Sunday, December 21, 2008

Spinning And The Solstice

It's the Solstice, the shortest day of the year. From now on, the days start to draw out (ever so slowly at first and then quicker and quicker until before you know it, it's Midsummer!).

This is a very special time, marked the world over by different peoples in different ways, but all celebrating the same thing: moving away from the dark to the light, from silence to sound, from slumber to new growth, from death to rebirth. It's a good time to be creative, to spin a continuous thread, to turn fibre into yarn.

Which is what Celtic Memory has been doing. Not very well actually, since she is still far too impatient to take the time necessary, and expects to get everything perfect first time.

A wonderful coil of roving arrived from magic Margie at Moondance Wools.

It's a particularly lovely pale oatmeal Corriedale and as beautiful to the touch as it is to the eye. I was so thrilled with its arrival in time for the solstice that I slid it on to the distaff of the Kromski, just as it was, wrapped it with a few ribbons to make it feel welcome, and took it out to the grove to be photographed.

Yes, Celtic Memory does realise that you don't usually mount a big roll of fibre on a delicate little handturned distaff, but it seemed a good way to photograph them both at the same time. The grove is a special little corner of the garden where four trees (laburnum, rowan, birch and beech) form a circle, one at each compass point. It's a place to go to think about things or watch the moon rise or do some drop spindling or whatever.

Since then I've been hungering for a moment to try out the new roving and finally got a chance late this afternoon. And of course it wasn't as wonderful as I hoped it would be. Oh the fibre was beautiful, but my hands just won't create what my mind's eye sees. This roving can be made into nothing other than a lofty, light-as-air, bulky yarn but what I am making is dull, pedestrian, lumpy and heavy. Did I hear someone say that you can unspin and try again? Don't want to waste a single wisp of this one. Hovercrafteel, any hints?

As Christmas approaches, DH always gets certain press photography jobs and they are ones on which Celtic Memory always likes to tag along if she can. The December 25 swim from a chilly West Cork beach will be a definite of course, as will babies born either on Christmas or New Year's Day - but yesterday was the airport marking, an annual favourite, since it's to record all those happy exiles coming home for the festive season.

You can't help but feel your own heart warming and indeed a lump in the throat as you see excited kids launching themselves at a much-loved granny, or homecoming girls bursting into tears as they see their mother waiting at the barrier. It's a lovely happy time to be at the airport.

Thank you Deborah, Spinning Fishwife, Dez, and Paivikki, for all the helpful hints on how to work with that Estonian unspun yarn. I've already tried a little sample on big needles with a view to felting - if I can manage to complete anything without breaking the yarn, that is!

Julia, darling Julia (can't link to you because your profile isn't available for some reason), I'm so sorry I didn't get you that orange felted hat! I would have, honest, if I'd known you wanted it! But you'd have gone mad altogether if you'd seen the shapes and colours on sale in the Christmas Market in Tallinn. All kinds of felted hats for all ages, some with horns, some with spikes, some with long long tails, and the colours - all the rainbow and then some. I would have bought one for myself, but at the time something seriously thick, cuddly and warm was needed so DH thoughtfully got me a double-knit ribbed pull-on hat, which kept the Celtic Memory ears nice and snug.

The other evening, realised that one could not really consider oneself a seasoned knitter, let along a real Raveler, unless one had made at least a single Ribwarmer, a la Elizabeth Zimmermann. To find some yarn, and cast on was the work of a moment. Twenty minutes later, to pull the stitches off the needle, frog, rewind, and go in search of another more suitable yarn, was the work of half an hour (frogging: 1 min; searching for just the right replacement, 29 mins). Started again, enthusiasm only very very slightly frayed at the edges.

This is the first front, with the first lot of highly entertaining short row turns complete. Only...

It just doesn't work for me. Now I love EZ, wish fervently that I'd known her, enjoy her writing enormously. But the Ribwarmer Vest isn't my thing after all.

Can I progress to the next stage even if I haven't made the RW?

Come to that, will I be singled out at some point in the future because I haven't made the Monkey Socks either? No, not even once!

