Tag Archives: Sock Camp

Of Hail, Snow, Flood, and Lethal Creatures

Doomy doom doom….

Or perhaps not as bad as it sounds.  Wisconsin weather, with a bit of knitting and travel thrown in!

I’ve been mentally working on Sock Camp posts, but at the same time physically fighting off a nasty respiratory virus, which has caused all my energy to go to trying to turn my lungs inside out.  Lots of medicine and time later, I am definitely on the mend, so take up laptop to try to begin to chronicle.  But first, since my last post, lots has happened here!

I had mentioned that storms were predicted soon in my last post, and indeed, the girls got to hear tornado sirens and head into the basement, for just about the first time that they remember doing so (the RockStar does have vague memories of her toddler tornado warning trip to the basement).  One advantage of a laptop and smartphone: one can keep track of the National Weather Service’s updates on what’s going on, as the winds whip up and the lightning crashes and the hail rattles down.

Ah, the hail.

The hailstone going in the freezer

Have a hailstone (or two, or five)

Our garage is a storage area, and my (new) car was thus parked outside, so I winced in the basement as I heard that hail crashing and bouncing and pictured my car in its sights. Amazingly, it’s almost impossible to see the couple areas where the body is ever so slightly rippled. Everything else except my daffodils was fine. I certainly know people who didn’t fare as well, with broken house windows and damaged siding. But no tornado activity was noted in the area (though one had been apparently spotted to our southeast). Thus the area lives up to its reputation and the legendary Native American saying, that no tornado will hit where three rivers meet….

The weather continued bad, but not that bad, through the rest of the week, and I certainly felt bad. Then yesterday, as I started to feel as though I was going to make it, I woke up to this Saturday Sky:

which had already dumped this:

The robins were not amused, let me tell you.

unhappy robin

After I got over my own disgruntlement and worked yesterday, I stopped down by the Mississippi River, which is cresting well into flood stage right about now. Though the snow melted later yesterday, the weather continued blustery, with a cold north wind hurrying the flood waters along.

No viewing the river from THAT viewing platform today.

These rubberneckers were also checking the flood out.

(To give you an idea of the river’s rise, here they also are in happier times two years ago. The brick walkway goes perhaps four or five feet below the river watchers, and the river is some feet below the edge of the walkway.)

waving at sunset

In this picture, you can see the ramp down to the walkway….or part of it, anyway.

Another comparison:

a view downriver a month ago, when the river was already rather high.

and the same view yesterday, with the same trees.

(Fortunately, our cold spring has caused the water level to not be nearly as high as it could have been, thus flooding has been manageable. Also, because my city has preserved the flood plains (they are primarily parks) and some wetlands to soak up the floodwaters, it tends to do better during floods than other communities on the river. Thankfully.)

All of this snow and hail and flood made me remember my time in the Pacific Northwest with fondness….even if it was typical spring weather there (cloudy, cool, on and off rain), or perhaps even more rain than typical. At least there was no snow, or hail, or flooding….

There were lethal creatures, granted. But that was kind of my own fault.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You see, this year’s Sock Camp was called “Camp Jabberwonky”, with an Alice in Wonderland theme. There is always homework; and this year’s was to knit a Jabberwonky. Not a Jabberwocky, mind you, but a Jabberwonky. Details here.

After seeing an old photo of my half-stuffed mermaid (homework from two years ago): I had an idea. I would knit a headless Jabberwonky, after the victorious knitter has beheaded it! Complete with gore….

This required dyeing wool top for the gore (I had some that had proved not so good for spinning, due to still having suint — sheep sweat — in it). It seemed to turn out well!

Simultaneously, I cast on with some Socks that Rock and knit a somewhat fearsome creature (with a picot-edge neck). And was, of course, still working on it when I arrived in Seattle the day before Sock Camp started, to visit my friend Astrid and her husband Greg. In between Astrid’s taking me to see the Nick Cave exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, and an excellent lunch and equally excellent dinner, I knit away. And talked. Astrid being a knitter (and dyer) totally understood and kept me company by knitting herself as we talked; her husband is rather used to it, and accepted Jabberwonk-knitting unflappably! Also, Astrid had some awesome ideas for finishing strategies, and invaluably, had SUPPLIES! (Florists’ wire works better than pipe cleaners. Just FYI.)

