Friday, January 21, 2011

In Which Snow and Ice Cause Havoc, Malign Muscles Misbehave, But Joy Cometh When Dragons Are Discovered

Just because you haven't heard from me doesn't mean that nuthin's been happenin'. Au contraire, Blackadder, au contraire! These have been strange and tumultuous times chez Celtic Memory.

First of all there was the distinctly unseasonal ice and snow which hit West Cork in early December and, liking the area, refused to leave. Yes, the rest of Ireland got it too, but down here in the balmy southern regions, we're unused to Arctic visits at any time of the year, let alone early December. February maybe, but even then, just for a fleeting overnight. Not week after week after week.

Of course it took its toll. Roads were deathtraps, gardens were frozen solid (we'll have to wait some time to know what survived there) and travel suddenly became more of a trial than a jaunt. Celtic Memory survived until just before Christmas when the little jeep hit a patch of black ice, waltzed attractively several times, bounced off a fence or two, and ended up facing a phalanx of shocked motorists coming in the opposite direction, all of whom, mercifully, were able to stop in time.

Mercifully also, Celtic Memory was not even bruised or shaken. Not a hint of whiplash. Fortunate indeed. Just the poor little car looking the worse for wear and needing TLC fairly urgently.

Of course it was coming up to Christmas which meant that everything that hadn't already closed down was in the process of so doing. And thus it was early January before I could receive the glad news that in fact the little jeep was a write-off. Gone, kaput, nevermore.

How on earth can you call it a write-off when it's perfectly driveable, I demanded. (no, not immediately, this was after the sitting-on-the-floor-screaming-my-head-off in-tears-of-rage-stage). This is my much-loved and loyal companion you're dismissing so lightly! But apparently there are write-offs and write-offs, and mine was an economic w-o as opposed to a mechanical w-o. Not worth the trouble, you see. Unless some loving mechanic with time on his hands thought it worth while.

Which is what happened in the end. I now have a smart little (boring little?) economical and modern model, and Little Jeep has gone back to the garage from whence it originated, there to be worked on in Jim's spare time over the next year or so.

I'll get used to it. I am fortunate to have a nice little car that runs for ever on a teaspoon of petrol, falls into a very low road tax band, and could slip unnoticed into any parking lot without arousing attention. On reflection, I think it's probably that last fact that is niggling me. Little Jeep had a lot of character. But hey, couldn't it have been worse?

Getting used to this of course necessitated a great many more shiny new projects, among them the lovely Revontuli shawl which I started with some balls of Karaoke a week and a half back. This exciting new interest necessitated my crouching for several hours one night on a small and hard three-legged wooden stool under a good light while I worked out the set up rows. Well, you know how it is, once you're settled into something, you don't feel like stopping to rest or stretch, do you?

During the night I felt twinges in my leg and vaguely thought I should probably go see my Chinese acupuncturist again sometime soon. Towards morning the pain was becoming insistent and I decided to pop along to my local health store that day to see what they might suggest. Came the dawn, I leapt out of bed, and immediately collapsed on the floor in agony, shrieking for DH to get me to the nearest source of painkillers, pdq, and the heck with alternative treatments. The most appalling muscle spasms were making walking, even moving or standing, an impossibility.

There followed an unpleasant week of lying in bed, trying to relax, getting up at intervals only to collapse back, and generally raging at life. All this, by the way, while trying to sort out the insurance on Little Jeep and negotiate for a replacement.

It is quite possible to knit while lying on your back. Which can be a good thing. Needing a serious distraction from despair, grabbed a book of Japanese patterns which had hitherto appeared somewhat daunting, picked up pad and pencil, and started to map out the instructions for a rather nice crop cable and moss stitch jacket.

Got DH to bring me some recently frogged and reskeined charcoal Shetland (farewell, half-finished St Enda, the urge had gone), and started working. These Japanese patterns are actually quite achievable, even without a word (a symbol?) of the language, once you give your mind to it, since they provide excellent schematics and charts. Got both fronts done and had started on the back by the time I was taking tentative steps again. Now determined to get on to those cute bell-shaped sleeves.

Of course other WIPs got finished during the Week of Hades too. Not just one, but two shawls from one skein of Wollmeise, howzat?

The Hitchhiker Scarf, by Martina Behm, with its lovely dragon's tail,

and the Klamath, a clever crochet design by Sarah Kukuchek.

The Revontuli is lying quietly to one side, untouched since that unwisely long evening. Soon, maybe.

Not back to normal yet, not by a long chalk. Onset can be swift, but recovery is slow. In the meantime, it has been well-nigh impossible to do anything at all on the computer unless it can be achieved inside of ten seconds. It is difficult to sit, stand, crouch, stay in any one position for long without cramping up. Movement or lying immobile are the only options. And that's why you haven't heard from me in a while. 'Twasn't that I didn't love you.

