To the lighthouse



As I’m writing today, we’re in Portland watching the clouds lower and waiting for the cold sizzle of freezing rain. My daughter has seen the inside of a school building exactly once this year and has logged a total of nine days of education since December 1. Our world has been snow and ice and sledding and baking and free play and Swallow and Amazons for so long I can hardly remember the shape of our standard routines. This wintry dreamtime has been such a complete holiday from real life that I dread the return of early rising, school lunches, and long commutes in dreary weather. If our thaw works quickly and we aren’t glazed in a fresh layer of ice, that day might be tomorrow, so I’m looking backward instead.

At the turn of the year, natured graced us with a golden day. I swept the children out of the farmhouse and into the car for a quick walk before the sun set. The wind had calmed; Mr. G stayed behind to enjoy the respite from its teeth as he set new fence in our most exposed corner, where the breeze comes in boorish from its romp across the Pacific. At the southeast tip of the island is the little Cattle Point lighthouse, built in 1935. The surrounding land is part of a conservation area crisscrossed with pleasant walking trails—as long as you’re not nervous about the rather abrupt plunge down to South Beach.



A fellow walker watched my children and dog pelting ahead up the path and kindly asked if I was familiar with the lay of the land. Indeed, there’s been enough erosion here that the trails we walk today are not the trails of my childhood, and in some places they wind very near the edge of the cliff. As tempting as it might be to climb atop that stone the boy is passing above, the sandy soil is scooped out beneath it and I wouldn’t care to test whether an extra forty or fifty pounds might be enough to send it on its inevitable tumble to the sea. The kids stay clear. But I believe the only way to grow agile and surefooted and canny in risk assessment is to test yourself on trails such as this one from an early age, so I let them run.


A gentler slope here


Darn, I wish this hat were something I needed to photograph for a pattern release!

The lighthouse isn’t grand or terribly iconic, but its stout little octagonal tower and drum lens go on keeping the shipping off the rocks of Cattle Pass. The Coast Guard allegedly intends to do some restoration work here to shore up the building before it slithers seaward.


Two bald eagles reign over this territory and we crept near their tree to watch them awhile, because that was the sort of magic on offer this day. The sea was full of splashy ducks and cormorants. The homeward trail got a wee bit tiring…



…but the beauty and the docile weather made a rather dribbling pace no hardship. All the mountains were out—Mount Rainier, about 120 miles away, is just visible on the horizon at the right edge of the frame in the photo above—and the road home provided a close look at this handsome fellow in the twilight:


My parents chose this home, crossing the continent years before I was born and setting down new roots. I had the freedom to leave; I’ve visited many beautiful places and I hope to see a great many more, and I could have stayed for good in a few of them, but this island has always called me back. On days like this, I think the greatest gift I can give my little ones is to infuse their growing and becoming with this same landscape. Who knows where they’ll fly? But if they carry this place in their hearts, they’ll know what they’re looking for when they find it.


They say a watched pot never boils, and I’m here to testify that neither does it simmer, at least not when it’s a giant stock pot nearly brimful of clothing and fabric yardage in a soda ash stew that I’m trying to scour for indigo dyeing. The Modern Natural Dyer says to slowly bring it up to 180 degrees over half an hour… I tried for 45 minutes to nudge it even up to 130 degrees before dinner. It wouldn’t be rushed, so I’m having another go now that the kids are abed. And to pass the time I’m flipping through the results of a little photoshoot with the kiddos from this afternoon. I’m holding back the real goods for a few more days, but after I’d clicked away for awhile, my girl requested to have a try on the other side of the camera.

“I want Mama in the middle of the bed, and Jolly jumping all around her,” she dictated. And this is what she got.








We’ll work on focal length next time. But she did capture the flavor of our summer days, up to nothing and everything of consequence. Just a four-year-old and a six-year-old putting down roots in a new home, happy to spend all morning climbing trees in the orchard or prattling away over a herd of plastic horses in their shared bedroom or practicing for the Olympics (in gymnastics and three-day-eventing) on the living room rug. Not that they don’t have big plans; Jolly is earnestly hauling in plums and apples by the shirtload “to can for the wintah.” Today we got a kitchen scale and a lot of jars and a library card and checked out three books on preserving fruit. I’ve never done much canning and I’m feeling just a wee bit skittish about it, but if a girl can teach herself to knit she can probably teach herself to make jam, right?

Ada is keen to work on a gardener doll we started making out of a worn out sock stuffed with raw wool from the spring clip. It’s rather a fragrant doll and she still has no arms or face. I’m helping too much and should just let my six-year-old have at her with a needle and thread and see what happens.

Temperature check: nearly 170! Getting somewhere. If I don’t break an ankle clambering up the patio furniture to hang the scoured goods on the clothesline I haphazardly strung between the wisteria and the dogwood back when it was light out, it will be a miracle. But the days are warm and sunny and with any luck I’ll be firing up an indigo vat on Friday. Plum jam and blue smocks for all! Don’t ever end, summer.

In December



Christmas 2015

Christmas 2015-3






On this final day of Winter Break—extended by 24 hours, thanks to a surprise ice storm—I’m watching puppet shows and Waltzes of the Flowers. (The children received many wonderful gifts, including the buoy swing shown above, but nothing made a bigger splash than a set of colorful tutus, which now feature in daily impromptu ballet performances. Just the thing for the indoor exercise we’ve desperately needed during the rainiest month EVER.) We’ve had lovely family visits, many games of War and Solitaire in front of the fire, a little bit of snow, a lot of cookies, and—best of all—whole luxurious days of unscheduled time. A fair bit of knitting transpired, but it was mostly hats and gloves and they were mostly gifts and only this purple pom for Jolly ended up in front of the camera. It’s made of Socks That Rock Lightweight in the color Morticia held together with Rowan Angora Haze. The STR swings from black to magenta; the Angora Haze is a solid plum color that matches the midtones and I was delighted to discover how effectively it muted the variegation. The angora also makes the hat ever so soft and cozy, of course, and this mother is pleased that her boy will agree to keep it on his head. I’m going to try the same experiment on a sort of muddy rainbow skein that Ada chose, pairing it with an ochre gold—although she’s just informed me that what she’d really like is a hat based on the yoke of my Flight sweater. She wants bright colors—leaf green, violet, pink or orange, yellow—with “the birds” in white and I’m intrigued by the design challenge of blending these to create an entirely different effect from the original browns! I think I’ve got Loft leftovers enough to pull it off and I’ve been using Brooklyn Tweed’s new online color comparison feature to dream up the right color run; Sap-Plume-Birdbook-Camper-Hayloft looks promising. Oh, and a pompon! Little children dig pompons the most.

2016 looks like a big and busy year for my little family! I’m kicking it off with a bit of self-indulgent insta-knitting: Thea Colman’s Stillhouse Vest. Mine’s in Hematite Quarry and it’s halfway done already, thanks to a couple of car trips and an evening of Sherlock. But next on the needles is something truly spectacular. More on that very soon!

Wishing every one of you an invigorating plunge into new possibilities or kindly tailwinds as your soul requires in this new year. Cin cin.