On our ferry trip over to Bainbridge island the next day, the last bit of stuffing was stuffed, and my Jabberwonky was complete.

I can’t really say that Jabberwonky enjoyed the sights as we crossed Puget Sound to Bainbridge, since he’s headless and presumably can’t see; but I have to think he enjoyed the fresh air! Or something.

Saturday Skies from Three Coasts

Three Saturdays, three coasts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two weeks ago, deep in the Southeast, not terribly far inland, anyway (close enough for this midwestern girl):

I was in Atlanta.

It was a stormy Saturday night

but during the entire meeting that I was attending preceding that weekend, the weather had been gorgeous: 60s and sunny. The southerners thought it was rather cool.  Those of us attending the meeting from northern climes spent every break and every lunch out in the hotel courtyard, enjoying the sun and the flowers.

I didn’t have much extra time, as the meeting that I was at took up essentially all daylight hours, but the short walk from my hotel to the meeting hotel took me past these sky-glass towers

which made it clear that hurricanes generally did not get this far inland, and also spectacularly reflected the lightning above when the thunderstorms happened on the last two days of my Atlanta stay.

Because the bad weather rolled in just as the meeting ended, I didn’t get to take advantage of my six hours or so of free time at the end of the meeting; I had thought about visiting the Atlanta History Center or the Aquarium.  Next time!

Just seeing spring was oh, so therapeutic.

Plus knitting outside.

(This is my Citron…. ‘crazy lace’ variation.  I haven’t really told you about that, have I, being blog-neglectful?  So, it’s a Citron from Knitty, but for the ‘crazy lace’, you throw in small lace patterns of your choice in the stockinette bands between the ruching.  I’m also further modifying by increasing with a yarnover at the outer edges on every right side row to make it more than a half-circle shape, and to echo the laciness of the lace portions.  Last, I have a lot of yardage of the lovely yarn: Arial, by Twisted Fiber Art, in the “Haunting” colorway.  Thus, this will be a lot bigger shawl than the original shawlette size!  I’m knitting on it on and off….)

I then came home for two busy, tiring, and chilly days, then packed up to go to the Pacific Northwest, for a day pre-camp with the lovely Astrid, and thence to Sock Camp.  I have a lot more to tell you about that, but here’s my Saturday Sky from Camp (Port Ludlow, Washington).  (Hence the second coast: East Coast to West Coast in 72 hours!)  The only sun we saw all week was for about an hour, that Saturday morning.

Then it clouded up.  This photo is from the day before, but believe me, it looked pretty much the same for the entire week of Sock Camp.

Of course there was lots of knitting (and other hijinks) at Sock Camp, but again, definitely for another post!

The third coast?

Why, the West Coast of Wisconsin, where I live, of course!  (Seriously, some marketing person dubbed us this at some point.  I do live on the Mississippi River, which is the western border of much of the state….).

Yesterday on said coast:

Grey sky.  But crocuses!!!

(Then thunderstorms overnight.  Then a brief glorious bout of sun this morning with unnatural warmth.  Which of course means even more severe weather predicted for this afternoon….hail, damaging winds, possible tornadoes.  Which will further increase the Mississippi flooding (not severe to date, fortunately).  Springtime in the Midwest!)

Ah, well, at least the snow is gone.

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

You will come to understand the title of this blog post….but you’ll have to keep reading!

A (what was intended to be brief) wrap-up (I hope) of Sock Camp. Maybe.

I hadn’t shared yet that I went out a day early, just to see friends and hang out in the wonderful Seattle area, since there would be no extra time at camp, nor after. (On the way, I saw this mysterious communication at the Minneapolis airport.

Apparently, fiber-bearing animals were sending me messages?)

My friend KT sweetly picked me up at the airport, took me to lunch at Pomegranate Bistro (NOM!), and thence to her house for a couple hours of knitting and talking in her crafty hideaway.  (The mother-in-law apartment in her house is her craft area.  It is awesomeness.  Not just for knitting, but for quilting and all KT’s other artistic endeavors: she is incredibly creative.  KT is a sock camper also but went the second session, so we were not going to see each other otherwise!) I also was a magnet for her beautiful cats, Frog and Tink.  😀

Then I got to go with KT to see her sons’ Montessori school (my daughters went to a Montessori school until just last year — wow, when I think about it, from when the eldest started Montessori preschool in 1999 to last spring 2009 when the younger completed 5th grade at her charter Montessori school in the public school system, I always had at least one child in Montessori for a decade!).  That was really cool, to see a lovely, and different, Montessori school.