This morning, in despair at the latest batch of kind queries, I set up a laptop on a high surface and am standing at it right now, taking ten minutes at a time to post, interspersed with balletic exercises and stretching moves. Also of course hopping up and down stairs to retrieve images from the main computer, without which Celtic Memory's blog would indeed be a sorry thing. Let's see if this works.

Now the sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that the car contretemps happened before Christmas and all this angst and agony happened in January. Well, we did the only sensible thing in between, and went off to explore a strange and little known region between Arizona, Mexico and California, where unusual birds and odd locations might be found. Circle a compass around El Centro and Yuma (remember that old classic, recently remade, 3.10 toYuma?) and you'll be in more or less the right area.

Around that natural oddity, the inland Salton Sea, huge flocks of snow geese drift overhead at dawn and dusk, uttering their wonderful wild cries. (One of my favourite children's books is The Grey Goose of Kilnevin, by Patricia Lynch, about a fat little grey farmyard goose who is warned by the wise old gander, 'When ye hear the wild geese flying overhead, don't look up! Don't look up!, in case she is seized with the desire to fly far away with them. Yes, of course she does. Wouldn't you?)

This little beauty, Costa's Humming Bird, was one DH particularly wanted to see. Just look at that violet-blue! Would that I could reproduce it on a silky yarn. Maybe one day.

The wildlife was less cooperative here, but on the right you can see one of the Celtic Memory Endless Sock inventions, where a cuff is handworked at each end of a machine-knit tube, then the waste yarn in the centre cut and toes added to each side; and finally afterthought heels worked. Good fun, and only slightly longer timespan than knitting the entire pair by hand, but the technique's the thing, right?

Do you know Yuma? It's kind of fun, not least because of its history - the only reliable crossing, throughout time, of the Colorado River. That's because there was solid rock here, not just sand.

And the trains still cross it, constantly, day and night, as they have done since the dawn of the railways.

They've put a huge old beauty right in the centre of the town, to honour the connection. Isn't this a magnificent specimen?

I loved that you were able to climb right up into the cab and play at being an engine driver. Who wouldn't want to try that?

We did, have a secret mission on this trip, one which had to be kept absolutely under wraps because we weren't certain it could be pulled off successfully. It involved a dash into the California interior, lots and lots of secret emails, and the brilliant cooperation of this lady:

Ruth (Grandy to her many Ravelry friends) and I had agreed to try to set up a surprise meeting with one of Ravelry's liveliest and most energetic members, the witty and entertaining DragonYady. Those of you who have participated in Sock Madness over the years will know how the irrepressible DragonYady was always to the fore, thinking up new daft ideas, throwing out suggestions, sending us all off on harebrained missions hither, thither and yon. All this while having more than enough on her plate to cope with in everyday life. Once I'd asked DragonYady (MaryAnn) what she'd like from Ireland, and she said, simply, 'Just a visit from you.' At that time it hadn't seemed even feasible, but now we looked at the map, thought about it, then emailed Ruth. After a day or two of frantic messaging, the mission was on!

We drove across desert landscapes to the assigned town, arriving in time to find Ruth and husband Ron waiting as arranged at Barnes & Noble.

Ron is a real jewel. He accepted calmly and placidly the fact that daft knitting women were running and messaging all over the place to set up a lunch date. He acted as go-between with his cellphone, organising and timing arrivals to perfection. You got a good one there, Ruth!

Ruth and Ron had persuaded MaryAnn to meet them for lunch, but there was still the risk that she mightn't be able to come, due to family commitments. We could well have been prevented too, by fire, flood, famine or other unforeseen conditions (there were storms aplenty in that corner of the world at the time, in fact, but fortunately they didn't affect us too much). Hence the secrecy. But it all worked out.

Ruth went ahead to check that MaryAnn had arrived, and confirmed to Ron by phone. He then led the way to the restaurant, and went ahead to the table, so we could see where it was. DH took over, arriving at the table with camera clicking, and asking where a certain MaryAnn might be, as he had a message from Ireland for her. That was my cue to approach from behind while she was distracted by DH.

'MaryAnn, also known as DragonYady...'

'guess who!'

We had the most wonderful lunchtime ever, all talking, laughing, exchanging reminiscences and experiences. The incredible thing about the knitting community and Ravelry, the thing that never ceases to amaze and enthral me, is that we can meet for the first time in real life and yet already be such close friends, knowing so much about each other. It was a lovely day.

Three happy friends going their separate ways, yet always linked by an unbreakable length of yarn and a computer keyboard.

Hopefully the next time you hear from me, I'll be back at my own normal keyboard and dancing Swan Lake in my spare time. Until then, limpingly yours. (All folk remedies welcomed)


Anonymous said...

Glad to have you back. Hope you feel better soon...and that is warms up over there. Maybe in time for March 11?

