The other day I told someone that “I am a weaver”. Then I giggled.

This past summer Mr. 761 and I went to Ireland for two weeks. It was everything you would imagine a two-week trek in a beautiful country with the person you love can be – relaxing and gorgeous and interesting and memorable. We both can trace family back to Ireland, and while I cannot claim an eerie feeling of “I’ve-been-here-before” because of this familial link, I can say that I felt very comfortable there, and could go back in a moment and stay for a long number of moments quite happily.

malinbeg

Malinbeg sheep

There was something about the west that I loved very much; the south-and-west too. Counties Cork and Kerry. Clare and Donegal… oh, Donegal. I loved it there.

I took too many pictures to count – enough to tire even the fondest family members and facebook friends. I kept trying to capture moments in time, because I was so moved.

sheep

who can resist their charm?

Everything about that trip was gentle, somehow, even the wild Aran Islands and the lonely heartbreakingly beautiful Donegal coast.

If I think back, years from now, only a few of those pictures will be clear and like-yesterday in my mind. And they aren’t what you’d think, either…. they are not pictures of monuments or castles (which we certainly saw and enjoyed), but are instead of simple homely moments: like the sheep in the road near Malinbeg, or the sight and sound of the looms in that tiny studio in  Annyalla, and the big studio at Avoca, or laughing in the pub in Limerick. It was driving through moody fog-covered mountains and marvelling at hedgerows and holding hands whilst walking together through lonely graveyards, lush rose-filled parks and villages. It was a two-week montage of  quiet unhurried Full Irish breakfasts, wandering aimlessly, and surprise landings. We are very fortunate people.

We tried not to buy trinkets and souvenirs. We tried to travel lightly and keep our one-backpack-each liz christy stole and catunstuffed with stuff. This was made easier when we learned Aran sweaters aren’t made in Aran, and Waterford Crystal isn’t made in Waterford. But there were a few points where I could not deny my urge for things, and those times were almost always weaving-related. We ended up shipping a blanket home (and saved VAT – it was a deal!), and I carried my new Liz Christy stole home on the plane, marvelling at the colours and textures (it is seen here, with my cat Flowerpot who also has wonderful taste).

Near the end of our trip we wandered over to  Swallow Studios, in Annyalla, near Castleblayney Co. Monaghan.  We petted the dog, and watched the weavers, and bought the above-mentioned stole by Liz Christy (and a tiny batik by Louise Loughman). I realized that what I kept coming back to was the textiles. The weaving and looms, and the textures and colours and craft. I started off by joking that we would need to get some sheep for our backyard (still kind of want some btw) but ended up looking to see if there was a way to learn this sort of craft back at home.

I feel a bit sheepish really. I live in Nova Scotia, after all. I don’t know why it surprised me that a quick google search while standing in the hotel in Castleblayney showed me a multitude of weaving/textile artisans and workshops right near my house back in NS. But it did, and I’m glad.  When we got home, I started off with a day-long workshop on weaving with a rigid heddle table loom called a “cricket loom”. I looooved it right away.

But I need to back up a bit first. The workshop was at a beautiful farm wool shop  called kitty purlGaspereau Valley Fibres, a short drive from my house. A shop that I’d never heard of, because yarn at that point kinda scared me. You should go there, or to it’s “townie” sibling The Wool N Tart (try the lemon tarts, they are delicious). It has a great selection of natural fibres and equipment for spinners and weavers as well as knitters. (They also have a resident cat, “kitty purl”, whose picture I put here for the sake of symmetry with the cat pic above.) It’s like a candy store, but with yarn.

Why did it “scare” me? I seem to lack the requisite coordination and concentration for knitting and crocheting – they seem mysterious and… knotty. It feels like a secret society that I needed to be inducted into at an early age, or never. My time for that seemed to have passed me by, and I cannot think in three dimensions with knitting. Perhaps someday, but those crafts just don’t speak to me.

Weaving does.

cricket loom

pic from internet of cricket loom

So, I took the workshop and gave myself a week before I went and bought the cricket loom. I’m so glad I did. I spent the next few weeks in  a frenzy of learning to use it, to be comfortable with the set up, and reading about weaving. I made some nice things, if I do say so myself.