Bad blogger.  No pics.  Too busy talking, apparently.

KT then, in a demonstration of true knit-sisterly love, drove me to my friend Astrid’s house through rush hour traffic on I-5 in the rain, with her two young men in the back who did become slightly bored with the process, small gentlemen though they are.  KT, you are a saint!

Thereafter, Astrid and her husband Greg very generously fed me and put me up overnight.  After a wonderful meal, the usual engaging conversation that occurs any time Astrid and Greg are in the room, and a stormy night/early morning, which I slept through most of, an absolutely gorgeous morning greeted me.  At which point, I remembered my camera…though I just realized I haven’t yet taken a picture of the way cool hand-dyed yarn that Astrid gave me!  (But it’s somewhat similar to this one in her etsy shop, but without the sparkle, and more colors.  Very pretty!  I love it!)  Here’s the view from Astrid and Greg’s deck on a stunning Seattle spring morning:

A few remnants of rain

soon evaporated, and after a lovely breakfast, Astrid continued her generosity by driving me to Sock Camp at Port Ludlow.

We had a lovely trip across the Kingston-Edmonds ferry!

And I got to show Astrid around the Inn at Port Ludlow a bit before she headed back.

The mountains came out to be seen, for Astrid.

We got to see a sea otter swimming by the docks!

So, after hugs were exchanged and Astrid headed home, I explored a bit, took a few more pictures,

had dinner in the bar with new and old friends, and then that evening

Sock Camp officially kicked off with a dessert reception and the sorting of the Tribes.  And the laying down of the Camp ground rules by Steph, baby Maggie and Tina.

After that….it was kind of a blur.  Oh, gee.  I wish I could have blogged concurrently, there is still so much to tell you, but this post is getting too long already!  But one highlight was mid-camp: the Talent Show.  Wow.

The knitters who come to Sock Camp are an amazingly talented bunch.  Knitting, of course.  But in many other ways.  I saw Dorie’s incredible quilt that left me almost speechless….it took a third place at American Quilter’s Society’s Paducah show (this is A Big Deal in the quilter world, and if you saw the quilt, you’d totally get it.)  My picture is abysmal:  I hoped the Harlot would blog her photo, but not to date.  (The quilt tells the story of Bernard, the timid cat who dreams of Africa.) And then there was Anne’s artwork, of which my photos are completely blurry, but you can see it for real at the link.  Amazing.

If I had done my little talent show offering AFTER those — I’m not sure I would have dared to perform!  But, I deliberately signed up to go first.  My voice was extremely iffy, as I was just recovering from a prolonged bout of The Plague (OK, some nasty virus that settled in my lungs).  So I drank some bourbon and hot tea, on the advice of my musician husband (though not too much bourbon, or I would not have been able to stand, let alone perform).  And quick, before my voice ‘went’ any more than it already had:

I got up and sang a little song about socks.  Written by yours truly.

So now you see the reason for the title?  Between my last post with the angelic teen voices singing a lovely song, the beautiful scenery at Astrid’s house and at Camp, and then my teammates (Dorie and Anne were both Fellow Foxes in Socks!) with their incredible art….definitely The Sublime.

and then — there is this….

Maybe This Time”. Definitely on the ridiculous side of the Sublime vs. Ridiculous scale!

(For the unedited song, with chatter before and after, including the American Idol-style “Camp Idol” judging by Steph, Tina,  and Stephen, see here…. this video also hints at the hidden story behind the name of one of Blue Moon Fiber Artsnewest colorways!)

Sock Camp Snapshots

Yes, those who guessed (or just KNEW) that I was at BMFA Sock Camp, and those who knew I was in the Seattle area, were all correct!

This:

is the view from The Inn at Port Ludlow, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula.  And those are the Olympic Mountains, yes, indeed!  We had such good weather that I saw the mountains almost 100% of the time we were there…. wow.

That was last Saturday’s Saturday Sky, in fact.  I had woken up with the sun as usual, and gone for a walk on the beach before breakfast.  It was chilly

(that’s frost on those pumpkins mushrooms!) and I was glad I’d packed a hat and scarf, actually, but that didn’t stop me from knitting on my walk

on my way around the point to see the sun rise.

