After several recent trips with destinations dependent upon multiple flights, I am ready to be a homebody and pleased that my next “excursion” will be virtual – thanks to the wonder of Zoom and WiFi on my screened porch.
Within hours of Knit Camp at the Coast registration going live in May, I was registered for Marie Greene’s third annual knitting retreat VIP package. The itinerary for this 3-Day event imbues a Pacific NW vibe with days full of new knitting skills taught by well-known practitioners. When you add in coastal drink recipes, small group breakout rooms, and retreat swag, it will be the best non-trip trip of the summer.
In prep for Marie’s Pop Knitting class, I am stash diving for contrasting fingering skeins. As advertised, her shared skills will take a simple beanie and embellish it with “bright twists, braids, and other bursts of colorful texture.”
As a fan of short rows, another session will cover the mechanics of different short row techniques, as well provide advice about when and where to use them. Short rows can be a practical devise (to add a smidge of length to the back of a sweater) or an artful design element.
My calendar is cleared; my homework is on the needles; and my excitement is mounting as I count the days to mid-September fun.
I have often wondered if the combination of these Scarborough Fair herbs in the traditional folk song, adapted by Simon and Garfunkel in 1966, was simply lyrical or a lost recipe for a marvelously concocted love potion. The parsley, rosemary, thyme referred to in the popular song lyric are garden favorites and each fall my rosemary plant migrates to the basement to continue producing under a timed gro-light.
As botanical siblings neither sage nor mint are among my triumvirate of favorite herbs – basil, oregano, and thyme. This summer’s sage was planted simply as a decorative variation in the greenery among my herbal pots. But, because I have it, I am drying a handful of leaves from my back door crop to preserve a touch of this summer’s wealth. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “in medieval Europe, sage was thought to strengthen the memory and promote wisdom” so it may be good for something other than Thanksgiving stuffing.
As the floor crew removed the scarred maple in prep for the new red birch floor, the smells were reminiscent of time spent in Dad’s workshop helping to steady boards as they passed through the table saw and from an even earlier time when he hand-sawed wood in the garage while I dulled a drill-bit. It was a favorite pastime, sitting on the garage floor, concentrating on a block of wood and carefully turning, turning, turning the crank of the hand drill through a board. He kept one bit just for me as I was imprecise in judging my stopping point and the concrete never budged.
So, too, the renovation sounds evoked memories, although less than melodic, as crowbars wrenched wood and pulled nails screeched. Previously, Richard and I performed the hours and hours of kitchen and bathroom demolition (1987). This time – older, wiser, and financial solvent – we are paying someone to do the dirty work of removing the old and much abused living room flooring that hid for decades under carpet. This week’s old house discoveries included:
An entire section of the original subfloor was never nailed to the floor joists
Maple flooring poorly patched with mystery wood when heat ducts and cold air returns were moved or replaced over time
Bowed living room walls – We have known for years that the wall between the dining room and the living room was out-of-square by nearly two inches which is why, in 1987, the dining room parquet was laid at an angle but now we know that that east and west living room walls are not straight
Electrical wiring tucked under the baseboard on what had once been a front porch as it was quicker than drilling a hole where the electrical outlet was actually located.
All relatively easy fixes or work-a-rounds, although the surprising and definitely not to code location of the electrical wire in the sunroom was discovered when nicked by a power saw which required adding a junction box and new wiring.
Oh the joys of 21st century renovations in a house built in 1925 and moved in 1927! But the new red birch hardwood floor will be beautiful.
My first travel discovery was a shift in language; the journey defined not as a trip, or a vacation or even a history tour but as “pilgrimage.” For the 15 of us, this was a time to immerse ourselves in stories; to amble the same path as Henry David Thoreau trod along the shores of Walden pond; to climb the same steep, narrow wooden stairs to the Arlington Street Church bell tower and ring the same bells that would have gathered people to hear William Ellery Channing speak; to saunter through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and touch the gravestone of Louisa May Alcott.
Some highlights of our days of pilgrimage:
King’s Chapel – touched the last bell cast and hung by Paul Revere
Arlington Street Church – tried my hand at ringing three of the 16 bells
Mount Auburn Cemetery – left memorial bouquets at the graves of William Ellery Channing, Hosea Ballou, John Murray, and Margaret Fuller
Walden Pond – walked the entire pond and left a Winona river rock at the stone cairn close to the site of Thoreau’s cabin where he lived for 2 years, 2 months and 2 days
Old Manse – saw the desks where Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter and Emerson wrote Nature
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery – discovered that as they were neighbors in life, so too they are neighbors today as we visited Authors Row and the family plots of the Alcotts, Thoreaus, Emersons, and Peabodys leaving pencil homages for Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and Elizabeth Peabody.
Our days were filled visiting churches, graveyards and cemeteries (learning these two are different from one another) and touring the homes of literary giants. All the while hearing concise history lessons laced with anecdotes that put flesh and bone to revered names and made them quirkily human. We benefited from bookstore visits, invigorating conversations, time for quiet reflection, and the recitation of poetry.
The road waits.
... when it invites you
to dance at daybreak, say yes.
Each step is the journey; a single note the song.
- Arlene Gay Levine
P.S. And six of us hopped the green line to Fenway for a Red Sox win. The green monster is really monstrously tall!
I have a copy of Michael Holroyd’s definitive biography of Lytton Strachey. A gift from a friend, the two-volume boxed set serves as a bookend anchoring a shelf of history titles. My friend was a Bloomsbury aficionado. He read everything he could about these post-Victorian intellectuals even waiting patiently to purchase The Letters of Virginia Woolf published in six volumes; book-by-book over 10 years. He also gifted me his extra copy of The Loving Friends: A Portrait of Bloomsbury by David Gadd.