It seemed at first as if it might be the loom for me. But then…

Then, one day I went online and saw a used floor loom, and it was pretty much no time at all between seeing it online, and having it set up and… looming in my sun room. It is of uncertain provenance and I’m finding all sorts of lovely quirks about it. When I walk in that room, it smells of birds eye maple, canvas and… loom.

my loom

I own a loom, y’all.

This loom and I are still getting acquainted… it’s a much more complicated animal than my little cricket, but very much worth it. I took three days of study with the wondrous Pia Skaarer Neilsen of Wonderous Woolerie, a weaver/teacher/fibre artisan and it was the best thing I could have done. Thanks to her, I am armed with at least enough knowledge to if not fix a mistake, to recognize one. Perhaps more importantly, she showed me how joyous it can be to do what you love.

I have found that I love the methodical, contemplative nature of weaving. I love the textures and colours and feel of it all. I like the alchemy of making fabric out of yarn. I love the calm deep concentration necessary to warp the loom (put the strings on it), and the creativity that flows out of playing on those strings with other colors and textures.

I love the process, and the mechanics of it; the tension and pulleys and gears and levers. I love (but don’t yet really understand except in a very rudimentary fashion) the notation  – the musical score, if you will – of weaving diagrams. I love the arcane and somehow Dickensian vocabulary: heddles and harnesses and beaters and castles and lamms.

I love the way it’s making me learn something new, at every turn. Think about it – when was the last time you really learned? It’s wonderful, really. My brain is firing in so many different ways all of a sudden. I’m happy to return to using my hands and my brain, after so many years of pretty much ignoring my need to make and do. It feels really good.

I sometimes dream of it; I problem solve loom issues in my sleep, or at least try to.

weaving at pias

I’ve met so many great people in the course of this new adventure: weavers and spinners and yarn people. Artists and craftspeople and funny previous-owners of looms. They have been, to a person, joyful and thoughtful and generous. This was, I think, a very lucky direction to have taken, here in Nova Scotia by way of Ireland.

That lovely gentle trip to Ireland brought me all of these gifts; I didn’t even know that I needed this, and now I wonder how I could not have known.

I am curious about other people – what have you discovered, like this?

 

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If this were the 70’s, I would SO be showing you slides of my trip….

…in the rec. room, while sipping cocktails or something. And, sitting on a shag rug, smoking while wearing Sara Coventry jewelry and blotting our coral lipsticks so they don’t leave marks on the highball glasses.

Or, you know. I’d show you my slides.

I have a million images from our trip, and will sort through in a day or so. Right now I’m recuperating: caught a cold a few days ago, and the 26 hour transport/airport extravaganza did not help. My ears are still blocked! (is it just me, or do other people get a bit sick at the end of a trip?)

My dogs are happy though, and piled on me in bed last night, along with the cats. Lovely to come home to that sort of unconditional affection.

Am taking it easy today, it being Sunday and all…. Mr. 761 is back in KAF, alas, but I hope he’s as happy as I am; that was a great holiday.

More to come. A small taste: this, taken from the skeezy bus window while going from Podgorica to Sarajevo. Just sitting there, like it’s normal to be this beautiful….

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Dubrovnik, Budva

I’m having too much fun to write much, but will say that I’m completely charmed by Dubrovnik and the old city. Budva? Not so much. So far it feels like a soviet Coney Island.

That’s kind of interesting in itself, though, so we’re going with it.

Today we begin our travel (via rental car… the first time not on foot or in a bus!) through Montenegro. We don’t know much except that we need to be back in Sarajevo by the 30th.

Last night we went to a Budva grocery store and bought all manner of good things, and a few not so good. We had two bags bursting with booze and snacks, for 15€. it was fun, and we needed a break from the beauty.

My favorite item:

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Now, off to Sveti Stephan:

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More photos on FB.

The seductive pleasures of the airline lounge

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Just a short one…Box 761 will have what I’m thinking of as “postcards” while we are away… I don’t have the inclination to write long posts, but want a place to put pictures and quickie thoughts.

