Sunday night. It is cool and cloudy in Washington and it's not all that different from weather elsewhere on the east coast. This morning, waking up in Easton/Greenwich, I thought the air had a tinge of fall in it. While I love summer, and all the wonder it brings, I felt some small bit of relief in the air, that, if fall, the summer had come and gone that the uncertainty on the path to come, had passed, as all uncertainty does, and that I could finally sit back and relax, and enjoy. Yes, cool fall air fell from the clouds this morning, the last day of the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat 2009.
All of the inaugural attendees of the 2008 retreat (well, those that I talked to) agreed that this year was much different than last. Despite all of us saying we'd return in 2009 to enjoy our company, 1 out of 3 were unable to make it, sadly. Sickness holds a few, the economy others - and, who knows what else. We all understand - priorities shift, but friends, you were thought of often, and missed.
To give you the set up, Wednesday afternoon I was so looking forward to hearing North. Simultaneously, due to crazy work and transition stress (yes, friends, I'm moving to points south in 3 weeks - more another time), I'd been grinding my teeth down to little stumps (not literally, though it felt that way). Hypochondria and a life of dental trauma had me rethinking a flight to Albany, but Thursday morning, I awoke, took the risk and headed on (despite mind-numbing tooth pain which is still going away, today, Sunday).
I arrived early afternoon, and once there, Kyle, Chuck, and I headed to lunch and then on to Easton to check in. I was blessed to be rooming with Tom this year - a truly kind gentleman who I was glad to sleep in the same room with, especially given some of the caddy b*tches at this event (the measure of a good roommate is that he leaves the light on so that when you stumble in at 1am, you're not actually stumbling). By 6pm, most folks had arrived and we began the chatter and connections which lasted all weekend.
Giving you all a blow-by-blow is tedious (and I can only be so charming with the tedious), so instead, here are the highlights.
*There was porch knitting. Oh yes, there was porch knitting. In fact, after teaching on both Friday and Saturday, I spent all afternoon on the porch knitting, mostly working on my Russian Prime, and chatting with Alasdair- a charming guy from Boston, and a fiend with double knitting. It was lovely to be able to sit on the porch and knit --- I saw goslings and geese, the redwing blackbirds, goldfinches (my new favorite songbird), and then this morning, a few orioles. Nature at its best.
*The hike to the top of the mountain. It is so tough to call that hill in front of the porch a mountain, when you're looking up at it, but when you clim to the summit, yes, you know it's a mountain. Trails abound in the backwoods there, and the heart trail had just been cleared by folks at Easton that day. Alasdair and I decided to go on a quick hike around the pond, but tempted by the sign, "Summit ---> .6 mi", we couldn't resist. Trees blocked our way early on, but we were strong and pressed on. As the path went on, there were more and more and more fallen trees (the products of an ice storm this winter), but we pressed on. Alasdair did really well - me, not so much. In fact, exhausted, I may have exclaimed inappropriately a few times, but pressed on. We did indeed reach the summit.
Now, a mountain summit is way less exciting than you'd think. I mean, we were expecting a spectactular view - but, it was really just trees. Happily, there was sunlight though, and a beautiful breeze - and I was invigorated to have made the climb. Coming down was much easier (it usually is) - there was no trail (though we did follow trail markers), and fewer fallen trees. Worth the effort in the end though.
*An afternoon in the hammock. Back from our hike, Jeff, Chuck, John and I all climbed into the hammock and had a good chat. It was wonderful small-group time and will be taken away as one of the best moments of the weekend.
*Knitting, and not knitting. Even though it was clearly a mens knitting weekend, I actually don't recall doing that much knitting, which is odd. I worked on the Russian Prime on Friday, and did some sock knitting on Thursday and Saturday - but mostly, it was just looking at nature and chatting.
*The Slumber Party - where there was no slumbering. We watched 'Steel Magnolias', did face masks and cuticle cream, and ate junk food. Good times. Wonderful more than anything because we all mostly knew the words. When I dream of men gathering, I dream of us watching the classics and seeing our love of Olympia Dukakis in each other. I'm voting for 'Mommie Dearest' for next year, though there are other great ones out there.
During the weekend, it was tough to feel relaxed and tough to feel like I was "there" and enjoying the company. Still, back in DC now (and looking at the piles of boxes here, and thinking about the piles of boxes yet to pack), I'm feeling that same satisfied feeling from 2008 bubbling up. It's tough to say from where it comes --- I think spending time together with other guys in an authentic way is part of it --- and that mixed with the beautiful surroundings and everything else, I think the strange cocktail brews up a great feeling of satisfaction and connection. I of course am missing my partners-in-crime there and wishing that we could be seeing each other more often (all the while acknowledging that us together in that place is one way of being - I'm not sure it could be replicated!).
Onward friends - just didn't want to let a knitting retreat go-by undocumented. Hope everyone's well.