Had better luck with a swirly ruffle scarf for my friend Eileen, who takes care of the dogs when we're off travelling. Grabbed a thick crochet hook and two strands of that nice merino mousse yarn in a pleasant cafe au lait shade and got going.

Looks a bit dark here, even though I switched on the daylight lamp overhead to make things more visible. The shade of merino mousse is really more like coffee with a lot of cream in, rather than espresso. But this scarf, currently blocking, took only a couple of hours to make, and it twists most delightfully when thrown around the neck in careless fashion. Must make a few more.

But today is, as I remarked before, the Solstice. And on the Solstice you have to go and walk in the woods. A forest would be better, but a wood will do.

On our way to the woods, Sophy and I diverged from the road and went up an old green track to visit a rather special stone circle we know.

But - the gate was shut and padlocked. New barbed wire fences prevented climbing over the old hedge banks. A curt notice informed all and sundry that this was private property.

We walked a little further on, to where I could see through the hedge the great grey outlying stones, the ones I always think of as the guardians of the stone circle, across a field, and through another hedge.

Was getting a bit cross at this point, so went a little way further on, found a place where we could get through the mass of brambles and thorn bushes and briar roses that create effective barriers in most Irish hedgerows, and crossed the open field to the next hedge. Climbing to the top of that (it was the solid kind, the sort that you learn to tackle with your heart in your mouth and your fists balled in your pony's mane when you're out hunting in childhood days) we found the way barred at the other side by an electric fence.

Now we could have slid under that fairly easily, but looking towards where we wanted to be, we could see by now that we very definitely weren't wanted.

You can see the two great grey outliers on the left, and to their right, the circle of trees that holds Lissyvigeen Stone Circle. All surrounded by a tight and competent-looking electric fence. Another one. Just in case we hadn't got the message at the first one, or indeed at the padlocked gate and new barbed wire fence.

When DH and I first came to Lissyvigeen, many years back, these wonderful guardian stones emerged waist-high from a mass of bracken and golden gorse bushes. To come upon them suddenly was a wonderful shock. And then, to go respectfully between them and follow a tiny worn track through the high bracken until we came finally to the enclosing sheltering trees and the stone circle within, was a privilege.

Of course I knew the inheritors of this land (someone had died, someone else had taken over, it's often the way) had every right to clear the field and use it for crops - or something. They even had the right, I suppose, to trim the trees which shelter the ancient stone circle, although they did do that fairly brutally. At least they didn't try to pull up the stones - although surely no-one would be as unwise, as foolhardy as to do that. But an electric fence, drawn tightly around the whole site, almost choking it? It was a very sad thing to see. And so we didn't go down, slide under the first fence, cross to the Guardians, slide under that fence too, and go inside. The sense of unwelcome, of downright unfriendliness, was too strong.

Not from the stones of course. They are never unfriendly. I stood there, sent my respects for the Solstice, indicated that I was sorry at the way things were right now. But the stones weren't worried. They seemed to say that they had survived many previous manifestations of aggressive fear and would survive many more. These people would pass on, but they, the stones, would remain.

I can't show you Lissyvigeen today, at the winter solstice, but I can show you a picture from some years back, taken at Midsummer, which I put on my weblog before - one which shows how it was, and how it will be again.

Thaet ofereodes, thisses swa maeg, as the Anglo Saxons might say. 'That passed, so may this.'

We were a bit sobered as we went on down to Pike Wood for our solstice walk, Sophy and I, but soon recovered our spirits. After all, the stones are far stronger than petty malice, and there is something about walking through a mossy woodland that makes you feel better just for being there.

The little river was chuckling along over the stones, and the mosses and ivies were looking their best for Midwinter. Gathered some really thick emerald moss to take home - I tuck this around little votive lights in oval dishes to make solstice decorations.

The day was getting darker, but just before sunset a gap in the clouds allowed a shaft of light to penetrate right down and light up this tree, giving us a perfect solstice moment.

On the way home, the clouds were thickening ever more as we drove up towards the pass between Kerry and Cork,

and by the time we were over the mountains, it had settled into a heavy dark grey mizzle. It wasn't gloomy, though - in fact it felt rather reassuring and cosy, as if the Old Ones were snuggling us in their winter blanket and celebrating with us the changing of the year.

