Camino: By The Numbers

78:   Age of the oldest pilgrim I’ve met (from France, walking with his daughter – they do two weeks of the Camino each year.  Have also met a 73 year-old South Korean woman travelling alone, a 74 year-old Italian man with his son, and an American who will turn 70 on Sunday and is doing with Camino with four friends in honor of the occasion)

15:   Age of the youngest pilgrim I’ve met (from Australia, travelling with her mother.  Trying to figure out where to go next with her studies – she’s unschooled so she gets to choose.  She’s thinking of a perfumerie course.)

480: Total miles of the Camino Frances (the route I’m on)

12:   Number of other routes to Santiago listed in my guidebook (from Portugal, Spain, France, and beyond)

441: Number of miles I’ve walked so far.

34:   Number of days I’ve spent walking.

20:   Highest number of miles I’ve walked in one day.

3:   Lowest number of miles I’ve walked in one day (due to an allergic reaction for which I had to walk to the next town to see a doctor.  By the time my appointment was over, it was too late and too hot to walk on…my body’s way of saying “take a rest day.”)

37:  Highest temperature in which I’ve walked (in Celsius – that’s 98 degrees Fahrenheit)

0:   Number of blisters so far

4:   Number of “hot spots” I’ve had on my feet.  Thankfully, I covered them with moleskin and none have developed into blisters.

3:   Number of other ailments I’ve had.  (A tight Achilles/bone spur on Day 3 – it hurt to touch my left foot to the ground let alone walk; an allergic reaction resulting in itchy bumps all over my upper body; a tight piriformis that found me sitting in the middle of the path to Leonnearly every half hour in an attempt to stretch it into submission.)

22:   Weight (in pounds) of my pack when they weighed it upon my arrival at JFK.  According to the rule I read, I should weigh 220 pounds if I am carrying that much….I weigh almost half that.  Oops.

9:  Number of things I left at hostels along the way to make my pack lighter.(I have not weighed my bag since…will see what it is when I get to the airport!)

6:  Number of continents from which other pilgrims have come.

19: Number of countries from which I’ve met pilgrims.

13: Number of US States from which I’ve met pilgrims.

32: Number of American pilgrims I’ve met.

0:   Number of regrets I have about taking this journey:)

Off Track

I was plugging along…writing three pages when I woke up, meditating, then taking off for a walk.  Then I started pushing off my walk til the afternoon.  Then, I got sick.  I had barely enough energy to walk downstairs, let alone walk four or five or six miles each day.  I was on a role for so long, and then suddenly off track.

So I’m feeling better.  But don’t want to overdo it too soon and get sick again.  So any prayers and well wishes for getting back into my routine would be appreciated.  And if you’re in the Hyde Park, NY area and want to go for a walk, let me know!

When The Time Is Right…

About this time last year, my then-two-year-old niece was the recipient of what I consider one of my best crocheted pieces yet: an adorable Seashells and Posies dress.  I started and then re-started this dress at least three times before I finally got it right, but it was worth it.  It’s the cutest thing ever, and Ava loves it.  I am thrilled every time my sister chooses to dress my niece in it.

Ava wore the dress for her little sister, Isabella’s, christening last month.  My sister considered having her wear it for Easter this year.  When my mother asked what Isabella would wear, my sister said, “I was kind of thinking I want them to wear the same dresses this year.”  Was this Liz’s way of asking if I’d make the same dress for my other niece?  I remembered back, not so fondly, to the days Liz would call me “Granny” as I sat and crocheted.  I never thought I’d see the day when she’d actually dress her kids in clothes I made for them, let alone imply that she might want me to make more.  But God has a funny way of messing with us.  My sister actually likes the things I make her kids.  And tells me so.  Which stills my heart each time I hear it.

So as I saw it, the challenge was on: either I make Isabella a dress just like Ava’s or they wear store-bought dresses for Easter.  “Do you think you can finish it by Easter?” Liz asked.  Um, I really have no idea.  It took me a month to make the last one.  And three false starts….

Then I started thinking about a couple other projects in my head that I’d yet to start.  A baby blanket and a wedding blanket- both of which need to be done in the next couple months.  Minor glitch: I’m going to be out of the country for the majority of the next couple months.  So all these things need to be made….really soon.

