The Longest Day … in memory of my mother

Just before sunrise on the longest day of the year

The Longest Day (summer solstice and the Alzheimer’s Association fundraising day) was June 20th this year. I participated for the first time as a member of Ann Budd’s team. Ann has been doing this for years (and I’m sorry I didn’t know about it sooner!) One of my co-workers was participating and I thought it was a wonderful way to remember my mother who died from Alzheimer’s in 2008 at the age of 76.

The day started with a wonderful sunrise and coffee on the porch. It quickly got too hot to sit on the front porch in the sun so I moved to location number two, the screened porch.

Location #2 on the longest day where I finished my June socks

My goal for the day, in addition to remembering my mom, was to finish projects or at least work to that end. I finished my June socks first. I had knitted them to the toe so it wasn’t a stretch! This yarn is another One the Round Signature Sock, fingering weight wool and nylon. I love knitting with it and I love wearing it. As you can see, I don’t worry about “matchy-matchy” and there’s a funny spot at the ankle of one and a little less funny spot at the ankle of the other. (Can you see me hunching my shoulders? I really don’t mind; they’re socks.)

Classic Socks for the Family by Yankee Knitter in On the Round Signature Sock

My next project was either my Humulus sweater or my The Shape of a Bay shawl. I chose the shawl because it’s been languishing in time out for nearly two years. I bought this kit at my fiber camp not last summer but the summer before. It’s two skeins of Cashmere People Fingering yarn and the pattern. The yarn is super yummy. I just finished a shawl test knit for Lori Versaci (VersaciKnits) for her pattern Campfire. ( blogged about it here.) This yarn is very special and the colors are so beautiful. Oddly enough, one of the colors in my Campfire shawl is the same color, albeit in a different weight, as my Shape of a Bay shawl. Go figure.

Location #3, inside with a view of my sweet hubby in one of his favorite spots

The Shape of A Bay is by Bristol Ivy. It is a half-pi shape shawl with double sided lace. I have learned that some lace is different than others. Some lace, typically more simple, is knitted with the lace-y stitches on one side only, usually the right side, and knits/purls on the wrong side. This pattern has those lace-y stitches on both sides, right and wrong side. When I am knitting a project that requires lace concentration, I like to do them earlier in the day, post coffee and pre-tired end-of-day eyes and/or cocktails. I love knitting this pattern and working with this yarn. It’s a treat. Two years ago I had worked into the pebbles section. (Lucky for me I had marked my pattern so I knew where I had stopped and I was able to start up without any trouble.) On the Longest Day, I got through the end of the pebbles section and finished most of the first repeat of the ripples section.

The Shape of A Bay by Bristol Ivy

In the photo above, I’m through the pebbles section and starting the ripples. I had a lot of interruptions from the Littles who are getting old and have to be let out frequently … and who don’t always make it outside quite fast enough. I might have gotten further but I am grateful to be home with them when they’re really in need of their humans.

My end-of-day view was in my atelier, Littles at my feet, working on something mindless until the sun set. I took a break for dinner and a cocktail with my wonderful hubby and then we retreated to the air conditioning and a little bit of “stupid TV”. I have been working on using up some of the odds and ends of my fingering weight/sock yarns in a crochet blanket project called the Battenberg Blanket. Mine is not likely to look as “orderly” as the pattern is intended but I will have the pleasure of remembering all of the socks, shawls and other projects that I made. I am planning to use a solid color to put them all together but I’d like to make a big (queen-size perhaps) blanket so I’ll be making squares deep into my 90s. Ha! Ha!

My friends and family helped me to surpass my fundraising goal and together we will donate over $1,700.00 to fight the good fight against Alzheimer’s Disease. I don’t ever want another family member to experience the ravages of this disease that stole my mother from me and their beloved GranJan from my children and nephews. Thank you to Ann Budd and Glenda for making it so easy to participate. It was a privilege to knit on the Longest Day and I look forward to knitting again next year.

Gone knitting.

Katharine Cobey, A Different Voice

I don’t think I wrote about the opening of Katharine Cobey’s one-woman show at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine. Ned and I were thrilled to attend the VIP (smaller) opening on the first night and Katharine’s talk on Saturday afternoon.

We had a few minutes in the gallery prior to the opening so that Ned could get film footage of Katharine’s works on display. Our plan is to make a short documentary about Katharine in hopes to help her find homes for her pieces, particularly the larger ones.

Birds of a Feather, 2003
wool
60 x 74 x 3 inches
Mime for the Gulf War Birds, 1991
Black plastic, wood, steel
72 x 36x 36 inches
How Katharine got it done

Katharine was quite practical about how to get the job done when creating the Gulf War Birds which was knitted out of black garbage bags. She used a swift to hold the plastic bags and cut them directly into a basket.