It was so clear, you could see the mainland, and Mount Baker (I think that’s Mt Baker?).

It was so gorgeous.

What’s that?  Socks?  Camp?  Sock Camp?

Why, yes, there were socks, and camp, and hijinks, and lots and lots of fun!

But I can’t tell you ALL yet.  You see, I went to Camp for session I, of two sessions.  And, while the Session II campers are finally there, there are still some surprises in store for them.  We all had to solemnly swear on the Chicken not to reveal anything before its time.

(Cat Bordhi and Tina Newton.  And Chicken (now Chicken of the Sea).)

(Did you think I was kidding about swearing on the Chicken?)

I can show you (one of the) socks I made at Sock Camp! Although as usual we were too busy to do overmuch knitting, really.  Ironic, that.

Fox?  Well, there was a Seussian theme to Sock Camp this year.  We were divided into groups (“tribes”) as usual: I was a proud Fox in Socks!  The amazing Janel Laidman taught the class that resulted in this sock (“Stranded Colorwork & Sock Knitting”) and she designed a sock-let for each tribe!

The Sneetches had a lot more letter knitting to do…. not to mention the TweedleBeetles.

More later, when I am permitted!

Saturday Skies In Arrears

Whirlwind tour of the last month as seen in Saturday Skies:

This Saturday just past was gray and cooler, but finally in the last few days I have seen incontrovertible signs of spring.

saturday-sky-with-crabapple

Buds on my mother-in-law Helen’s crabapple tree, among other signs.  Yes!

The  Saturday before, we (the family) were taking the train to Chicago for a special outing.  The girls had never been on the train before.  The RockStar, who was unconvinced beforehand, has declared it the only way to travel now!

Archetypal Chicago Skyscraper cityscape view upon arriving last Saturday:

skyscraper-saturday-sky

(did you see the plane with contrail?)

and the sky behind Navy Pier on an early evening expedition:

saturday-sky-at-navy-pier-a

Going backwards in time:

The previous Saturday was the day I was supposed to leave Seattle (um, yeah.  More about that later).  A lot of moving from place to place that day, so multiple Saturday Sky pictures, actually.

Saturday Sky as seen from the Kingston-Edmonds Ferry, leaving Port Ludlow and Sock Camp: with another ferry in the picture,

saturday-sky-from-the-edmon

and without.

saturday-sky-from-ferry-als

I caught an airplane going overhead from the ferry also.

saturday-sky-with-plane-apr

Later in the day,  Saturday Sky behind the EMP (Experience Music Project/SciFi Museum) and the Space Needle.

saturday-sky-with-emp-and-s

(You can see it was a gorgeous day in the Seattle area!  Of course: it was the day I was (supposed to be) leaving….)

Then, at my friend Astrid’s house:

saturday-sky-with-spider-ap

No,  the spider’s not on your screen, nor was it in Astrid’s and Greg’s house, but on the outside of the porch sliding door!  Here’s a prettier view sans arachnid….beautiful lakeside sunset in a safe harbor on the shore of Martha Lake.

saturday-sky-over-lake

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A week before, I got on the train in the evening to leave for Sock Camp, after a very busy day.  So the only picture I have of the Saturday Sky is a blurry twilight picture from the moving train, as we crossed over the Mississippi just after leaving the station.

saturday-sky-leaving-home

Oh, and a picture of black almost-midnight sky over a different Mississippi River Bridge as we went through Minneapolis, a few hours later.

saturday-night-sky-in-minneapolis-from-train1

Yes, it’s been an eventful set of Saturdays!  Sorry to keep teasing about Sock Camp….despite kmkat‘s valiant efforts to persuade my work to ‘let her knitter go’, it was another busy weekend.  Besides which, I took over 1000 pictures at Sock Camp and on the train.  And, frankly, condensing does not come naturally to me:  I want to show you ALL the best pictures and tell you EVERYTHING!  But that would take a very long time.

If you come over and knit sometime, and want to see, I’ll show and tell you everything.  In the meantime, I’ll work on the Reader’s Digest version.  (Before I leave again on Thursday….)

Saturday Sky Sandwich (knitting in the middle)

I took a whole bunch of Saturday Sky pictures the Saturday before last; it was just that kind of day, even though busy.  Last Saturday, not so much.  But the two together: a good exploration of color in nature. Sounds like my camp homework!

Last Saturday WAS a beautiful day (though I missed the sunset by being at a Celtic music concert, the Boys of the Lough).

