Places, Part 1

It’s hard to put into words what I have been feeling this last week. So many different thoughts, feelings and emotions. Fear of the unknown. Naive surprise at how things got so out of hand. Joy to see friends supporting small businesses and farmers’ markets in Ferguson, not afraid to walk down the streets and be a part of a community that needs strong people who choose intelligence over brawn.

Some of it felt very surreal to watch, especially from two states away; the violence and destruction so close to a city I know so well. Or KNEW so well. But I’ve been gone a long time, with only brief visits back and even then, only to key landmarks and events. It left me wondering……

Do I know this place?

As a ranger, I often talked to park visitors about a sense of place. Maybe not in those exact words, but we would talk about how the park made one feel – how the experiences in a National Park made you feel like you were connected to a magnificent landscape, the furry creatures that called it home, and generations of travelers that went before you, sometimes leaving their history behind from which we could learn truths of our own present lives.

So I found it interesting that my mom asked me the other night whether or not it was weird (or maybe even bothered me?) to see her living in a home other than that in which I was raised.


Dad on a tractor? Seems familiar.

At first, I didn’t know how to answer this question. They still own the house I was raised in, however, my brother and sister-in-law live there at the moment. My parents have moved around a bit in the last 10+ years, following Dad’s jobs, and I guess my Mom was wondering if I really felt like there was a stability in the concept of ‘home’.

But I’ve moved around a lot too, and I’ve lived in a few pretty spectacular locations. So it really didn’t faze me that my parents have moved. The people stayed the same, and that is the key.

The landscape is a setting. And that setting is constantly changing. Even out in our parks, where we see timeless iconic images all around us, we just need to sit and watch. Wait for the daylight to change the shadows. Wait for the sky to become cloudy or snow to blanket the ground. Things change every moment of every day.

There is so much more to glean from any given landscape than just the immediate first impression. We need to spend time, get to know the land, learn to read the natural cues around us. The people in our lives are the more constant element; it’s up to us to get to know the rest of what the world is telling us, so that we form a connection to these places.

To that end, I’d like to introduce you to a project I’ve been working on, now and then, over the last 5-6 years. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee wrote about a similar idea here just this week, and it brought a smile to my face to see another artist making similar connections.

I love knitting my own socks. There is something about warm wool socks that comforts me. And not just because I get cold easily, but because there is comfort in taking care of yourself, spoiling yourself just a little, and reminding yourself that you are worth the effort. Time spent knitting yourself a garment that will last and be used for years is never wasted.

With socks, you can add little details without needing oodles of extra time and materials. That is just what I started doing. Plain socks are ok, and they will keep my feet warm, but handknit socks can be intricate scrapbooks of my travels. Each pair of socks has a stitch pattern reflective of a place I lived, worked, or visited. In this way, I’m reminded of the majestic landscapes, the tiny berries, the flowing rivers and lights that made each ‘home’ unique.

To date, I believe my collection encompasses five original patterns and places in four states. I have 3 other patterns/pairs lined up still waiting to be brought out of the depths of my imagination. Eventually, these patterns will be published together in book form somehow; I’m hoping that part of the project will be done around Christmas 2014. We’ll see; it might be more than I can accomplish in the next 3.5 months.

Without further ado, here is the first (and most recent) pattern: Alaskan Skies. The pair is still in progress, but the stitch pattern reminds me of the way the aurora moves and waves and streaks across the dark northern winter skies, patches of color seemingly popping out of the darkness and fading away just as quickly.

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If you get a chance, visit the north country in the winter and look up. The dark sky often doesn’t stay dark for long. The twinkling of the stars and the movement of the aurora will mesmerize you.