Tonight DH and I will celebrate the turning of the year with a feast by the fireside, and I'll raise a glass to every one of you (no, no, not a separate glass for each one, be serious!) And there will be knitting, and maybe some more spinning, if I can work out what I'm doing wrong (maybe it would help if I had a clear idea of what exactly it was I wanted to achieve?)

Joys of Midwinter to you all!


Ruth said...

Happy Solstice to you! But where's your snow?

How come you don't have wintry winds blowing at you and sub-zero temps and snow and ice and the winter mess that is happening in the northern part of the US, not to mention Canada?

Send the gulf stream over here for a bit.

I love your 2 stones too.

Pat said...

Now that's sad - about the stones, I mean. But the stones will be there long after the mean-spirited have gone, and I expect they'll get their comeuppance!

knititch said...

well if i had a glass i'd raise one or two too.

oh that ribwarmer. i have wanted to make it too, but i always get tired when i read the instructions. things like the ribwarmer has been awfully trendy here this year. little knitted vests that go for an enormous amount of money.

the spinning sounds fun. i hope i will learn one day. there is something very real about it.

Anonymous said...

Happy Solstice!

I've done my ribwamer, in a very chuky navy merino and quite like it. But I shall not make Monkeys.

And if you would like, I'll box up some snow for you. We have MORE than enough already!

cindyl said...

Loved the photo of the shaft of sunlight in the forest. I spent this solstice night watching a group of Aztec dancers who dance on this night every year, thanking the Virgin of Guadalupe for all her blessings on this the longest night of the year. Isn't it fascinating how so many of the old ways extended across cultures? From Mexico to Ireland, this is a night to pause and be grateful. The drumbeat they danced to tonight, sounded as Celtic as it did Indian at times. Your Solstice blog is perfect for today, and I'm off to bed with Stopping By Woods. Tomorrow, to knit, and tonight to try and not freeze. Man, this is NOT our normal Texas weather. Happy Solstice, Jo.

Anonymous said...

I'll never forget going among the stones at Stonehenge (back when it was permitted). I felt so welcomed. DH tried to follow me, and felt like a door had slammed in his face - "Who are you?!" He meekly replied, "I'm with her." "Enter then", came the answer.

You see, I'm the first-born daughter of a first-born daughter of a first-born daughter of Welsh stock. He has no Celt in him.

Barbi said...

A Happy Solstice to you.

The stones do look very sad surrounded by that fence - but I wonder why it's been put there.
I wondered if perhaps the field was going to be used for livestock of some kind and the fence was there to protect the stones?

If it is just to keep people out then that is doubly sad. My DH's reaction was "What are those people afraid of!"

Angeluna said...

Happy Solstice indeed. Wish I were there in your cozy cottage to lift a glass with you surrounded by Sophie and the other girls.

I wonder if the creators of the fences weren't perhaps trying to protect the stones. Have there been vandals around?

As for that EZ vest, I've seen several finished and haven't liked a one of them. Not flattering to any of the bodies I've seen. Think it's one of those things that looks very clever but doesn't wear well. So don't worry your pretty head about it. On the other hand, Monkeys are fun.

Melissa said...

So very gorgeous! I'm jealous of the wonderful scenery you have. We have no stone circles to even look at (or put electric fence around as the case may be). It does inspire me to take a walk today, maybe on the greenway that's nestled in the heart of the city. It's about the closest thing I have to a wood around here. Best wishes for a lovely holiday season!

Tola said...

Winter Solstice is my anniversary! we had a lovely day yesterday and add to the mix that my husband is from Limerick it makes it even better! Happy Solstice to you.

Dez Crawford said...

The fence around the stones makes me so sad, but perhaps the landowner had incidents with callous tourists coming in and chipping off bits of those treasures. It happened at Stonehenge and that's why they fenced it off, and one hears that it's happening now at lesser known sites.

Do consider asking the landowner for permission for a photo shoot -- he or she may only be trying to protect the stones from souvenir hunters.

Thanks for resurrecting the old picture -- I would love to use it for a screensaver. Those old stones will survive this.