When the Pilgrimage to Massachusetts reading list (yes – an actual two-page bibliography of primary and secondary sources) included American Bloomsbury by Susan Cheever, I thought this title could be the primer I needed (just as The Loving Friends had been) to better understand our American literary giants. As the subtitle describes, American Bloomsbury focuses on the lives, loves, and work of Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau.
These profoundly talented people moved among each other, sometimes living together, sharing books, reading what each other wrote, and relishing in deep philosophical discussions. In the introductory “Note to the Reader” Cheever describes her intent to work chronologically but to do so from each of her primary character’s perspectives thus her timeline moves back and forth as she describes overlapping incidents and conveys the stories of their lives life in Concord and the surrounding environs during the 1830s – 1890s.
Their individual accomplishments – Little Women, The Scarlett Letter, Walden, Or Life in the Woods – create for us a tableau of 19th century life; a young country, a growing divide over slavery; and women’s rights still but a wishful glimmer only in some minds. But, taken as a whole, these hearty New Englanders defined a literary, philosophical, religious, and political movement that we call Transcendentalism with its core belief in the inherent goodness of the individual and nature.
I leave early (4:45 am) tomorrow to see their homes and haunts.
With Boston looming large on my calendar, followed by a week at home and then flying to Montréal, (I am still befuddled as to how I have 13 travel days in just one month) I am focused on home-centered tasks; the garden this morning and moving furniture this afternoon to prepare for the new living room floor.
Green beans – picked, blanched and frozen although an evening’s serving size has been set aside to sauté with thyme.
Blueberries – harvested and baked; this time in scones.
Tomatoes – just for eating; and likewise
Peppers – ready for some dish yet to be selected for our summer dining menus.
One week from today I leave for Boston. My flight out of Rochester (RST – MSP – BOS) departs at an inhumane hour that requires leaving home around 4 am. Admittedly, this was my decision as there are other departures with connections heading east but I opted to use already paid for Covid miles/dollars held in escrow by Delta for canceled trips to Phoenix, Providence, and Denmark. 2020 was to have been a travel-cious year.
I considered using Knit+ Librarian as a daily travelogue so you could join me vicariously as I visited historically important sites in Boston, Cambridge, Concord, and Gloucester but then re-thought this potential commitment. As with most guided tours, our August 9-15 itinerary is full enough to make me wonder just how much time I will have to write; there is no guarantee of strong Wi-Fi needed for posting; and, while I know technically it can be done, I lack any desire to blog on my iPhone. Plus, I have to wonder if you really want to read about the minutia of my days. Rather, I’ll give you a succinct postcard summary complete with an appropriate selection of photos (no – dinner plates, I promise!) after I return to Minnesota.
A sampling of anticipated highlights may include: King’s Chapel, Old North Church, Harvard Square, the Sargent-Murray House, Walden Pond, and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery but you will have to wait until the end of my trip to know for sure.
While it is officially National Swiss Day (celebratory greetings to all my Swiss cousins!) I have declared this to be Blueberry Day at our house. I am feeling a time crunch to put our freshly picked produce to good use before leaving for Boston – but more about upcoming travels in tomorrow’s post. A Double Good Blueberry Pie is chilling in the refrigerator and Blueberry Lemon Muffins are on the menu as tomorrow’s breakfast treat with a few tucked into the freezer for frigid January mornings.
We estimate one more picking will complete this season’s crop. Our four bushes have produced 16.25 cups thus far; much better than last summer’s yield of only 9.5 cups but not nearly up to the bountiful summers of 2019 and 2020 with 24 and 25 cups, respectively.
The Double Good Blueberry Pie is super easy and, as promised, doubly good with two cups of fresh berries serving as the fruit base in a baked pie shell then topped with two cups of cooked glazed berries. We will add a dollop of Crème Fraîche to make it extra festive.
As I misplaced the paper copy of the Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins (shared by Betty D. last summer) and the web address produced an error message, I spent this morning recipe sleuthing (always a fun task.) The Preppy Kitchen covered my bases – blueberries, lemon and sour cream – although my muffins exclude the streusel topping, all the better to enjoy the berries.
This spring, I learned about a new creative project led by Suleika Jaouad that encouraged participants to “create one tiny beautiful thing each day” for 100 days as a way to bridge the isolation of Covid and return to an as-yet-to-be defined new normal. The choice of how to excite the imagination was to be determined by each participant.
When I was young, I enjoyed reading poetry but somewhere along the way, poems assumed an impenetrable guise and poetry become something I rarely read. Although I did take a significant plunge into well written verses during the summer of 2012 when I joined Karen Sandberg and Rose Mish in presenting a summer service comprised entirely of poetic readings. With the 100-Day Project the timing seemed right to revisit poetry. I decided I would read a poem each morning and discover (or re-discover) a poet every day.
I created a poem calendar to track my daily progress complete with hyperlinks so that I could re-read the gems I discovered. One such beautiful verse is Small Kindnesses by poet Danusha Laméris. She asked 1,300 teenagers about the small kindnesses that make a difference to them and then used their answers to write this poem:
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”
As reported earlier, this summer’s basil crop is the best we have ever grown and a quick cutting this morning yielded five individual servings of fresh pesto – one for tonight’s 3-cheese tortellini and four for the freezer; so good when the cold winds blow and summer basil is only a fragrant memory.