Anonymous said...

Yuma! - never did I think an Irishwoman would know or care anything about it. My boyfriend flies there at least twice a week this time of year; he's a pilot for an ag company with fields in northern Calif, the Imperial Valley, and Yuma, and they keep a close eye on their lettuce crops. How funny - had I known, I might have cadged a seat on the jet, and you could have met another online knitting friend in the flesh. Next time, perhaps! (Of course, you can always come to San Francisco and I'll gladly meet you there).
-- Gretchen

knitski said...

What a wonderful post to a rather tragic start. I am wondering if your back issue is not from the jeep accident!!?? Please be careful. Having had on and off back issues, I recommend a good physical therapist to give current stretching and establish an exercise routine.

Very glad to have you back and to a speedy recovery!

Angeluna said...

So glad to have you back in the world of the living (blogging). You (and Richard) are becoming quite accomplished in the art of "surprise" visits. Keep stretching!

sprite said...

Ugh! I'm so sorry to hear that you (and your Jeep) have been out of commission. It does sound like you had a nice interlude in the middle and that hummingbird is just stunning! Also, I like that in your previous post you start out talking about St. Agnes and noting her feast day didn't occur until Jan. 21st -- which is today!

Okay, I might be the only one to think that's cool, but still I do.

Judy G. said...

I feel your pain-at least I have in the past. You're right, a minute to injure, endless weeks back to health.
Loved the Arizona stories- is there anything better than a surprise party?

LaurieM said...

It just figures that you could escape a spin out in your car unscathed, but then injure yourself knitting.

I sure hope you feel better soon.

Anonymous said...

Glad you are back and eagerly await the return of Little Jeep. As a side note, the current Salton Sea isn't natural. A levee on the Colorado River broke once and the water collected and became the Salton Sea (it was a big break). It has no ingress or egress and is shrinking every year.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your driving mishap, but so glad you are ok! All of us who look forward to your stories and adventures and knitting, of course, has missed you! Glad to hear all is well (relatively speaking). Here is GA, I know too well about unexpected snow/ice. Most of last week was spent cooped up in the house because of it. We even had snow on Christmas Day--something that has not occurred here since 1882!

Take care and hope you are feeling better soon.


Kit said...

We all love you and Dragonyady, so glad that you two could meet up! :D How fun!

Please get better quick. Lots of rest, hot pads, and slow stretching exercises.

Cindy/Snid said...

Jo, I am finally reading blogs again (thanks to my iPad!) and it is lovely to catch up with you! I am very VERY glad that you are safe after your little car adventure! I do hope that your leg heals quickly and that a reasonable solution is found. I may blog again one day myself, though it will be about photography rather than knitting most likely as I am still in tropical climates AND seem to have developed a sensitivity to wool and other animal fibers. Sigh. xoxo

SandyK said...

Color me gobsmacked! You DO realize that I'm like 2 (JUST TWO) miles from Salton Sea?

grannypurple said...

My recent life resembles yours (without the travel)--on Wednesday another car turned in front of my beloved mini, coming through a line of stopped traffic, and so I ended up t-boning her, but no injuries. But the next day, just tapping a tube of cream to get it to come out my back went into an excruciating spasm! It IS great that we can knit lying down, isn't it!

Unknown said...

So sorry to hear of your recent mishaps but very happy to hear you're on the mend. Good luck with Swan Lake (having just seen Black Swan, I say that with caution. Crazy film.)

Maggie said...

somehow, all of us knitters are related, we just don't often get to do family reunions, and I am so sorry for the Jeep accident and the weeks of bed, cramping, hurting and miserable you have had. But you are living in the 1 country I would go visit if I could only visit 1 in my life...lucky you

Ruth said...

I am jealous! You got to meet wonderful Grandy and the inimitable DragonYady! Here I am, across the continent, and I've never met them.

Feel better! Spasms are the bottom of the pits. Ask me how I know.

Lilacs 4 Angels said...

It was a pleasure meeting with you. Ron and I were honored to have been a part of your surprise for a wonderful lady. Take it easy ~ sock madness is just around the corner. You and Richard hold a special place in my heart.

SusanLayne said...

(This is Skepweaver, trying desperately to defeat the Blogger gremlin who will not recognize me today!)

Oh, Jo. Your tale of intrigue and success brings a wee tear to my eye. I can't explain it, but the connections we forge with friends we've never met are such strong ones. I can imagine the delight you all felt that day in Bakersfield. What joy!

Hope you are on the mend, girl. You mustn't let something minor like a rebellion of the body hold you back! (So sorry also to hear about the Jeep, and glad to know it was not you who were totalled. I recall my own fondness for an old VW bus which drove like a sheet of plywood and was such fun to load up for the go. May the new auto fill your heart with memories, too.)

Anonymous said...