So what happens?  I get sick.  Not just a few days.  I’m down for a whole week.  It’s the kind of cold where I don’t have energy to do much of anything but sit on the couch.  When I get sick, it’s God’s way of saying, “Okay – time for you to slow down.  Here.  Try this.”

His timing (as usual) couldn’t have been more perfect.  Well, there’s never a good time to get sick.  But some times are better than others.  I happened to be sent this lovely little illness not while on the road, not while in another country, but while in a room upstairs in my parent’s house.  The yarn for all three projects had just come in (minus one skein that my youngest sister Meg hunted down for me).  And though I had no energy to leave the house for a week, I DID have enough energy to crochet.

I am thrilled to report that I left the house today – for the first time in a week.  I’m finally feeling better.  Isabella’s dress?  Just needs buttons sewed on the back and it will be finished.  Baby blanket? Done.  Wedding blanket?  Well, here’s hoping….

Isabella's Dress

The Wonders of Technology

“Guess what?” my father said, sounding like a little kid with a secret he couldn’t wait to tell me.

“What?” I asked, still half-asleep even though it was nearly 9AM.

“Larry set it up so you can log in to my computer!  From anywhere!  Isn’t that great?”

This, indeed, was news worth waking up for.  I’m unofficially my father’s computer consultant.  Every year, before his store opens for the season, I go to Mom and Dad’s house and sit at the computer with my father looking over my shoulder as he dictates to me the changes he wants made on the price lists for each store. When I set up the initial documents years ago, it took hours and my patience was gone by the end of the process.  I left in a huff.

In subsequent years, another store owner gave him his take-out menu and Dad wanted me to create one just like it.  Easier said than done, but I did it, again leaving in a huff after hours spent learning the mysteries of combining text and images in a Microsoft Word document.  Why did the sundae flavors keep hiding behind the picture of the sundae?  Why were the columns of Blizzard flavors not lining up correctly?

The bigger mystery to me was why I was the only one that could help my father with these tasks.  I didn’t live at home.  In fact, he had two other children living in his house that knew just as much about this stuff as I did – if not more.  But they didn’t have the patience to sit with Dad. Dad doesn’t have that kind of patience himself.  More likely, my siblings were just smart enough to not get themselves involved.

So I made trips home from Boston each year – a week or two before the stores opened – to edit price lists and menus with Dad.  Five years ago, when I moved back to my hometown, the trip was only 15 minutes as opposed to three hours.  My skills and patience increased and I created Cake Order Forms, Phone Lists, and Ice Cream Count documents.  I rarely left upset with him.

But here I am in North Carolina.  I won’t be home before the stores open.  But have no fear!  No, the sister that lives in the apartment over their garage is not taking my place (you’re welcome, Meg!).  I’m coming to Dad – virtually.

Larry, Dad’s accountant, got the technology to log into my father’s computer to look at his Quickbooks.  Dad’s brain got to thinking and he asked Larry if there was a way I could do the same thing.

So this morning, I spent a record one hour on the phone with Dad, editing price lists and menus for the 2012 season.  My father told me the changes and watched on his computer as I opened the documents, did the changes, and even printed everything right to his computer.  He was impressed.  So was I.

Not 15 minutes after I hung up with Dad, my mother called.  “You did price lists with Dad this morning I heard.  How are you doing?” she asked.

“Fine,” I said.  “We finished in record time.  Did he tell you how well it went?”

“Yes, but I wanted to see how you were feeling,” said my mother, having witnessed my frustration of earlier years.

“I think it’s actually getting better each year,” I said.

“I still don’t understand why you have to do it,” she said.

“I don’t know either.  But I’m fine with it now.  And with this remote control thing, I don’t feel so bad that I’m thinking of moving to North Carolina after my travels.”

“You don’t have to feel bad,” she said.  I know.  But I’m the only one of the five of us kids that’s not living within two hours of Mom and Dad. I am blessed with a family that kind of likes being with each other.  Technology isn’t the same as being there.  But it sure helps.

Learning New Things

Is it just me, or is everyone as stimulated as I am by making things?  Whether it’s cooking or crafts, I’m just “in my element” when I’m making something.  And if it’s something I’ve never made before, well that’s a whole other level of fun, mystery, and sometimes frustration.

In the last three days I’ve made at least three new things.  I’m not telling you this to brag.  If anything, I hope it will inspire you to try something new yourself.  Maybe you’ll want to try one of the things I’ve done, or maybe you have something else you’ve always wanted to try – well, there’s no time like the present!