As anyone who is creative will understand, it’s not just the finished piece that matters. The process and means by which the artist gets there is creative and necessary. How does one cut up a bunch of black plastic garbage bags into useful strips so that they can then be formed into the ultimate piece? I loved that the Farnsworth used this as an example of the ingenuity and creativity of this fiber artist!

Portal (Pillars), 2003/2008
Wool
96 x 36 x 36 inches
Courtesy of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, Gift of the Artist, 2019
Detail of Portal (Pillars)

Upon walking into the gallery, I was very moved. I may be said that my “ocular incontinence” kicked in a little bit. (Thanks, Bristol, for the term!) It is very emotional to see these pieces, most of which I had seen in Katharine’s studio, hanging in an art gallery. They’re masterful and thoughtful and quite beautiful. They’re also quite big. Portal, in particular. Katharine told us that at one of the museums where Portal was going to be on display, a staff member asked if there was a form around which the knitted “columns” should be placed in order to give them form. Nope. The columns are perfectly shaped by the knitted stitches. Knits and purls. You can see them in the detail of the piece. Brilliant.

Portrait of Alzheimer’s, 1992
Silk and wool, wood base
69 x 77 x 28 inches

Portrait of Alzheimer’s is probably my favorite piece in this collection. Probably because I have a personal experience with the disease and I can understand this piece better than any other. My mother died from Alzheimer’s Disease. So did Katharine’s mother.

Beginning from the left side, with one strand of yarn, a beautiful lace shawl is knitted together. And it is gorgeous. At about the half-way point of the shawl, the stitches start to be misshapen and become a bit odd, as if there is a mistake, something is happening that is incongruous with what has happened until this point. And then the knitting becomes less “regular” the pattern isn’t regular and can’t really be recognized as the pattern was at the start. And finally, it completely unravels. Unrecognizable as a shawl. Simple strands of yarn in no apparent pattern or shape, with threads hanging out at the edges. Just like the disease that took hold of my mother. And yet, in the middle remains the form of the person whose body supports the shawl.

I have purposely left out several of the pieces that are displayed in this show. I want everyone to go to see it. Fiber Arts in a much-respected museum! A Fiber Artist, a Maine gem, being recognized for her art. This show is at the Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, Maine through April 12, 2020. Go see it!

If you know of a museum that might be interested in any of Katharine’s art, please let me know. Katharine or one of us will be contacting museums. Thanks for your help in advance.

Philomena

Last night we watched the movie “Philomena”. It touched my heart and offered me a perspective that opened my eyes to what my mother must have felt when she, too, had a baby boy taken from her.

I’ve written here before about my big brother who I found out about after my mother passed away. I wonder what my mother thought about her baby. Did she, like Philomena, think about him every day? Did she wonder if he was happy and healthy?

Mom’s cousin was the only other person to know about my brother. She said that my mother was fearful that he would try to find her and upset her life. The world is such a different place today … and such was the shame placed on pregnant and unmarried women in the 1950s. Philomena Lee was powerless when her son was sold by the nuns. My mother felt compelled to “go away” and give away her firstborn child so that her life wouldn’t be destroyed by an unwed pregnancy. I’m certain that a girl from a poor family from “the wrong side of the river” (as my father not-so-kindly reminded her on a regular basis) felt that her reputation would be ruined and she had no choice.

My mother loved her family, loved children and animals and I’m certain that she thought about her baby boy every day. She thought about him when the seasons changed, wondering if he was warm when it snowed, when the forsythia bloomed; on Easter and Christmas and his birthday. On his first day of kIndergarten. When he turned 16 and learned to drive. I’m sure she wondered what color hair he had. Who he looked like. What he loved to do. (One of his passions was shared by mom – tennis!)

When Alzheimer’s Disease began chipping away at her memory in her late 50s, was it a relief? Did the pain of wondering and the fear of discovery lessen with the progression of the disease? Were my parents’ diseases physical manifestations of their secret? Dad suffered from depression, alcoholism and heart disease. Was his heart broken that this first son was given away? Did he drink to forget? Did it help to lessen the fear that their lives could be “disrupted”? Was it easier for my mother to just slip into her failed memory?

My parents took their secret to the grave. I will never have an answer. I can only imagine how they felt. Seeing “Philomena” last night helped me see the situation a little more clearly despite the similar and dissimilar situation.

I hope that mom is able to see him now, happily re-united with his brothers and sister. I hope she knows that he is happy, healthy and loved. Life is good.

Gone knitting.