And the lilac buds thought so too.

lilac-buds-in-the-saturday

Look how the different shades of blue give the sky depth.

The weekend before last’s Saturday Skies:

when I got home from work:

beautiful-day-march-14-2009

and later, when I prepared to leave (late) for the Twin Cities, to go to the Bohus exhibit I told you about, the next day.

saturday-sunset-neighbors

The sun was setting as I crossed the bridge across the Mississippi River into Minnesota.

mississippi-river-bridge-su

But I had to stop and get out of the car as I drove through the Mississippi River backwaters in the area between Wisconsin and Minnesota; it was so gorgeous.

mississippi-river-thaw

The ice was leaving the river and the backwaters.

geese-at-sunset

There were so many birds!  Geese, many geese,

geese-in-the-saturday-sky-m1

but I also saw flocks of seagulls, solitary hawks, an eagle, tiny birds.  And can you see the red-winged blackbird back in his perch on the edge of the marsh?

red-winged-blackbird

He’s in the tallest tree.  Here’s another one, below.

red-winged-blackbird-atop-t

However, the night was definitely falling, and I had to hurry on my way

sunset-between-the-states1

Only to stop one more time at that incredible silhouette of the Minnesota plains farm against the dying sunset, that I showed you last Friday; another, closer, view:

windmill1

Then darkness fell….

The next day, in addition to the Monkey socks I showed you, and the Gothlet’s gauntlets, I also had with me a new project, my first Baby Surprise Jacket.  (I’m certainly jumping on all sorts of bandwagons now, aren’t I?  How many years behind the times?

Here it is as of last week, posing on the car hood like the Monkeys did.

bsj-prefrogging

This is a combination of some mill end Socks That Rock heavyweight — I’m not sure if it’s undyed or if it’s a Spirit colorway that’s so faint, I can’t see a color — and the Twisted Duchess in Rodney that I showed you earlier as a cardigan and frogged.  I’m liking it in this combination.  Sadly, it no longer looks like this:  I had to frog it.  I can even see the mistake in this picture — now that I know what I did.  In this pattern, you increase after 5 garter ridges, on the short ends.  I did it on one end, but not the other.  The far end doesn’t look shorter just because of perspective; it really is shorter!  Unfortunately, because the pattern is mindless knitting after that row until row 44, I didn’t figure out my mistake until row 44.  Dummy me.

Well, that let me change the placement of the color band, anyway; I decided to move it up a little.  And I could have woven in the carried yarn a little better.  So it’s OK.  But it was a fair amount of frogging….I’m just now to the color band again.

And the coworker for whose baby I’m making this went and had her baby early, then, in the meantime!  (Not excessively early, just definitely before her due date.) So I didn’t get it done to give her in the hospital, obviously.  Since it’s going to be probably a 12 month size or so (and he’s a very average little guy), I will slack off my rush on this, I guess.  It’s good meditative knitting.

So, the other knitting-related part for the center of this Blog Sandwich is a follow-up to the Knit-Out also.  The day after the Knit-Out, I got an email saying that I had won a door prize, donated by the Minnesota Knitters’ Guild.  Since I wasn’t local, they were willing to mail it to me (though the American Swedish Institute didn’t actually tell me what it was).  The package came at the end of the week, and it was so cool!

knit-out-door-prize-1

A sturdy knitting bag, with all sorts of cool pockets,

door-prize-2

And a great knitting notebook.

Anyway, after leaving the event that I won the above at, though I knew it yet not, I drove back down, this time along the Mississippi and stopped once for a couple more pictures, though it was no longer Saturday and the light was failing:

misty-blue-bluffs

lake-pepin-thawing

(the Mississippi at Lake City, where it widens)

Thus ended a wonderful knitting (and photography) weekend!

So: many lovely shades of blue above: but there are so many more; an almost infinite series just in the Saturday Skies I’ve photographed.  Thus I decided to make a mosaic out of all the Saturday Skies I had photographed, since I started doing so in 2007.  I had to winnow it down to 36 photos, though, for the mosaic.  So I eliminated all the photos that had significant non-sky content.  And all the sunsets and sunrises, as this is a blue-gray nature study.

