

Ah, New Jersey.

But today is The Bronx: natural dyeing at Wave Hill from 1 - 3 p.m. Looks like it will be indoors in Armor Hall at Wave Hill House. I plan on having an indigo pot going, along with some other pots of suprises. Emphasis will be on having fun. If this sounds like your thing, then come on over and join me. Plus Wave Hill is looking pretty spectacular in its fall colours. I don't think you can go wrong.

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.