Well, wasn’t that a nice long break? Not being in the mood to scribble, coupled with a trip to the heart of Africa and starting my new job have all contributed to my blogospheric silence. At the end of June, Seabass and I jetted off via KLM to Amsterdam for two fun- and sun-filled days before heading to Ethiopia for a 17 day adventure with Habitat for Humanity building houses and meeting the most amazing people on the planet. We started out in Addis Ababa for a few days of museum-going, beer drinking (see pic below – our faves were Meta and St. Georges) and getting to know our awesome teammates before piling in a bus and heading to the mountain-top town of Dessie. Once there, we drank a whole lot more beer and got down to the business of building houses and discovering just how weak I am. Perched on a hilltop at about 8,100 feet, we quickly faded in the thin air under the workload, but the kinship and camaraderie we felt with our teammates and Habitat friends and the villagers more than compensated for any physical strain we endured.
I’ve since been asked to describe my Ethiopian experience and it simply cannot be explained in a few words. But these come close to describing the people we met and can also beused to describe Ethiopia herself: awe-inspiring, soulful, beautiful, gentle, honourable, funny, playful, modest, embracing, patient, wise, unflappable, strong, peaceful, serious, tolerant, generous, spiritual, kind-hearted, joyful. Remember that these are people who face major hardship every day of their lives. Poverty, unemployment, hunger, disease and homelessness are everywhere you look. Yet we were welcomed into their world, unconditionally and quite literally with open arms. Little kids would rush to your side to hold hands. A greeting of Selam or Hello was always met warmly, if sometimes shyly, with a wave and a smile.
And what did I learn from this trip? That I am not only selfish, shallow, spoiled, impatient and lazy, but spectacularly so on all counts. That it is not just possible to be a better person but that it is absolutely mandatory. After all, if people who have virtually nothing can shine their light, there’s no excuse for us pampered clods not to get off our backsides and share the love. My first project on the path to self-improvement is small but important: I’ve decided I need to be MUCH more patient, mostly with my children.
Secondly, aside from my childhood, 17 days is the longest I’ve ever gone without wearing make-up or blow-drying my hair. I was embarrassed by the depth of my vanity and struggled with it throughout the trip. I tried my best not to care that my hair looked like shit, but I could never really let go completely of my need to be groomed and “look good”. I don’t know what felt worse: knowing that I looked wretched or the realization that I have been too concerned with my appearance my whole life. I stillhear in my head something I read in Seventeen magazine and took gravely to heart when I was 12 years old: Your face is your fortune and your hair is your crowning glory. So in an effort to be less superficial, I’m working on spending less time worrying about my appearance. However, I don’t have a lot of confidence that this plan will be a raging success. I know myself and I know that this is a primal problem that goes back to my childhood and won’t be easily resolved. (Can’t you tell? Look at the amount of space I’ve devoted to talking about my hair and face.)
Lastly, but still very importantly, I’m trying to spend less money but not buying stuff I don’t’ really need. Yes, you heard me say it. Yes, I am a Pulizter prize-winning bargain-hunter extraordinaire but seriously, after seeing so many people who own nothing but their dignity and have no money at all, I’m now trying to stop and think before I buy. Wish me luck.
On the way to The Girl’s graduation with minutes to spare, I wove in the last of the ends on her periwinkle shrug. Turned out though that it was much too hot that day for her to wear it. Damn, but it did look super-cute with her linen floral dress. I’ll post of pic of her wearing it as soon as I see her again. I’m almost finished the socks. Just a few more inches on the foot and the toe and it’s finito. My next commuter knitting will be more socks for Seabass, this time with SeeJayneKnit’s ode to MadMen, “Don Falls Out the Window”. I’ll probably go with a simple rib and cable pattern to show off the groovy colours.
Everywhere I turn these days, I see projects that take my breath away and tempt me to click on the PayPal button. For instance, have you ever clapped eyes on such beauty as Carol Sunday’s Acorns? (above) I almost had to lie down and put a cold compress to my forehead when I saw it on Twist Collective Fall 2010. I couldn’t rest until I’d done the requisite clicking, printing of the PDF pattern, reading it from front to back several times, mentally knitting it in my head and finally tucking it in a smooth plastic sleeve to be gazed upon lovingly at will. [It occurs to me that this series of actions – clicking, printing, reading, mental knitting, tucking, gazing – is one I repeat with shocking regularity. Another reminder to curb the spending and buy only what I truly love and will actually make.]
Another time I woke from a reverie to find myself in the craft section at the bookstore with Veronik Avery’s delicious new book Knitting 24/7 in my hands making ooh and ahh sounds that alarmed the nearby cookbook browsers. All of the patterns whispered sweet nothings to me but, in particular the Fir Cone Shrug and Elemental Pullover made me swoon helplessly. Given my pledge to never buy a book a full retail (even with an iRewards discount), I immediately ran home to my trusty laptop to buy it online in order to enjoy a bigger discount and free shipping. Of course, this required an additional purchase to meet the $39 minimum for free shipping so I ordered the DVD set of the one and only season of the TV series Life on Mars (the US version), something Seabass and I have been coveting for some time. (We both mourned for weeks when the series ended last year.)
In my continuing effort to clear the clutter out of my house (and, more importantly, my head), as of this exact moment*, I am forcing myself to sharpen the point on my queue and narrow it down to three primary projects, in the following order: I am TOTALLY in love with Carol’s Acorns, Connie Chang Chinchio’s poetic Alexandria Cardigan (below in heavenly pink) and Veronik’s Fir Cone Shrug. It’s as if these women all know me personally and know what makes my heart flip and each decided to invent something just for me. Thank you!! The countless other gorgeous fripperies that I’ve faved, flagged or queued will have to wait for now. As well, the teetering stack of UFOs that are currently making my brain hurt will remain on the back burner where they can do the least harm. After all, the heart wants what the heart wants, right? There’s no use denying it.
*I reserve the right to change the terms of this queue at any time.
P.S. Obviously, the knitting photos in this post are not mine. They are from www.twistcollective.com, Knitting 24/7 and www.conniechangchinchio.com, respectively. And the Africa pics were taken by Seabass, or Clicker as I like to call him when he’s taking snaps.