After ruthless pruning, here is my Saturday Sky photomosaic:

1. Lilac-buds-in-the-Saturday-, 2. geese-in-the-Saturday-Sky, 3. snowy-sunset-Saturday-Sky-F, 4. Saturday-Sky-with-small-pla, 5. Saturday-Sky-with-Scandinav, 6. west-wind-and-power-lines, 7. Saturday-Sunset-jan-24, 8. Saturday-Sky-December-20-20, 9. foggy-october-4-morning, 10. field-outside-Viroqua-in-Oc, 11. Saturday-Sky-over-McCormick, 12. Saturday-Sky-Sept-13, 13. Saturday Sky over Noah’s Ark August 30, 14. Saturday Sky August 30 with Spring Forward Socks, 15. Saturday Sky August 30 on a hot August afternoon, 16. Saturday Sky August 16, 17. Saturday Sky over Little Boy Lake August 9, 18. really blue Saturday Sky August 9, 19. hazy Saturday Sky over Lake Monona, 20. oil painting clouds, 21. Saturday Sky with flag and crane, 22. Saturday sky June 21st 2008, 23. 20080415_365, 24. Apple blossoms against a Saturday Sky, 25. Sun halo, 26. saturday sky april 5 2008, 27. Saturday Sky through Frost, 28. snow in the afternoon, 29. saturday sky with tree and crane, 30. Saturday Sky with Crane, 31. saturday sky with maple, 32. Saturday Sky with falling leaves, 33. saturday sky oct 27, 34. Saturday sky for the parade, 35. Saturday Sky November 24, 36. Saturday morning sky with morning star

(Made with kd’s mosaic maker)

I love how, as I said above, the blues and even the grays always have shading.  I think that’s one of the characteristics of color in nature, but especially of color suffused by light, as the sky is.  None of these are an even, flat, smooth blue or gray; there is always a gradation.

Must be why I prefer hand-dyed yarns, even in solids.  Flat seems boring now (I’m spoiled); subtle tone-on-tone adds depth and light and interest. Hmm?

J is for Jeté

Petit jeté.

Well, technically, what you’re seeing is coupé derrière en plié, I suppose, but petit jeté begins and ends in this position.

And although I’ll blab a bit and tell you that ‘jeté‘ means ‘thrown’, and is part of the full name of a number of moves in ballet; and that ‘grand jeté‘, what most people probably visualize if they visualize anything when they hear the term, is the exhilarating leap with legs split (but I don’t particularly want to photographically immortalize my gravity-laden version of it, as fun as it is to do), and that petit jeté is a small Jump, starting as above, where the back leg then brushes the floor to propel you up into the air, and you land on the opposite leg in the same position, a very light, springy small Jump (see this glossary with videos from ABT for this and other dance terms in this post): as I say, although you have just been subjected to Jeté 101, this post is not really about jeté, the step.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve always enjoyed dance (enjoyment, of course, does not mean automatically that one possesses a talent for it). Growing up, I know I subjected my parents to little dance shows in the living room. When I was small, my family lived in Germany for several years. I took a couple years of ballet and a year of tap then; there is photographic and Super 8 movie evidence. I remember the teacher as quite strict, very traditional and European.

By the time we moved back to the United States when I was almost 7, I think I was burned out on my strict ballet classes (though I remember tapping around in my school shoes for quite a while). I didn’t ask to take dance again. I was on my junior high ‘pom pom’ squad (kind of like dance team, but far removed from dance teams of today), and I could do the splits and kick high and shake my booty in time, but I didn’t take dance classes.

Then, in college, one of my acquaintances in the dorm invited me to an adult ballet class she was attending. It sounded like fun. Unfortunately, all the other college students taking it had taken years of formal ballet; I was way over my head; I couldn’t turn my feet and hips out 180 degrees, like some of the others, and I hurt my hip trying. I stopped after a few months, and decided ballet was just not meant to be, for me. Instead, I learned ballroom dance through the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Club, which was wonderful. (In fact, the first date that my now husband and I went on, was when I dragged him to the BDC’s Halloween Costume ball; I was Queen Titania and he was an extremely good-looking pirate, as I remember; I taught him to waltz — really waltz — and some new swing moves. Nostalgic sigh.)

Fast forward two decades. Out-of-shape, overweight, overly busy mother of two brings her younger daughter to her first three-year-old dance class at the dance studio where her older daughter already goes. The new artistic director, daughter of the owner, is wonderful with a rather shy Gothlet. O-O-S OW O-B mother sees that a new class is being offered for adults who ‘have never danced or been out of dance for some time’. With some trepidation, she signs up.

Wow. I was in love. We learned ballet and Jazz. We were a range of ages, weights and ability levels, but no one was like the 10-years-of-ballet bunheads I’d had in class as a college student. I liked it all, but I loved ballet. The discipline, the engagement of mind with body, the music, the serenity, were just what I needed in a physical activity (I’d TRIED to like aerobics but just couldn’t get into it). I wanted to do more. We performed in the spring studio recital (to Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary”, the slow part with ballet choreography, the rowdy part performing Jazz); it was so fun! I took the class again, but wanted to move beyond. In a small city, however, opportunities are limited (in, for example, Minneapolis, there are adult classes at different levels, sigh). I took a few private classes, struggled with the ‘advanced/adult’ ballet, dumbing the exercises down to what approached my level (though I incurred a hairline crack of one of the bones of my foot, trying something I didn’t know how to do; should have taught me something).

At about the same time this was going on, the artistic director asked my husband and I if we would play parents in the annual Nutcracker Ballet that the studio puts on. (I think she needed guys and knew I could probably talk my husband into it.) The (now) Preteen was barely old enough to be in the production, but we didn’t think she was nearly ready, she was a wild child, always hanging on the barre and causing trouble. So my husband and I were in the Nutcracker that year, and the kids watched! In fact, we were the parents of Maria and Fritz (and a multicultural family were we, with an Asian ‘daughter’ and a red-headed ‘son’!).

The next year, we reprised our roles, and the Preteen was a mouse (seven years old). But there was a lack of teen dancers for all the variations; there are only so many quick changes one can do, instantaneous changes are not possible, and it was just a number (or lack of numbers) thing that year. So I volunteered, if there was an easier part I could dance to help out. There was, and it would be helpful, so that year I danced Reed Pipes as well (with my sorely-missed young friend Katie).

The following year, the Gothlet was old enough to be in the ballet as well. I actually auditioned this time, and (numbers still being a factor), I was given three roles: Frau Catherine Silberhaus (the mom of Maria again), Reed Pipes, and also Chinese. My husband was asked to be Godfather Drosselmeyer. Now, he can dance; but he’s not a Dancer. (Though he was forced to take ballet when he was boxing competitively, but it didn’t stick.) He is, however, an Actor (where the Preteen gets it from). He worked very hard for months, learning ballet, and he was incredible on stage. The Preteen was a small girl in the Party Scene, and a buffoon in the Mother Ginger scene; the Gothlet was a Snow Angel. Here we are:

Wow, that was an insane time. Talk about ‘jeté‘ meaning thrown — we certainly were thrown into the madness! But awfully fun. (I was working less than full time, and took off essentially all of tech week! Otherwise, there would have been no way.)

Then the next year: there were enough intermediate dancers coming up that newly middle-aged moms weren’t needed any more. A good thing. And the roles rotate (there’s been a different Godfather almost every year, for example). My husband and I wanted to be able to actually see our girls dance; we did watch from the wings, but it’s not the same, actually. So that was the last year we were all in Nutcracker. The Gothlet’s been in it every year; the Preteen took a break (after missing the same birthday party three years in a row, I think she wanted to have time off) but now was in it again last year. It’s still a crazy time, but not nearly as crazy as when we were in the midst. I do miss it, though, at times.

So, before this, if you had told me I would get up on a huge stage in a fine arts university in front of hundreds of strangers, and dance a pas de trois with two girls half my age — I would have questioned your sanity. Afterwards — well, a lot of other experiences in my life have seemed less intimidating in comparison!

I continued to take ballet. And love it. Now I had a goal, achievable for some adult beginning dancers after years of study: Could I do pointe? I was taking 2 -3 classes a week. A friend of mine who taught ballet was encouraging. I took a pre-pointe evaluation class, and was told that I probably could do pointe, though I still needed to work on alignment & strength. But because I was an adult, and listened to my body (much more sensibly after the foot fracture), they trusted that I could take things at my own pace.

A few summers ago, then, I started studying pointe. It was not easy. I had lost weight, but was no sylph; and my flexible bunion-y long-second-toe feet were hard to fit in pointe shoes. But I was enjoying the challenge.

