Island

To the lighthouse

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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.

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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.

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A gentler slope here

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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.

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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…

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…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:

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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.

Reenactment

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Visiting friends researched what’s going on in town and discovered the English Camp reenactment camp-out is on this weekend. We managed to stumble upon this educational four-day living history event a couple of years ago, too, and were happy to go back.

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My son was excited to have the opportunity to go inside the blockhouse, built for defense of the camp. We weren’t allowed up the ladder to the second floor, where naughty marines had to serve time-out, but he did plenty of imagining how it would be to poke a rifle through those little square holes to shoot at emenies all the same. (What is it with little boys and the shooting? I’ve begun to think our species got the idea to invent guns because wee lads were already running about pointing their index fingers at each other and shouting, “Pew, pew pew!”)

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The kiddos played croquet and learned a period gambling game in which you spin a four-sided top to take a coin, put in a coin, do nothing, or sweep up all the coins. (They’re 1800s pennies, which were much larger than the modern-day equivalent.) Don’t play against the one in the pink hat. She is already scheming about how we could carve our own top or modify a die to play this at home.

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We got to watch a blacksmith demonstrate his craft with his mobile forge, learning about how younger sons were apprenticed to learn a trade and then made their way as journeymen, eventually setting up shop elsewhere so as not to compete for business with their masters.

I didn’t get a photograph of the two Metis widows spinning (Romney, in the grease, from the lock), knitting, and handsewing, but I did learn some off-color Chinook Jargon from them. (Tenino, WA, I’m never driving through you without a snigger again. Please tell me whoever chose to make the high school Home of the Beavers did so in full knowledge of the town’s name origin.) Middle-school humor aside, I’m fascinated by the idea of a trading language with 660 words, whittled down to just what you’d need to communicate with strangers for mutual benefit. I wonder how many similar trading languages still exist around the world?

Thanks for the fun and learning, reenacters. My friend Linus predicts I’ll be joining you within four years… which is probably the length of time it would take me to sew an appropriate costume.

Birthday sweater

I should have had autumn or winter babies. The urge to encase them in new knitwear to mark another voyage around the sun is too powerful to resist, and here they’re born in June and July, in the northern hemisphere. I finished my boy’s sweater, a smallification of Stephen West’s Drangey pullover, and tucked it into his drawer. Luckily, summer on the island can still mean a breeze with teeth, especially at the beach. We island folk know not to pack away our down jackets and wool hats for the season.

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This sweater began as a single skein of Sincere Sheep’s Cormo Worsted (colorway Hester), bought especially for him because it’s his signature color and it’s Cormo and I couldn’t not. I thought I’d make a hat. But by then I knew last year’s pink sweater wouldn’t fit him long and I thought I’d just see how far I could stretch that one skein. Stash diving produced a bit of this and a bit of that: the precious remnant of my Clara Yarn CVM/Romeldale (that’s the white), a skein of De Rerum Natura Gilliatt (grey-brown). I had a partial ball of Sincere Sheep Shepherdess in the same colorway left from Ada’s Chicory cardigan of two years ago, and a handy thing that was for finishing the right sleeve and the cuffs. I knit the yoke about three times. I can’t tell you why, but top-down is not my favorite construction and my reasoning goes all to pot when I’m trying to work out the size of the sleeves. I knocked all the pattern numbers down by percentages, but the plain fact is that little boy shoulders and torsos are not proportionally much like man shoulders and torsos at all, so I fudged it with the seat of my pants. Or something like that. The sleeves are still a bit wide at the top, but this yields the benefit of making it much easier for him to dress and undress himself. Stephen didn’t put a tunnel pocket on his design, but I’ll bet he wishes he had.

My model was not very cooperative about holding still: “I’m too busy climbing!” And my battery died, so this is all the evidence of the sweater in pristine condition. Now it smells of campfire, having seen my boy through his very first toasted marshmallow, and I’ll probably be picking grass seeds and who knows what else out of it tomorrow. And that’s exactly as it should be.

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