I shall post photos of my shop soon, I promise! I have been slow to get off the ground, not wanting to go into debt, and I have been delayed by another illness of my husband -- he is being treated for optical cancer in his right eye and it is sapping my spare energy. Not to mention his.

But photos are forthcoming and hopefully a little something will make its way across the water to you in time for Christmas or New Year. I didn't get it boxed up in time for Solstice.

Happy Solstice to you, my dear. We celebrated with cake and ale.

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Happy Solstice -- it's hard to believe that the days are getting longer again. Thank you for sharing your lovely walk, but it's sad that you couldn't get to the stones.

Sarah from Mt View

Linda B said...

How very unfortunate about the stones. But, as you say, 100 years from now Mr. Keepaway will be long gone and the stones will still be there. You seem to have quite a large variety of beautiful places in which to hike, fortunately. And a cheerful fireside to return to!

Jean said...

Silly me, but it occurred to me that the oatmeal Corriedale enjoyed being carted out to your little grove to sit in the sun for a little while. I'm quite sure the the stones know that these vagrants are not match for them, good attitude on your part. Isn't it odd that people take such attitudes when they've been given such a gift. I am quite proud of your and your expanding talents, conquering new crafts.

Anonymous said...

I was a child of 16 when I first went to Stonehenge. You could walk about and touch the rocks and I did. My brother had just died and it comforted me.... Now I live in Northern California and we have big rocks that the Indians inscribed years ago. Nobody knows what the inscriptions mean but every body has opinions. Many are defaced if they are close to roads. Some are in secret places. Many people leave offerings of flowers and jewelry. I left some locks of my local grower friend's impossibly long Romney.

Wells Family said...

Thank you for sharing your mid-winter walk with us! The greenness is very heartening, as much of the USA has an unusually thick blanket of snow and ice, closing airports and causing great frustration for Christmas travelers. What joy you have to live amid so much ancientness!


Lindy said...

Happy Solstice, Happy Holidays.

I do love to read your wonderful blog :-D

It's even been cold (relatively speaking),grey, and wet (very thankful for rain here in the desert) here in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Good knitting weather.

It is sad that you cannot get to those wonderful stones but oh so grateful that they are still there.
I do think Dez may be on the right track about the stones. Ask and you just may receive permission to photograph and if not photograph perhaps permission to simply pay respects.

Lindy in Arizona

Anonymous said...

Happy Solstice,

Our evening was spent with friends here on the Bering Straits celebrating the shortest day of the year. For us we get only 4 hours and 16 minutes of daylight. Now we will slowly climb up into more sunlight hours.

We are buried in snow, wind, and wonderful cross-country skiing. When we are not out skiing with the ski team or ourselves I knit and knit away!

Love your photos!

Merry Christmas,


LinDragon said...

Cakes and Ale, Mistletoe and Peace,
I wish you a joyful Yule, filled with love.

Windybrook Spinner said...

So beautiful there! I agree that the stones are probably just being protected. It's so frustrating when a harmful few ruin natural beauty for the appreciating many.

Anonymous said...

Merry Chrismakkuh, as we say at our house. Today, we are packing up to come to Ireland for a week of reunion and cheer with dear friends there. You post reminded me to pack a good pair of walking shoes for the strolls I will inevitably be making.

Thanks for all your posts this year. It's so fun to be a bystander to your interesting life as recounted here at Celtic Memory online.

MmmYarn said...

Huh. I don't know about unspinning and respinning. I haven't tried that for more than a few inches, usually when I need to undo having treadled in the wrong direction for a few turns. But usually when I start making lumpy yarn when I wanted lofty, I fiddle with drafting the fiber out more thinly or pre-draft a little. I hope this helps.

I don't believe a Ribwarmer is a requirement. I haven't made one and I'm definitely a knitter. I did look at the pattern once, but after inspecting the photo decided it looked nice on the tall, willowy model but would make me look boxy as a refrigerator wearing a vest. I have, however, made the Monkey Socks and I really like them. :)

I had to smile at the photo of the stones surrounded by an electric fence. Perhaps they're prone to running away? Naw, I know it's most likely to prevent the inconsiderate (most certainly not you!) from chipping away at a piece of history. It's too bad something happened that caused the property owner to feel he/she can't trust hikers.

-- Kirsten

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