Monday, January 28, 2013

Women's Wilderness Weekend

This weekend my friend Maryann and I went to Rhode Island for the winter version of Women's Wilderness Weekend.  The event is held three times per year.  I had attended once before in October of 2011 and loved it.  In the intervening time I have had a conflict each time it was held.  It was great to finally participate again.

The event is held at the W. Alton Jones Campus of The University of Rhode Island. It's situated on 2,300 acres of forest, lakes and fields.  The accommodations are in heated cabins with bunk beds and hot showers.  Each cabin sleeps about 24 persons but usually only the bottom bunks are used.  There is a large center for meetings with a dining room, sitting areas, fireplace and classrooms.  Meals, served buffet style are healthy and delicious.

Here I am standing in front of the meeting center, posing with the moose.

There were lots of organized activities including ecology hikes, dream workshops, tai chi, massages, yoga, tarot card reading. A knitting workshop was listed but ended up cancelled.  I chose to spend that scheduled time knitting by the fire which blazed all weekend.

It was very cold, never going above freezing but the cabins were cozy and the main building very comfortable, even hot with the fire going. I haven't experienced real winter in five years.  I'm pleased to report that my clothing and gear which had not been used for years was more than adequate to the occasion.

I participated in two hikes on the property.  We looked for animal prints, checked out the lake and the bubbling spring.  In the lake was a large beaver lodge.

Shortly after the hike leader told us beavers rarely come out during the winter, not actually hibernating, but slowing their heart rates down we came across this:

Since it had snowed over night, a beaver had clearly come out of the lodge to have a bit of breakfast.  The chips were fresh and on top of the snow.  This tree will soon be dead if the beavers continue snacking.

Bubbling Spring Pond was mostly frozen although we were able to spot some bubbles off to one side.  Everything was just slightly snow covered which made for beautiful scenery.

Animal tracking was really interesting.  We saw signs of foxes, coyotes, squirrels and mice.  Here is an example of fox prints on a snow covered log:

Saturday evening I had a tarot card reading.  It's not something that I have a lot of faith in but this was really interesting and the reader answered some questions and validated some thinking I've been having.

I can't say enough about this group of women, the weekend program and the setting.  The price is very reasonable and there is so much fun to be had.  The next weekend is May 3rd through 5th.  I can't wait to go back.  I'm planning to encourage friends to join me.  Hope to see you there too.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Skipping Sunny FL

As our time in sunny FL was coming to a close last April, DH and I decided we were not going to spend a fifth winter as snow birds.  The weather in Crystal River is pleasant and the company, at The Islands and at Nature Coast UU, is good.  We enjoyed being outdoors, biking and walking.  We liked the townhouse we rented as it is larger and better equipped than our place in NJ.  The washer and dryer in the unit were particularly appreciated.  I will never like walking my laundry two buildings over even though there is rarely a wait for a machine and the laundry room is kept spotless by our super, Romeo.

What we missed in Florida was culture, particularly our easy access to Manhattan.  Since coming north, we've visited numerous museums, seen countless independent films, enjoyed first class chamber music.  We also missed our families.  Being in NJ all year allows us to have the company of our NY/NJ children and grandchildren.  For the first time in many years we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house.  It was wonderful.  It's also a treat to meet Jackie in Manhattan for a meal and a visit from time to time.

So far the winter has been extremely mild.  I heard on the radio the other day that December and January have averaged 5 degrees above normal.  We're expecting a cold snap in the next few days and the temperature is forecast to stay below freezing for an extended time. We'll have to see how we fare. Inside we are warmer than we ever were in Florida.  Our apartment is kept at a steady 72 to 74 degrees.  At night I have to open the window to bring the temperature down to one suitable for sleeping.  In Florida the unit was difficult to heat with uninsulated windows.  DH was almost always cold until April.  If we turned the heat up to the comfort range, the electric bill took our breath away.

I'm really appreciating my knitting friends as well.  There are scheduled knit group meetings three times a week at various venues and ad hoc get together opportunities at Lisa's yarn shop, All about Ewe.  I missed her grand opening last February and I've been busy making up for lost time.  Her shop has a comfortable seating area, a welcoming atmosphere and absolutely lovely yarn. 

I'm currently working on two knitting projects.  One is a cable sweater for DH.  It's a challenging pattern and I've suffered a few set backs but I'm soldiering on.  I've finished the front and am most of the way through the sleeves.  It would be nice to finish it before the winter is over.  My other project is very long term, a shawl I started November 29, 2011.  It's the kind of project that requires intense concentration, precludes conversation and is knit in fingering weight yarn.  I enjoy it when I'm working on it, but don't often find the solitary time.  In the meantime, I've completed lots of small projects: fingerless mitts, cowls, sweaters for the OR grands, hats (one for Molly and one for me), a washcloth for Orion and four baby bears (three pictured below, fourth given to charity).  Photos of the other finished items are available on my ravelry page.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

It's Been a Long Time

When last we heard from the intrepid travelers, they were heading home from sunny FL.

It was an uneventful trip until we arrived in Columbia, MD, for a long anticipated visit with our friends, John and Kathy.  We were enjoying a lovely dinner and the chance to catch up with each other when my phone rang.  It was Chuck calling to tell me he had just learned that Josh had been found dead in his apartment in Colorado.  It was a shock.  If we had to be away from home when learning such awful news, we couldn't have been in a better place than with John and Kathy.  We have been friends for more than 25 years and are familiar with each others children and their histories.  It was so helpful to be with supportive, understanding people as we started to process the information.

It's been difficult for me to blog since that time.  There were memorial service details to work out, an autopsy report to digest and lots of thoughts and feelings to process.  Fortunately our children and my DIL, Sara, swung into action and did the hard work of planning a lovely service that was attended by more than 200 people. We're progressing through a year without him, marking how we miss him at various holidays and his birthday.  He and I had been somewhat estranged and I didn't hear from him often.  I do find myself thinking about him now and wishing he were still here, out there in the west, far away but with the possibility of contact.

Shelter on the AT in Vermont

Aside from lots of knitting, the one accomplishment I'm very proud of is my backpacking adventure on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont.  There is a 21 mile section between Bennington, VT and Arlington/Wardsboro Road that has no road crossings.  It must be hiked as a backpack.  I've been thinking and scheming about it for years now.  Since I'm now approaching 70, I figured it's now or never.  I knew I could never do it with my old backpacking gear so I did some research and purchased new, ultralight equipment.  I did a trial run overnight in NJ and when that was a success I watched the weather report for a four day stretch of good weather in Vermont.  I drove up on my own, left the car at the trailhead near Bennington and set off into the woods.  I was out for four days and three nights.  There were times that I felt physically challenged but I soldiered on.  I never felt alone.  There were many southbound hikers to meet during the day and there were plenty of people at the various shelters each night.  At the end of the hike my sister picked me up at the northern trailhead and we spent the afternoon, evening and next morning in Manchester, VT.  I hope to make more trips like this in the spring.

I'm hoping to blog regularly again.  I have lots of knitting projects to show you and lots of things going on in my life.  Let's see how it goes.