I write this while sitting in the swanky Star Alliance lounge in the Vienna airport. We just arrived after a fairly grueling (cramped, over-warm, middle-seated with screaming child and slightly demented older gentleman across the aisle. The food was bad and the movies weren’t interesting).

I LOVED it. It’s all in the process, right? It was nothing a few drinks and a good book wouldn’t cure.

What I’m reading right now is Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/americangods.htm), a novel he wrote a decade ago and which I am shamefacedly just discovering. He is also the mastermind behind one of my fave characters ever – Coraline.

Like I said I’m writing this from the lounge. I’ve just finished eating a nice breakkie, and then took a shower. A lovely hot fabulous much needed Star Allliance shower.

This is definitely the way to go.

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just… breathe.

What’s so much better? I am.

Not sure if you recall my previous post about my withdrawal efforts, but I’m getting there. Pharmaceuticals are a bitch, and I’m staying away from the damn things from now on. I’ve been doing some reading on Paxil, and although I really appreciated the almost immediate relief it gave me, I wonder now if it was worth it (and wonder if my relief would’ve been effected just as well with a sugar pill. Who knows?).

If there’s one thing I should’ve learned by now, it’s that no matter how crappy things are, they will always get better. Always.  Time will take care of it, usually. Not the inevitable counting of minutes, days, hours but some applied effort, some time to take a deep breath, some time to see the arc of the story unfold. Usually, things become clearer, right?

Breathing is the key for me these days. I mean, how many times have I counselled my daughter – take a deep breath, relax – while she was in the midst of a spasm? How many times have I seen that breath turn into instant and an almost magical soothing of those tortured muscles? How many times do I have to see that until I take my own good advice and take a few deep breaths myself?

I don’t doubt that there is better living through pharmaceuticals. Not at all. For me, though, I’m starting to have a sick feeling that the drugs are worse than the condition for which they were prescribed. For me, I think that maybe a more holistic approach will work. I don’t have a condition that has to be treated with medication; it got me through a bad time, and then it caused a bad time. This is a common story, and I’m lucky that I’m not dependent on these drugs in order to function in the world.

So, no. I’m not saying that breathing, or warm baths, or a walk around the block are solutions entirely. What I can say for myself, though, is that all three of those things seem to be helping me. They’re helping me a lot. One reason they’re helping is that I finally decided that I needed the help, if that makes any sense.

These days I’m not pretending to work at relaxing. I’m really putting in the time, and it’s making a difference.

Imagine that. Just… breathe.

Sarajevo

And now for something completely different…. Mr. 761 and I are leaving for  two weeks tramping around Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro. We’ve planned some of it, but are leaving much of the Montenegro leg of the trip to our whims. It’s a little wee country so we’re going to wander about and stop where something grabs our fancy.  So far, what we have planned is to fly into Sarajevo and spend several days there. We’ve arranged for a room in a pension right in the old town – not grand, but will serve our purposes. I plan on being out and exploring most of the day.

After a few days in Sarajevo, we’ll be  travelling down the coast to Dubrovnik, Croatia. I’m

Dubrovnik: a walled city. A gorgeous Adriatic coast line, and no cars. Such loveliness!

especially excited about this one. We can’t rent a car and drive through three different countries, really, so we’re going to bus/train it down to Dubrovnik.

After Dubrovnik, we’ll wander over to Montenegro (train?) and then rent a car and really explore. We’ll have about a week there and then Mr. 761 goes back to KAF from there, and I fly home to Canada and the breathtaking autumn in Nova Scotia.

Montenegro

More Montenegro

MORE Montenegro!

Now, I have to admit that while breathing is helping, the planning and anticipation of this holiday is also helping. I can’t lie to you about that….

This will be the second trip that Mr. 761 and I have ever taken together (I do not count driving to Disney in Florida with the kids, as much um… fun as that was. Sorry kids!). We decided on these places because they are new to both of us – it’s so much fun to explore and discover these new places together, I think. Mr. 761 will keep up a running dialogue with regard to food and atheism and toilets; I will do my best to wax on about the history and beauty and food and romance. Between us, we’ll be able to give you all a fairly complete (if quirky) view of this part of the world…. stay tuned.

He will, alas, go back to this:

while I return to thislifted from the internet

Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Some articles of interest: