Of Tea Cups and Ice Storms
Last week, I rushed through the flurries to the farm. The sheep didn't need moving, nor was I there to train Finn the border collie. I hurried my little ones through the door and unwrapped them, excited to begin a favorite activity: yarn scheming with my mother.
The kettle was already at the cusp of boiling and the tea cups were laid out, the loose leaves carefully measured in the strainer. The mellow vanilla smell of oatmeal cookies filled the house, as it usually does. We sat at the table, with a strong cup of tea to inspire our brains. My mother is equal parts charm and spice. For all the poise of her china cups and rolling pins, you'd never mistake her for demure. She always has an idea, usually yarn or sheep-related, that she'll describe with a hush to her voice and a sparkle to her eye.
No, life is not all cookies and tea parties, but one thing that works like a charm to take our minds off troubles is talking about yarn! We discussed what colorways we wanted to create next, on what bases and weights. How might someone want to use a wintry color? In a thick, worsted shawl? For slippers? Felted mittens? There's nothing like chasing down every detail and unlocking every potential of a skein and the infinite interpretations folks we've never even met will come up with.
I never want to take a second with my mother for granted. Both of us are young, but I have decided now to show my gratitude for my parents, instead of waiting until I wish I had. It's over these cups of tea that we talk about all our yarn plans, and squeal with delight over our new projects, ideas, and designs.
As we were dreaming up a colorway that would reflect ice and snow, we reminisced on the ice storm of '98. All who live in Maine remember the disaster of that time. I was 6 years old, and the winter had started like any other. But shortly after Christmas, an ice storm hit that would prove to be fatal. On January 8th, a dripping rain fell that froze in places as thick as 3 inches. It sent the multitudinous trees across Maine crashing down. For years afterwards you could see the scar on the land of twisted and fallen trees. This knocked out power to the majority of the state. Roads were impassive. Everything, including schools, shut down. A state of emergency was declared and line workers and military from across the nation poured in to accomplish the nigh-impossible task of restoring power.
We woke in the morning with no lights and cheered. We heated and cooked on our wood cookstove, so us kids were much more excited about the storm than those struggling to stay warm and tiring of cold cereal for every meal. We were homeschooled, so we still did our sums and reading. And by candlelight each night, as usual we would wind yarn into balls and knit together, laughing and talking. This was of course before the days of computers, cell phones, and internet (at least for us country folk).
We grew up enchanted by the 'olden days'. My mother instilled a love of history in us, and we eagerly listened to her stories of the past, and her mothers before her. She sewed us elegant dresses true to history. So this little adventure was a dream-come-true for us. When the power came on, we whined and asked them to turn it off again. However, not having to draw water was definitely a plus!
I love a good story of a small business succeeding and helping to nourish her community. But this time of year I start to get a little sick to my stomach, almost like after eating too many slices of chocolate raspberry pie on Thanksgiving, to be bombarded with SO much marketing, everywhere you look. I try my best to avoid being a salesperson, because by nature I am not! I received a marketing email encouraging me to "whip my customers into a frenzy" by telling them "time is running out!" It included the link to download a giant, red, flashing countdown clock, as if a bomb were about to go off.
I hope, instead of being frenzied, you are able to share a little piece of my mother's tea parties instead. That with each skein of yarn you'll receive the gift of an unhurried moment, preferably next to some cookies and tea, and with someone you love. Even better if that person also loves handicrafts! I hope this season you receive the gift of slow, and that you can trade the problems of the moment for a new cast-on or a finished project.
My Mum and I at the Machias Fiber Festival
More about the great Ice Storm here: https://bangordailynews.com/2018/01/05/news/state/frozen-in-time-memories-of-the-ice-storm-of-98/
An aside: After the storm I could remember everyone wearing these sweatshirts. I was shocked I was able to find them! I think I know what my sisters are getting for Christmas now.