On Monday, I mastered the purl stitch in knitting.  This is the third time in twenty years I’ve tried to learn to knit.  This time it may have stuck, thanks to:

  • Eve Hildebrant – Master knitter and my co-host at the Folk School who has taught plenty of people to knit – even people like me who’ve tried twice before without success….
  • Sarah Bennett and Dorothy Wilkins:  Work study students at the Folk School who learned to knit while there and progressed quite rapidly in just six weeks!
  • A Knitting instructor from England who was at JCCFS while I was.  Her name escapes me at the moment, but she sat with me one evening and helped me perfect my technique.

All of those folks believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself (which, in my eyes, makes them all excellent teachers).  I saw Eve on Tuesday night and showed off my work.  She smiled a knowing grin – she’s believed in my knitting abilities since day one.  Maybe I’m pushing a little too much, but I found a sweater pattern yesterday that I want to work on for my next project….

Stockinette Stitch

On Tuesday, I made sugared pecans.  They’re one of those things that, when I first sampled them at my friend Tara’s house, I thought would be hard to make, but Tara assured me it was easy – and she was right.

Last night, I started work on making a new journal.  I took a miniature books class at the Folk School.  Then, my friend Sarah expanded my horizons and helped me make my first book with pockets.  After a couple of those, I now have the confidence to try a book I’ve never made before.

Making a mini-book at the John C. Campbell Folk School

A book with pockets on one side and....

a notebook on the other.

Picking the papers

Making the Covers

Ready for gluing and sewing

So if you’re feeling kind of “blah” lately, I recommend trying to make something new – it’s a high quite unlike any other:)

 

A Birthday Present – Times Three

I am always a little late to the first night of classes.  I hate being late for anything.  But I have Host duties to attend to, so I always arrive about a half hour late.  My co-host Cory says the worst thing about this is that you miss the introductions.

My spinning teacher over the weekend caught me up herself – she went around the room and basically introduced everyone to me as a way to remind herself of who we all were.  Tonight, when I bounced into my woodturning class at 7:15 and took my seat, the instructor asked me to tell everyone a little about myself, “but what I really want to know is why you signed up for a woodturning class.”

“Because I’ve never done it – well, except for eighth grade shop class,” I said.  The guy next to me laughed and pointed at our instructor, Steve.  “You, too?” I asked.  He nodded his head.  Later I found out Steve did some woodturning in middle school, too.  Then years later he took a class at the John C. Campbell Folk School, and now he’s here teaching.

I finished my introduction by explaining my host position with my standard spiel: I’m here for four months working for the school in exchange for room, board, and a class every week.  That last part elicits gasps many times – people spend years dreaming of coming here and taking one class, and here I am in the midst of taking fourteen.  But my three classmates – all men – weren’t as emotionally reactive to my statement, which was fine by me.

Steve went on and told us how the week would go, then he led us over to a side room and doled out canvas bags with our tools in them.  We picked our work stations, opened our cabinets, and placed the tools in their holders.  I had no idea what any of them were.  Thankfully, this is a beginners class, so I’m not expected to know anything.

But I wanted to know this: Were my classmates all true beginners, too?  As Steve came to each person’s station to be sure we had all the other devices we needed, one of my classmates said, “I have a hostess question for you, if that’s okay.”

“Sure!” I said.  I can’t tell you what joy I derive from being a resource to people – someone they can go to  for the answer to a question.  It was one of the things I loved about my park ranger job, too.

“I’m staying locally with my wife and parents,” he explained.  “We rented a cabin.  I see there are evening activities here – can they come to those?”

“Definitely,” I told him.  “They can come to the demonstrations in the afternoons, too.  They can come anytime and take a look at what you’re doing, or walk around to the other studios and see what else is going on.”

My woodturning classmate gave me a look that said he wasn’t so sure he wanted the family around that much.  So I changed the subject and got into what I really wanted to know.  “So have you ever done this before?” I asked him.

“Nope.  This is my first time,” he said.  I was relieved.  Sometimes experienced folks take beginner classes – because it was the only week they could come, or because they like the instructor, or they just want some studio time.  This is fine because sometimes these folks are another resource for you, but can also be intimidating.

Turns out none of my classmates have ever done this before.  But all three have something very unusual in common: they’re all here thanks to birthday gifts.  One guy got a trip here as a gift from his wife.  One guy gave it as a birthday gift to himself.  How fabulous.  I’m a big fan of giving yourself a birthday gift.