What a miserable winter - so sorry!

When DH and I note the arrival of Canadian Geese on our lake, we say the "tall ships" are in harbor. Their profile towers above the Mallard ducks in the water. Unfortunately, the geese are only visitors, as they are based a few miles away at a water ski school. Once or twice a year they come exploring.

Melissa said...

I can sympathize with you on the crazy weather. We had snow on Christmas Day here in the Southeastern United States (Atlanta, GA, where I live has not had a white Christmas since 1882! That is, until 2010...). That was followed by a "blizzard" (by our standards) right after New Years where we got 6" of snow that stayed for an entire week!

As for the sore muscles you should try and get some Salonpas. They are medicated patches that have always worked wonders for me. I don't think they have them overseas yet but here's a link in case you want to check it out:

AudreyA said...

Oops! Somehow my comment ended up on a post from a few months ago. I haven't finished the first cup of coffee so that is my way of an excuse. I'm reposting it here. Sorry.

Poor little Jo and poor little Jeep! I thank God that you are all right. Had my go round (literally - a roll over!) in a Jeep in 1982 and broke my neck. I guess you've heard one too many times how lucky you are but when you're flat on your back and in pain, lucky is relative! Take care dear friend and may all those lovely stories in your head and the yarn between your nimble fingers keep you happy and occupied UNTIL you are recovered (I am giving nursing advice: Do as they say! rest, stretch, eat right, get plenty of fluids)!
(curses, I had to buy that Hitchhiker pattern. LOVE IT and its dragony tail. I draw the line. I will not buy Wollmeise, I won't, I won't... Hey, I would buy a lovely hand dyers stuff, though!

Harriet said...

Just found you via Ravelry. Your Christmas/January sounds familiar! What a dreadful time we're having even along the warm shores of West Cork! Hope your back continues to heal. Best wishes from a gloriously sunny Bere Island.

Sallie said...

I'm so glad you are back to blogging. I have missed you. As someone who also has back problems, I sympathize. Take it easy.

I also wanted to say how much my husband and I like your book. I ordered it for my husband for Christmas, and we have both been enjoying it and plotting trips to Ireland.

Anonymous said...

So good to hear from you again. As it turns out, I am familiar with that part of the world, my mother lives in El Centro. It sounds like you had a really good trip.
Vicki in So. Cal.

KiniaCat Crafts said...

I'm glad you are recovering from your icy escapades and too-intense craft-plotting. Keep on the healing.
Lovely finished objects. (You should know I blamed you for stirring up latent lace addictions; causing me to revisit my Birds Nest Shawl (I'm making headway!)).
'Tis excellent that you got to visit our warmer part of the globe!
And it looks like your stealth visit was very successful!
Well done!

Anonymous said...

Hope you are feeling better. I love reading your posts, and often think of Patricia Lynch, because you and she are such lyrical storytellers,both in Ireland, and so caring about the place and its history. So I was happy to see you referring to her. I grew up with "The Turf-cutter's Donkey" and my son recently bought me a copy. Thanks for all your writing, knitting, and yarns both metaphorical and physical!

Katherine said...

DH and I were born and raised in Yuma. (Childhood playmates and sweethearts). It was a great place to grow up because of the history and the close relationships--every person knew every other person in town. We played on the Yuma Reservation and every kid knew the history stuffed in every corner of the prison museum.

I love hearing about others who have enjoyed our beloved Yuma. Thanks for the memories!!

Linda from MT said...

Good memories of a day spent with you in your "Little Jeep" Jo! Maybe a trip to Montana someday? I hope you are on the mend.

kimberly said...

I am so glad that you were not hurt in the mishap with the little jeep, and I very much hope that your knitting injuries resolve soon. But what a wonderful post - the end brought tears to my eyes!

Should you ever fancy a look at the hummingbirds here in southern Colorado, please look us up. We have three species that are common here in summer, as well as a few who pass through. My DH is an avid photographer also, so they can go snap photos while we knit. Best wishes!

lilymarlene said...

How lovely that you all got together!!! And nice to see the pictures too.

Sorry about your back. I had an episode like that the year before last. You get to feel that you will never be right again. Glad yours is subsiding.
I have sciatica at the moment. Bed doeasn't help at all, so I manage to lay there for about 4 hours then give up!

bfree2read said...

Delightful to hear from you again. Let's hope that your recent sad experiences will mean that you have fulfilled your "disasters" for the year (rather like why Garp bought the house after a plane flew into it in the book The World According to Garp). Take care.

Roggey said...

I can't believe I'm only getting to catching up on your blog now! You poor thing, I'm glad you're on the mend and empathize completely after having my car demolished in an accident 3 years ago.

I hope this finds you feeling much, *much* better now...

Lisa said...

checking your blog for months now..hope you are doing ok

Lisa , just outside new orleans