January Thaw

Banner Elk, NC

"The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer.  Minute by minute they lengthen out.  It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change.  It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour."
                                        -  Vita Sackville-West

While the longer, brighter evenings of the past couple of weeks seem to foreshadow easier days, January is still an unpredictable and generally gloomy month, especially in the South.  Whether frigid or mild temperatures prevail, the atmosphere tends to be bleak, as (unlike in the North) there is rarely a blanket of snow to reflect light and brighten the landscape.    This year, in the hopes of staving off the inevitable winter blues that are a product of these dismal days, I’ve even bought a “Happy Light” with a broad spectrum bulb that is supposed to elevate seasonal sadness.    
At this time of year, too, along with coping with the environment, now that the Christmas frenzy is over, there is my annual taking stock of diet, exercise, finances, home repairs, and general life maintenance.  And after the gluttony and general profligacy of December, this time is often one for rude awakenings—and for formulating lots of resolutions.  It is also my birthday month, so the beginning of the year marks not only the evolution into springtime but also provides me with another concrete marker of time’s passing.    

The blog of Mrs. Thomasina Tittlemouse with its beautiful nature pictures  accompanied by reflections on Epiphany inspired me to take some photographs in Banner Elk, North Carolina, where I visited family last weekend.  

Despite the onset of a new year, I am not making any firm resolutions.  My hope is to continue what I have been doing—getting up, getting dressed, and sallying forth to deal with the day’s challenges—without experiencing too many seesawing emotions or a sense of being overwhelmed.  As a person who thrives on planning and scheming—envisioning future career paths, trips to take, classes to enroll in, skills to master, home projects to tackle, this past year (one where my energies have been stretched too tenuously) has caused me to reach an impasse.  

So my aims this year are humble ones--to continue teaching, attacking the monster of personal and professional paperwork, spending some leisure time walking and enjoying pleasing food and entertainment (generally books and movies) and, of course, Downton Abbey (the new season just began airing here in the US). 

And, of course, there is knitting.  This task isn’t something I need to resolve to do, however, as my affinity for knitting runs deeper than any attraction for a mere leisure pastime. Writer Temma Erenfeld in “Open Gently” in Psychology Today best describes my relationship with knitting when she recounts how Betsan Corkhill, a British physiotherapist, labels this  activity a “constructive addiction." So, at best, I can plan to not seek a cure for my yarn-related "illness" and simply continue to knit in stolen moments that make the daily grind easier to bear. 

And, while not technically involving goal-setting or resolutions, each trip to the yarn shop or time spent perusing knitting books and magazines typically culminates in my learning a new technique or completing a new type of garment.  A modest target I have right now is finishing the Tracery Vest, so that I can cast on something new.   I hope to use some recently purchased Liberty Wool Light yarn to make the Edmonia T-Shirt found in New American Knits. Next, it's on to the daunting-but-doable All-Colors Sweater.

My Tracery Vest from The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits is a work in progress.  

Maybe when spring arrives, I'll be in a better place to make firm resolutions and I'll even revisit pursuing Master Knitter certification (abandoned sometime during the onset of the previous school year), but for now I'll knit on through the winter as the days slowly lengthen into spring, keeping in mind the following inspiring sentiment expressed by poet Anne Bradstreet:  

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."

This yarn was a birthday present to myself.  I love Liberty Wool.


  1. Your quotations and pictures are very atmospheric and hopeful. I like them very much! Happy Birthday belatedly - do hope you got my little parcel - late for Christmas but should have been early for your birthday! There's something important about sometimes not aspiring to enormous new resolutions and goals - sometimes what we have on our plates now is all we can or should be tackling. There's a freedom in that. A good note to turn the heel of winter on, if you get my gist! Much love and a hug E x


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