Hello, old friend.
I went, as we do, to New York yesterday - we joke that it's to walk amongst our people, and that's true of course, and the fairground is always beautiful and the rainy days even are gold in the memory, like a fairy tale in the hands of a master story teller. Yesterday was gold as well, and cool enough though not quite sweater weather and the tree I look at every year was lovely, though a bit past peak. Which only means there are leaves on the ground as well, which has it's own magic too.
I've been in the habit of going to the festival in hordes and groups and it became a weird frantic time sometimes, where there was always a sense of having missed everything and seen nothing, but this year people had conflict and lives and babies and we did not rent a house and decend in waves carrying large pots of stew and cases of wine and history and relationships to laugh and talk and gather. I don't even know what plans happened for the group I usually travel with, as this last year has been a weird one and I'm out of touch.
The first time I went to Rhinebeck it was totally strange to me, so unknown I had no expectations at all, and that was the last time I knew no one and just had my own experience. Then there were blogs and meetings and discovered friendship and then it became a thing of it's own, secondary to the festival and it felt as vital and important as breathing. A still point on the calendar, fixed. And it's really impossible that anything can be sustained forever, especially anything involving more than one person, never mind a dozen.
I dunno - I'm in a weird place in my life right now, as I said, and a lot of relationships have been lost or drifted and some of that is the kind of imagined strain you think when you think too much about the inside of other people's heads and some of it is real loss and change. It is not alwasy easy to tell the difference. Or to know what might be changed for the better (or worse) once you get past the miserable bit where life fits wrongly.
So no weekend, no wine, no far away house guests, just a vague thought of going up for one day like it's just a weekend thing to do and a pretty drive. And then a good friend who wanted to show our subculture to her new husband emailed, so we three drove up - hungover, because some parts of Rhinebeck are tradition after all - with no plan at all.
And so for the first time in years I had no agenda, no one to see or meet, no shopping list, no timetable and we wandered around and looked at stuff, and I finally saw the sheepdog demonstration I always miss, and the baby goats and kangaroos at the petting zoo, and took enough time to spend more than a few minutes with the sheep, and ate brisket and a lamb hot dog and felt no real urge to buy anything but just to look, and hug the vendors I know and the occasional person I love who passed and my friend's husband was a tremendously good sport and enjoyed the spectacle in a slightly overwhelmed way, and I ran into a perfectly detestable person I don't know at all but can somehow never escape at festivals. TWICE.
That I didn't enjoy, but since I'm not in or near the locus of anything anymore (and perhaps wiser about allowing strangers to encroach on me so that they can meet my better-known knitting friends) am of no further use to her and escaped - which was wonderful beyond words (no, I'm not talking about you, anyone I know). I missed many people I would have liked to see of course, but I'll see them again.
I did have a strange sense of disorientation - I couldn't decide if it was the unfamiliar manner of the unfolding of the day or a larger existential problem, but watching the clever border collie creep s-l-o-w-l-y after the trio of sheep who were clearly participating in the game pretty much fixed that.
At the very end of the day my friend and I wandered into the fleece sale and I found a wonderful grey flecked Cormo cross - which I brought home with me despite needing another fleece not at all. My friend found one too and the shared delight of that - the wonder of the fleece tables and the sheepy scents and the glorious earthy realness of greasy wool and explaining about lanolin to her husband - framed out the whole day very nicely indeed.
I am delighted with it, perhaps the more so for it being the only thing I was tempted by and not lost in a flurry of acquisition, and also with the farewell cheese fries and the drive home and the loaded jacket potatoes watched in front of Sleepy Hollow and the pancakes I made this morning before putting my friends on the train back to the city.
So it turns out Rhinebeck is magic in any way you experience it and there's something about the step back that let me BE there more fully than I have in several years. And I've learned something about ways to renegage with a moment rather than let experience be defined by other people. Which makes this one as golden as the rest, even though it's only yesterday's memory so far.
I washed a few locks of the fleece before bed and they're gorgeously puffed on the windowsill. I think I might do this whole fleece a handful of locks at a time, and use Amy's new Custom-fit software to make a different kind of Rhinebeck sweater.