Monday, March 29, 2010

Billet Doux

I have really fallen down on the old blogging lately, though, in my own defense, there has been little time to blog.  This past weekend, I presented a workshop in Fort St. John, BC.  The workshop was well-received, but the participants had a complaint about my blog... apparently, I do not blog often enough.  So, even though I am still on the road, I had to sit down and rectify that situation.

March has been a busy month.  Actually, that is something of an understatement.  It would be more accurate to say that March was an insanely action-packed month.  Workshops, medical appointments, children's theatre and more workshops totally consumed the month, leaving me little or no downtime.  I'm now in Vancouver and looking forward to some of that downtime--a lovely week-long visit with Miss Lexi, with Steve, Julia, and my father-in-law joining us later in the week.  Stanley Park, White Rock, Granville Island, plus all of our favorite little haunts await, and the freedom to knit any old thing that strikes my fancy.  R and R at its finest.

I'm hanging out in my daughter's apartment tonight.  Last night, I was in a lovely home on the banks of the Peace River.  Three weeks ago, I visited two equally lovely homes in Arizona.  I have been billeted a bit lately.

The term billeting comes from an old military tradition of sending a letter (a billet, from the French word for, oddly enough, letter) to a community demanding that soldiers be given rooms in homes there.  Nowadays, it's a more generously offered accommodation, given to out-of-towners for any number of reasons. Billeting is pretty common for those of us who travel to teach in the arts and crafts world and, while there are those who find it awkward or uncomfortable, I love it.

I have been billeted several times, in all sorts of different homes.  Some have been spacious and elaborate.  Some have been cozy and homey.  I have had a private bathrooms and I have shared a bathroom with a family of 5.  I have met spinners, and their husbands, and their kids, their friends, and their dogs, cats, bunnies and birds.  I have eaten wonderful food.  I have been plied with coffee, with wine, with chocolate, and with oatmeal.  I have been taken to favorite restaurants and pubs.  I have been toured around towns and cities and shown the sights, many of which are wonderfully yarny.

I have had my several billets in the last few years, and they have all been wonderful in some way or another.   The generosity of those who open their homes to visiting instructors is amazing.  Non-coffee-drinkers get coffee in.  I jokingly tell someone that I am partial to cake, and a cake is baked.   Night-owls get up early in the morning to make sure I get a good breakfast before the workshop.  Red wine flows like water.  (Seriously, I am somewhat concerned that the entire spinning community in North America will one day be washed away by a red wine tsunami.  I'm pretty sure we keep several vineyards in business, just us spinners!)  And everyone who acts as hostess does so willingly, with great joy and enthusiasm.  I love these people!

Don't get me wrong--hotels are nice, too.  But there is something that just warms the cockles of my heart about being invited into someone's home, into their life, even just for a day or two.

The word billet also appears in the French phrase "billet doux", which means love letter.  So tonight I am sending a love letter to all those wonderful who have hosted me in their homes over the past few years, and to those that I hope will do so in the future.  Thank you for your generosity, your kindness, your candidness, and your beds.  You have enhanced each of my travel experiences by sharing your lives with me, and I appreciate it more than I can ever say.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Snapshots From the Road

I'm doing a touch-landing at home today and tomorrow before I'm off again on my next adventure--this one not fibre related, but an adventure none the less.  I'm dashing around like a mad thing, trying to get things ready for the next trip, organizing the household for another bout of Momlessness, and generally trying to keep on top of March.  Not a lot of time to blog, but I'd thought I'd give you a quick glimpse of my trip.

Bisbee and the class were amazing.  Once again, a room full of people as passionate about string as I am.  Awesome, smart, funny, talented people at that.  Simply amazing.  And waaaay too much fun!

So, on to the snapshots...

With my usual convoluted travel arrangements firmly in place, I drove to Edmonton, then flew to Las Vegas.  I booked a hotel room through, which is a trippy experience to begin with, but it turned out to be in the Planet Hollywood Resort.  Which was fabulous in so many ways, including the view from my window...

...and the bathtub!  I very nearly never made it to Bisbee.  I could have happily lived the rest of  my life in that tub!

But I did make it to Bisbee.  Or rather, to Tucson, where I picked up by Joan Ruane, who was my hostess for the weekend.  Joan is a fantastic spinner, and a warm and generous hostess, who even humored my request to stop at Tombstone to get my picture taken at the OK Corral.

That shadow is Joan!

Then we detoured to the wetlands just near Joan's home to see the sandhill cranes who were passing through as they began their migration north.  To Wood Buffalo National Park, just north of us here in McMurray. (I hope they plan their travel routes more efficiently than I tend to!)

A good night's sleep, and off to the workshop...

...which would not be complete without a class dog!

Meet Ladybug, the constant companion of one of the participants.  Ladybug sat quietly and patiently while I gabbled on about the intricacies of twist, and was always waiting with a cheerful wag and a lick when it was time for a break.

Bisbee itself is a charming little community perched on hilltops and steep slopes, all surrounding a now-defunct copper pit mine.  The mine is alarmingly beautiful, since, as one of my students said, it's developed a patina.  We passed it each morning on our way into the studio and every morning, I caught my breath at the colors and light.  Stunning.

There are many wonderful stories about Bisbee, the class, the students, and the Art Auction (from which I came away the proud owner of a shawl woven by Joan!).  There was gourmet chocolate and Bisbee blue turquoise and fabulous food and  lots of laughs.  Hopefully someone learned something useful, too...

Then back up to Tucson with Elaine, who turned out to be another generous and gracious hostess.  I was subjected to this view over breakfast...

...but I think I coped very well.  Just breathtaking--I can't even imagine waking up to that kind of beauty every morning.  Elaine is an amazing weaver and has a studio away from this window, which I think is why she can be so productive.  If I had this to stare at, I would never get anything done!

Once again, many stories came home with me from Tucson.  I met with a group of knitters who knocked my socks off.  Fortunately, they were knitting more!  I got a tour of Tucson, and stopped in at Grandma's Spinning Wheel, where I got to try a Spinolution Mach II.  I also got to go to Tucson Yarn and found some yummy sock indie yarn that is now on the needles.  I visited the Tucson Fiber Arts Guild's rug study group, which was fascinating--especially show and tell.  Then there was the mad dash to the airport, which is a long story all on its own! All in all a wonderful visit.  And back to Vegas...

...where I had managed to Hotwire myself into Caesar's Palace, where I was upgraded to a honeymoon suite.  With so much to do in Vegas, I mostly just wanted to crawl into this gigantic bed and sleep.  But I didn't.  Most of the shows were dark because it was mid-week, but there was plenty of shopping and fine dining.  And a Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom.

I got back to Edmonton, then back home.  And I have been on the run since I got off the plane.  The next two weeks will be a blur, then I'm off to Fort St. John to give my Spinning Super Socks workshop and a Don't Throw That Away seminar.  Looking forward to more adventures.  And more snapshots!