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That walk I wished I could take? I didn’t get to make it a reality, but a scroll through my camera photos let me send my mind to the right place. Here’s a quick dip into the woods with October at her finest. It was the briefest of walks, a quick invigorating plunge between rehearsals of Poulenc and Pinkham at last month’s choir retreat.

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I let the details snare me: the crisp air suffused with the heady sugar of maples, the glow of their sunstruck leaves, a natty row of little mushrooms standing at attention on a fallen log, the tracery of weathered remnants as the trees return to the soil.

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Only in the woods, I think—oh, and at the beach—does decay seem so refreshing. There is no separating what is currently alive from what used to be, and I find something comforting and whole in that tangle.


The memories tided me over until the sun could come out again. And I have been seeking ways to puncture the shell of daily routine, to let some air in. Last night: a friend invited me to join her at Ann Patchett’s talk for the Literary Arts series. As invigorating as Ms. Patchett’s lively storytelling and passion for books was our decision to ride our bikes downtown. The temperature was nosing toward freezing, but why not? The pavement was dry, the night was clear, I had warm gear* and my friend had an extra headlight. It was the right decision. I may have raised some eyebrows hastily stripping off my layers of windproof waterproof fashionproof cycling kit in the swanky lobby of the Schnitzer (or perhaps not… this is Portland), but it was worth it. Oh, the exhilaration of zooming through the dark, muscles working, lungs burning, all senses heightened to the dangers of cars and potholes lurking in the shadows! Night cycling reminds me of night skiing, of weekends with the high school ski team when we’d tumble onto the bus on Friday evenings and drive up to the mountain to set gates under the lights for practice before the next morning’s meet. How the world seems to constrict as you race alone down the slope, how the scrape of your edges and the thwack of your mittened wrist on the gate are the only sounds anyone has ever made, how the ground falls away and you hang in the night air like one of the stars for a breathless span before the mountain catches you again on its cold white tongue.

A college friend and I once challenged each other to weekly skinny dipping in a Maine pond. I don’t know why we did it—the friendship was entirely sexless, so it wasn’t for the thrill of joint nudity, and we were never so close that we felt the urge to brand the fact of us on the universe forever by some unforgettable experience. It was a whim, a dare, a lark. We made it to November. But a good bracing plunge of some kind is powerful medicine. I’m kindling myself into a mood for adventure. What’s out there?


*Except for the gloves. I thought I’d be fine with lightly insulated biking gloves, and I was so wrong. My friend reported her hands were almost too warm in her twined colorwork lobster-claw mitts. Wool wins again.



I wrote previously that I’d had to revise my plans for Ada’s version of Winter Garden. When I loaded the Halloween photos, I found that I’d had the sense to document my blindered beginnings before I ripped them out to begin again. Now you, too, can appreciate how far astray I’d gone and marvel at the willful self-deception that drove me to persist through 28 two-color rounds on 256 stitches before throwing in the towel. Yes, friends, this photo is no sensible swatch:


… and out it all had to come. That Sap yellow-green on the brown is redolent of the ’70s—and not in a good way. The red is YOUD, as my small son would say, with his hands clapped to his ears and his face battening down for a gale. The purple is so dark it looks like some sort of ominous leaf blight. Rip, rip, rip. Here’s the replacement progression:


…and it’s making me so very much happier. In fact, this Nest brown I chose for the main color of the dress is so friendly and soothing that knitting the stockinet desert of the upper skirt was not at all the slog I feared it might be. Now and then I look down at it reclining in my lap and almost get a lump in my throat, like when a friend gives you a hug you didn’t know you badly needed.

Truth be told, the seasonal change caught me in the teeth this year. The most beautiful October anyone can remember has given way to a November lumping in dreary as can be, bitterly coupled with the end of Daylight Saving Time. I pride myself on being suited to my native climate and latitude, on not minding the short, dim, damp days. But this year only a concerted effort to think of lovely cozy things like wool and tea with friends and Advent calendars and Christmas stockings (oooh, must knit some for the children… fancy my chances? What if I use the fat leftovers from the sheep hoods?) and waddling babes in snowsuits and the scent of fir and cider and molasses cookies is lifting me above the gloom. I expect a good brisk walk would help me find my ley lines, whatever the weather. I’d like to step out my back door and hike a grass track up a high hill. Much as I esteem Portland, I do not have a city heart.

Even so, there is cause for cheer. Winter Garden is swimming along smartly on schedule. The first one not knit by me is winging its wild way toward a beloved granddaughter, courtesy of my fabulous test knitter Leslie. If you’re following this pattern’s journey to publication, make sure you check out Leslie’s bodice variation—she worked the fluted rib “wrong side” out, which looks entirely different but very handsome. Also, I’ve got a free pattern in the works! More on that as soon as I can rope my husband into pointing a camera at it…