Friday, August 21, 2009

Knitting the Wilderness

The crazier my life becomes, the more I am pinning my hopes on my vacation. Work has settled down some this week, but not enough to stop me from daydreaming about the trip. On one day last week that was particularly bad, I went to the library on my lunch break and checked out five books on Yellowstone:

Lost In My Own Backyard - Tim Cahill

Scorched Earth: The fires that shaped Yellowstone

Do (not) Feed the Bears: The fitful history of tourists and wildlife in Yellowstone

and two others that I can't remember and am too lazy to go find.

I've started Lost In My Own Backyard and Do (not) Feed the Bears, and both have been really good. DnFtB is not the type of book I normally like, but it manages to be academic without being dry and the subject matter is actually very interesting. It's all about the way NPS policies towards the wildlife of Yellowstone, specifically the bears of Yellowstone, have affected the bears and the history of the park. The message of the park towards visitors regarding the wildlife in general and the bears in particular went over many changes over the course of the park's history and it's really quite fascinating. However, reading this book kind of...I don't know, took a little bit of shine off the trip for me. It was like I was being reminded that the wilderness of Yellowstone exists only on our (that is, human's) sufferance, and we have basically told nature that it can go this far and no further.

Lost in My Own Backyard reversed it. While DnFtB focuses on the wildlife, LIMOB is focused more on the experience of the park and starts out talking about the geological features that make Yellowstone unique, which I had always known about and had never really internalized. Cahill made points that a few thousand Discovery Channel specials failed to impress on me. Statements like There are more gueysers in Yellowstone than in the entire rest of the world put together gave me a perspective that I didn't get from "60% of the world's gueysers are in Yellowstone." Cahill also starts off the book with a vivid picture of the magnitude of the geological event that created Yellowstone, and the fact that the forces that destroyed an entire mountain range to create the park (creating in the process several years of global volcanic winter) are still active under the park today. The SO's favorite line in the book so far is something like, As you stand at the top of Mt. Washburn looking at 37 miles of mountains that are no longer there..." Very, very good book, and I can't wait to keep reading it. The SO is getting ahead of me on it while I am trying to finish DnFtB, and I almost shushed him out of reading me a line that tickled him last night because I didn't want to be spoiled (curiosity got the better of me and I let him tell me).

The SO also read the intro of Scorched Earth to me as I was knitting this weekend. I picked up that book on a whim because it happened to be next to another one I was looking at (proof that having a good title is very important) and I assumed it was about the fires BENEATH Yellowstone, but it is actually about forest fires and fire management in Yellowstone. So I'm looking forward to that one, too. It's kind of thick, though, I don't know if I'll finish it. Time is at a premium. I mostly read in small spurts as I'm getting ready for bed and for a while after I'm actually in bed (I find it very hard to knit in my bedroom, the light is just not favorable and I just can't get comfortable knitting in bed - it's probably just as well).

I'm headed for the finish line on Swan Lake and I am SO CLOSE OMG but it's one of those projects where the rows get longer and longer as you knit. I have 3 rows left on chart I and then I will be on chart J, which is the last chart (I think. I will have to double check to be sure). I hope I can finish it in the next couple of weeks. I have also made some progress on the collar for Eris.

Even though I have a bunch of things in my 'want to knit' queue, I've become a little obsessed with finding some Yellowstone knitting. This is not just knitting I will work on while I'm on vacation, but I really want something that's actually Yellowstone-themed in some way. I've been searching patterns with titles like 'mountain,' 'leaf,' 'bear,' 'forest', 'rockies' - stuff I associate with Yellowstone. I've been looking at yarns as well. I love the idea of using bison yarn's so expensive! And it's not even soft! I don't get it. Still, I have a hard time thinking of using yarns that are silk or bamboo or alpaca or other stuff that is not really American - I have trouble with the idea of a British sheep breed, too. But, if it just says 'wool' I'm totally okay with that. I know, I'm wierd. On top of that, I'm being picky about colorways. I really kind of want to use some Fleece Artist or Handmaiden yarns. Even though they're Canadian, they're on the same continent, same general habitat stuff, so it counts. It's not about country boundaries so much as the feeling it evokes. When I think of England or China the feelings and thoughts evoked have no relation to Yellowstone whatsoever. Although, I would be okay with a wool-silk blend, especially if I go with lace, because I'm careless and can snap a 100% wool laceweight yarn wtihout even thinking about it. The silk gives me a little more durability, so I'll sacrifice my theme for that. Like I said - I'm wierd. But, I've prowled all over Colorsong and can't settle on a colorway. I really like the idea of using Woolie Silk, either the lace weight or the 3-ply. I'm thinking about woodland, mineral, or earth. But, of course I have to pick a pattern as well as a yarn and I've really had no luck. I thought about the Lady of the Forest shawl kit but the colorways aren't really what I want (I'm sure I could get around this if I tried, but since I haven't settled for sure on the pattern, I don't know).

I've been looking at the Mystic Earth stole, which is certainly thematically appropriate, but I'm not sure lace is the way to go. While you can say that lace projects are epic in their own way, they don't really convey the scale or grandeur I'm looking for. Even though lace can be completely grand and of an astounding scale, and yet also conveys the delicacy of an ecosystem like Yellowstone...are you seeing why I can't make up my mind? Augh. So I thought about heavier weight lace projects. I looked at soooooo maaaaaaaaany paaaaaaaaaatterns.

Then I started thinking about how much I love the feel of Hand Maiden Casbah, and I fussed around with that, looking for patterns for it, and I - just couldn't find what I wanted. This one isn't the right size, this one would take enough wool to denude every sheep on the continent.

BUT, I finally found this.

Oh my God. So perfect! Published in the 1860's, right around the time Yellowstone was being explored. I could use Hand Maiden Casbah in two different colors - like 'Earth' and 'Woodland' or 'Mineral' and 'Woodland'! If I wanted to get really crazy I could add a few stripes of some other colors too. I have two skeins of Mineral in my stash so I could start with that, and then get a skein each of Earth and Woodland to go with it. Maybe some Stardust to go around the edge if I can make it work in the budget (if not, I'm pretty sure I have some leftover topaz). Eeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't believe the answer is so simple (and I am so silly).

The only issue is size - how much of what yarns would I need to get the size that I want? But, I'm pretty sure looking at the construction that I could pretty much keep knitting until I ran out of yarn and then stop. Casbah is not a low-ticket yarn, but this is art and memories and somehow I'm okay with it not being cheap. Maybe if we find a yarn shop out there I can buy a special souvenir yarn for the fringe. Maybe what I will do, is knit the first skein of mineral, and then assess how big it is and how much more yarn I will need. And you know what is even more awesome, is that because this is so simple, I can knit it while reading as I anticipate the vacation, and I can knit it the whole time I'm on vacation and still be looking out the windows.

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