“How’d you hear about this place?” I ask him.  It’s my default conversation-starter here at the Folk School.  (On a plane, I ask “Are you coming or going?”  When I was a park ranger, it was “Where are you visiting from?”)

“I picked up a catalog in a doctor’s office about twenty years ago,” he explained.  “I’ve gotten the catalogs on and off since then.  Next month’s my birthday so I decided it was finally time to come.”

So here they are: three men celebrating their birthdays.  With me:)

 

On Reading

Last week a woman was telling me about a book I might enjoy and then said, “But you probably don’t have any time to read while working here.”

“Actually, I read every night before bed,” I said.  I explained that on my first full day in town one of the first things I did was to go to the library to get myself a card.  She was duly impressed.

Then yesterday, a friend e-mailed me this quote:  A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.  A man who never reads lives only one.

Both of these instances made me think of my mother and how appreciative I am for the fact that, as children, we were read to every night before bed.  Dad read to us too, but I mostly remember Mom sitting in the hallway opposite the built-in bookshelf from where we kids had each just picked the book we wanted read that night.  We sat surrounding her and she read – with expression – each of our chosen stories.

If you’re reading this now, be grateful for the people in your life that helped you learn to read.  Perhaps even send them a note of thanks:)

 

Blacksmithing – in July?!

The story goes that, when asked if there were any problems with the classes here at the Folk School, one student remarked that the air conditioning in the blacksmith shop wasn’t working.  For those of you that don’t know, there usually isn’t air conditioning in a blacksmith shop.  So why anyone would come to the Folk School in July to take a class that has you standing in front of a fire all day (and half the night), I don’t know.  But like every other time I’ve been here the blacksmith instructors (in this case Lucas House and his assistant Matt McLean) had no problem filling their class with twelve eager students.

Student in the Blacksmith class - a father who was in the same class as his 18 year old son:)

At least two times a week, either just before or sometime after dinner, an instructor will do a demo for any students at the Folk School.  On Thursday night, I went to a well attended blacksmith demonstration.

Students gathering for the blacksmith demonstration - the instructor is tending the fire; bucket with red stripe is water. He doesn't like using tongs so he holds the end he's not working on with his hand. When the piece gets a little too hot, he sticks it in water to cool it down. Every time he did this, we saw steam rising out of that bucket...

On a flip chart, Lucas drew a picture of what he was going to make for us – a door handle.   That part I understood.  But then he said something about making a tenon, and I was lost.  I’d heard of such a thing, but had no idea what it was.  Surprisingly, I didn’t ask.  Lucky for me, once he finished the tenon he told us as much and I finally put it all together:)

Lucas making a tenon.

Lucas putting a little twist in the handle. I was amazed at how easily hot metal can be moved, but then someone commented on the size of this guy'sarms - I'm thinking that may have something to do with it.

It’s probably about 85 degrees outside at this point, so you can imagine how hot it was inside the un-airconditioned blacksmith shop.  But take a look at that vest the instructor is wearing.  See all those pockets?  They’re filled with ice packs.  He says he can work for quite a few hours in that vest without breaking a sweat.  Necessity is the mother of invention:)

Unfortunately, I had host duties to attend to so didn’t get to see the finished product.  But here are a couple of things students in that class made last week.

This student made a fireplace grate. I saw him working on it in the shop on Tuesday night. He and I both agreed it was a good thing he had two more days left. Wish I had taken a picture then to show you, but here it is, all finished.

Yes, a blacksmith course is on my list.  Hopefully, by the time I take it, the weather will be a bit cooler (or I’ll have bought a vest to fill with ice packs).


Polymer Clay Basketry

On Thursday, I went into the lower level of Keith House (the main building on campus) to check out Karen Woods’  Polymer Clay Basketry class.

This was the goal of the class: to make a paper basket with polymer clay strips woven in.

But before they even got to the baskets, they learned a little about polymer clay, and then wanted to learn a lot more about it. So the teacher said, "Sure!" and they made all sorts of fun things - beads, pendants, bookmarks.

 

They eventually did get to making baskets - here's one in progress.

 

The class worked around a large table - here you can see some of them working on their projects.

 

And a few more finished baskets:)


This weekend I’m taking “Herbs for Health and Happiness.”  Will post some pictures soon:)