And the Universe Said, “Yes.” – Squam Art Workshops, Spring 2015

Chalkboard1

I am rarely at a loss for words.  I’m an avid writer of blog posts, and an even more able chatterer (unless the context is public speaking…then all bets are off).  Words are my thing.  I usually choose them carefully and aim them true, but here I sit finding it difficult to find the right ones to convey everything I experienced at the Squam Art Workshops last week.  The last time I was this verbally lost over an experience I had taken my oldest son and fellow Thoreauvian, then 17, to Walden Pond. The blog post that followed that trip was called, “Speechless…for a change.”

For months prior to teaching at Squam I had been contemplating what my proper direction in this craft really should be.  Like all big decisions, the answer was right there all along.  You know how this feels.  The answers are located right in the center of your being, it feels almost like they’re sitting at the center of your body, and therefore the old turn of phrase “gut feeling” applies.  We treat these gut feelings like heartburn or hangovers.  We ignore them when we’re very busy doing whatever it is we think we should be, or when they don’t seem convenient.

But at Squam, you’re living in that space where the answers are, and the pressing and influencing expectations of others, or even of yourself, fall away.  You are encouraged to be in the present moment, to be attentive to process, not product, and to shelve your preconceptions and let the retreat unfold for you as it will.  As it is said at Squam, this is where the magic happens.

DreamCatcher
The lacy dreamy dreamcatcher at the Squam Art Workshops. We were encouraged to write our dreams on a feather and pin them to the bottom. I actually pinned the dream of a dear friend on to this, because at Squam, you feel as though all of your own have come true.

Squam feels magical, but I would be remiss if I did not say this:  the magic is made in part by the vision and hard work of Director Elizabeth Duvivier, her assistant Forrest Elliott, and every single person who helps her, including the staff at Rockywold Deephaven Camps on Squam Lake.  While I am a true believer in the manifestation of dreams, I believe equally that none of that manifestation takes place without the hard work behind the dream.  Elizabeth and everyone involved do that hard and heartfelt work, and to them I am so grateful.

Of course, I went to Squam to teach rug hooking at the beginner level.  I owe this to Elizabeth’s generosity in inviting me, on taking a chance on someone and something completely new to Squam, because my friend, poet Sarah Sousa, called my work to her attention last year.  As I was explaining to my own teacher and mentor yesterday, I learned so much from my students that I am still processing it all.  At Squam, students are uncommonly open, adventurous, and filled with energy.  They are also collaborative and incredibly kind.  I’m not sure there is another teaching experience quite like this.   There are those that are as good, but Squam brings together artists and artisans with a unique kind of creativity and camaraderie, and to teach them is really an honor.   I hope I lived up to it.

ClassCollage1
Zodiac, the home to our class, Modern Heirloom, at Squam.
Classroom1
I brought a little wool for my students…

I want to apologize for not getting pics of my first of two classes.  To my students in that first class, you are every bit as dear to me as those in the second!  I was simply very focused on running that first class for the first time and did not break out the camera.

Here are my amazing and beautiful students from the second session.  Every student I had, from both classes, picked up this craft in a heartbeat and immediately started making it her own.  Some had stories to tell of how their fore mothers had practiced rug hooking, and of the hooked pieces that had been handed down.  Since part of our mission is to keep this heritage craft alive and thriving in to the next centuries, it was so rewarding to see the enthusiasm and creativity at work in these wonderful women.

ClassCollage2
We hooked inside…
ClassCollage3
We hooked outside…
ClassCollage4
The variety of interpretations of the pattern was really fun to see.
ModernHeirloom
This was the prototype design, but every student created something very unique to her own aesthetic and style.

Why did I choose a dock and dragonfly for the prototype design?  Well, this is Squam lake, our venue…

Lake2

LakeCollage1

LakeCollage2

Having grown up summering on Little Sebago Lake in Gray, Maine (see a previous post on this here), I really feel at home and in my element in this kind of environment.  It centers me in a way no other space can, and this contributed to the magic I felt at Squam.

Also contributing to the magic?  Great lodging and great food.  I shared our cottage, aptly named “Bungalow,” with Sarah Sousa.  We had a great time catching up, having not seen one another in person in almost two years.

CabinCollage

DiningHall
The food was amazing. Whatever your dietary choices or restrictions are, you are well taken care of.

RDCCollage1 RDCCollage2

And then, of course, there was yarn bombing.  Lots and lots of yarn bombing.

YarnBomb1 YarnBomb2 YarnBomb3 YarnBomb4 YarnBomb5 YarnBomb6 YarnBomb7 YarnBomb8 YarnBomb12 YarnBomb13 YarnBomb16

And the chalkboards…every day at the dining hall…

ChalkboardCollage

The Squam Art Fair and Ravelry Revelry, held on the last evening of the retreat, is a hand made paradise.  The amount of talent and creativity in that one room is humbling.  It is open to the public, and I highly recommend you visit it – and shop! – whenever it is held.  I did not get many pictures of the fair because I was a participant with a table, however, there are many pics out there on the net.

ArtFairCollage1 ArtFairCollage2

I went to Squam not knowing exactly what to expect.  I was a bit nervous about teaching for the first time there.  Would I be good enough?  Would my class be engaging enough?  After all, this was a very accomplished group of students who had already worked with some very well known teachers.  Would I be enough?  What I discovered was two-fold.  On the one hand, I was enough.  I received the sweetest feedback on my class from my students, and I want to reach through the screen and hug every one of you.  On the other hand, I have so much to learn and so many directions in which to grow.  I was enough, but I can be so much more.  This is one of the primary lessons of Squam.  We are enough.  Right here and right now, in this moment, we are enough.  And yet, we are filled with potential at every point in our lives to do more and be more and catch our dearest dreams.

In the midst of these lessons, I gained clarity.  Questions offered up for weeks and months were answered resoundingly in the affirmative, and that’s a gift.   I do not believe my experience is unique.  I think this was happening all around me, in the lives of my fellow “Squammies.”   If we give ourselves the space and the freedom, the answers come.

The little fairy village below was on the wooded path between the dining hall and my classroom.  Literally and figuratively, love and spirit can be found along the paths at Squam.   Hope to see you there next year.  In the meantime, happy living and happy hooking.  – Beth

FairyVillage

Maine Maple Sunday 2015 in Minot, Maine

MMS15-26

Today was Maine Maple Sunday in Maine!  On this day the sugar houses generously open their doors to visitors, often providing pancake breakfasts, ice cream, and an astonishing variety of yummy maple treats.  Normally on Maine Maple Sunday, we visit a variety of nearby sugar houses, but because I was spending half of the day doing the craft fair at the West Minot Grange, I only visited one.  But what a GOOD one!

First, though, about the craft fair…

Old Grange halls are an endangered species.  I moved to Maine fifteen years ago from Pennington, NJ, the formerly rural and agricultural town where my husband grew up.  I well remember my heartbreak when the Pennington Grange was torn down to make way for a modern (and completely excessive) town hall.  It was one of many disappointments that solidified our determination to raise our four sons in an area where agriculture and heritage were held more dear.   I can not say that the old Grange tradition is completely safe in Maine either nowadays, but we do have some beautiful old examples.  One of these is the West Minot Grange.

GrangeCollage1

Here is a little history of this Grange from the Minot town website:  “West Minot Grange #42 was organized in 1874; the petition to form was signed on Calvin Bucknam’s tall silk hat. This Grange also operated a grange Store at one time. Today this Grange is very active and has allowed the Minot Historical Society, which formed in 2001, to use a room in their building for storage.”

This gorgeous old building was the site of today’s craft fair.  I was invited to participate by the uber talented Pat Hutter, who also makes our “Wool Collector” signs as well as wooden signs for Sturbridge Yankee Workshop.  I had a great time and have to give a huge thank you to Pat for organizing a very successful and fun event.

MMS15-20
Pat’s lovely array of signs can be seen in the far right corner. My table is in the left foreground. The rest of the space was filled with wonderful crafters and product representatives as well.
MMS15-3
My table set up the afternoon prior.

Of course, one of the reasons we had so many wonderful visitors to the craft fair was because downstairs on the main level of the Grange, Slattery’s Farm and Maple Supply Company was putting on a fantabulous pancake breakfast.  I have to tell you, I love Slattery’s.  If there is anything at all you need for maple syruping, home canning, gardening, livestock, or just surviving Maine winters, Slattery’s has it.  They also produce many crops all summer long and sell beautiful produce from the store.  Here are some pics of the Grange I took the afternoon before as it was all set up for the breakfast.  I do not have pics of the breakfast because I was upstairs meeting and greeting!

GrangeCollage2

After the craft show was over and I packed up my things, it was time to go over to the nearby West Minot Sugar House, also owned by the Slattery family.  This is a truly wonderful sugar house.  They were also serving meals over there (breakfast AND lunch), along with ice cream with maple syrup.

MMS15-28

MMS15-29
I have to agree.

When you enter the sugar house during a normal year, you are immediately hit with a warm, wonderful steam from the evaporator as it boils down the sap in to maple syrup.  This year, however, everything still looks like this…

Frozen stream beside the West Minot Sugar House.
Frozen stream beside the West Minot Sugar House.

Slattery’s owner explained to visitors that for the sap to really run, you need a good string of 40 degree days.  That has not happened in any part of Maine yet this season.  As a result, a good number of sugar houses were not able to run the evaporators on this particular Maine Maple Sunday.  However, that did not stop them from serving up the golden goodness.

Slattery's owner next to the evaporator.
Slattery’s owner next to the evaporator.

In fact, on Maine Maple Sunday it is customary to drink maple syrup directly out of a cup.  You read that right.  Directly out of a cup.  Hey, I’ve been super clean diet sugar free for a long time now but you know what? I did it.  And I’d do it again.  Cheers!

MMS15-23
These are neither cold medicines nor medical samples. Think maple syrup. 😉

Of course, if you prefer your maple in solid form, there’s this…

MMS15-27

One of the truly charming things Slattery’s provides on Maine Maple Sunday is draft horse drawn wagon rides by Meadow Creek Farm.  I caught them just as they were putting Bill and Ben, the horses, in to the trailer.  They shook and rang their jingle bells while I was photographing them.  I love draft horses.

MMS15-22

As if it isn’t enough to provide food, maple products and education, and horse drawn carriage rides, this event also includes music.

MMS15-25

To view a short video of these guys playing “You Are My Sunshine,” click HERE.

This was a really wonderful event, and as I said, special thanks are in order to Pat Hutter, craft fair coordinator and member of the West Minot Grange, and to the Slattery family who worked so hard to make a lovely event (and kindly sent my husband upstairs with a free coffee for me).  Thanks also to everyone I met today, and especially those who sat down to give hooking a try for the very first time!  I would be remiss if I did not mention a little girl named Alex who sat down and pulled perfect loops on her first try.  And I mean perfect.

This is what community is all about.  That move we made to rural Maine was and continues to be so rewarding.  Please come up and visit some March for Maine Maple Sunday, and experience this day first hand.  Happy hooking! – Beth

MMS15-11
Painting of the West Minot Grange by Hester Gilpatric.