Then, a few months later, in regular ballet class, a simple move, plié passé, involving springing up to one foot en relevé (tiptoe). My right ankle popped audibly, then felt — strange. Then started to hurt a little. Not bad, unless I was on relevé or jumping. When I got home, it was a little swollen. Hmm.

Fast forward again: eventually, after persistent problems for several months (I couldn’t run up steps, bike riding was a bit of a problem, but mostly I just couldn’t dance), an MRI found the problem; a split in one of the ankle tendons, basically a tear that didn’t go all the way through. Next, predictably, surgery; after which I found out that I absolutely was not going to be able to do my job while strictly non-weightbearing (luckily only 10 days), then six weeks of crutches with partial weightbearing and NO DRIVING! FOR A WORKING MOM! And they only told me shortly before surgery!

Then the usual months of rehab; then I could dance again.

I danced and trained for six months before reattempting pointe. But it was no good. My ankle just doesn’t function quite the same way, in the position you are in for pointe (part of a muscle had to be removed for the repair). And I started having a pinched nerve in the foot on that side, probably related.

So I have my old pointe shoes on, above, only for nostalgia’s sake; though I can still fake it

(here’s the painterly version of sous-sus), I won’t be dancing in these. Yes, I’m a little wistful, but it’s OK, I like my soft shoes.

I still take ballet, but I’ve had to increase my work hours back to full time plus, due to the needs of the job, not by my choice, and that’s gotten in the way. This last year, I could only get to one class a week most weeks. Though I’m a little above their level, I ended up taking the same class as my daughters for convenience, as I was starting not to make it to the one class, even. That was fun! I’m not sure they always thought so, but I enjoyed it.

One last little anecdote, then something amusing for those of you who have hung in here with me:

When we joined the church we’re at now, as part of the new member orientation, we were asked to tell about a teacher who had a big influence on us. Well, I was a little stumped; school came easy to me, and though I had many excellent teachers, I didn’t really need encouragement, and I couldn’t think of one particular amazingly influential teacher in high school, college, junior high or whatever.

But then I thought of a teacher who HAD made a big difference to me. The then-new artistic director who had started the adult dance class, who by her positivity and wonderful teaching ability gave me the courage to try dance again. Dance is not something you can study for, or do at home with no one seeing you. It did take courage to get in front of the mirrors and just do it, imperfect as my attempts might be. Her enthusiasm and encouragement transformed me from someone who ‘couldn’t do ballet’, someone who felt clumsy, sluggish, with unshed pregnancy weight, who couldn’t even get her foot on the barre to stretch at first; to someone who loved dance, and who wasn’t afraid to try new things. Even in public. Even, eventually, taking classes with a bunch of slender teen and preteen bunheads, me being practically twice their average weight and three times their age. Even on the stage of a fine arts university, dancing Nutcracker variations. And having a blast! My first ‘adult dance’ teacher truly gave me the gift of dance, of having it back in my life, of saying, “Yes, I can dance.” I’m glad my girls have pursued dance further too, following their own leanings and talents. But even if they didn’t, or when they are no longer at the studio, I still plan to be dancing.

Jeté — Thrown. I plan to keep throwing my heart into my dance, and the rest of me will follow as it can, lame, halt, chubby or what have you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Visible proof that after that Nutcracker stage, it’s harder to faze me now:

Here’s the last part of the dance I performed at the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Sock Camp Crows Feet last month. A short piece to a Tchaikovsky theme — the world première of my original choreographed piece, “Pas de Corbeille”, “Dance of the Crow”. I actually knit while dancing!

Yes, during much of the dance I was doing dance steps while holding my sock-in-progress in first position, but I did actually, for real, knit stitches while doing bourrées and piqués. (And the stitches looked fine, after.) My friend MJ started filming about two-thirds of the way through, right after I had been doing little jumps, changements and entrechats quatres, and then pretended to drop a stitch. Fear not! I have dpn’s in my bun!

(If for some reason, the video doesn’t work, here’s the link. And, by the way, the head in the foreground taking pictures is Stephen of HizKNITS, blog and podcast. At the end, as I ballet run out into the hall, you can see along the far wall Cat Bordhi with the very blond head, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is the not-too-tall person in green moving fast, and I believe also that’s my new friend Sam who is a frequent columnist on Lime & Violet’s Daily Chum, and my new friend Ariel who is knitting me Sock Camp Souvenirs. And many, many of my friends in the audience! Thanks, MJ, for sharing the video!