Sunday was a big day. Not only was it 'spring forward,' it also happened to be the first day of snow that we've seen this year. (We were told that it snowed in early January, but because we were out of the country and didn't witness it first hand, yesterday was our first snow of 2017.) The forecast called for warmer temps in the afternoon, so while it flurried I had to go outside and see it, feel it, hear it.
I lived in Florida for most of my life, from a wee seven years old until a wise 31. The first place I called home was South Florida, and until I left for college I was in flip flops year round. Gainesville, my second residence and home of the University of Florida, had greater temperature variations. I was shocked when, freshman year, I couldn't wear a tank top on my January birthday. And Jacksonville, just south of the Georgia border, and where I most recently resided, well, I actually had a sweater collection for the month of February. But by March, oh sweet March, no matter where I was in Florida, I was enjoying some glorious temperatures.
I distinctly remember my first winter in North Carolina five years ago. By the time February rolled around, I was o-v-e-r the cold weather. There were days I would just stay inside, trying, however unsuccessfully, to get warm. I was miserably frigid. My thoughts repeatedly projected to March- spring, warm temperatures, more light, bright clothing. And then March 1st came and it snowed. I was flabbergasted, my hopes dashed. How could it snow...in... in spring?
Dylan couldn't help but laugh. He's a North Carolina native, and apart from a short stint in Southern California, has lived every season of his thirty-some-odd-years in this state. March, he gently told my deflated soul, was not 'spring' in the sense that I was thinking. April, he assured, would be better, and by May we'd be laughing!
These days, I'm getting wiser to the ways of winter, but I still consider March to be spring. This year I saw daffodils in February, and our ornamental pear tree is already in full bloom. Clearly, I'm not the only one who feels it's spring! The fact that it snowed this weekend? That's just the weather keeping me in check, reminding me not to pack my jackets away and encouraging me to get cozy inside at least for another couple of days.
Getting cozy indoors has gotten easier with each passing winter. (Especially once we replaced our temperamental heating unit last year.) I have learned about warm layers and materials like down slippers and wool fleece boots, which have quickly replaced my year round flip flops. There's a particularly cherished layer (pictured above) that my Nanny knit several years ago for my dad that has come into my possession. It's roomy, nice and long, and oh so warm. Plus, I am pretty sure that she knit some extra love into each stitch which translates to extra coziness. What better article of clothing to don when I myself am sitting down to tend to my yarn projects?
Nanny was always knitting (when she wasn't baking!) All of her children and grandchildren were the proud recipients of amazing sweaters over the years. So intricate, so unique. Pieces that were worn for years, and then passed down. Living in Florida there are few days, if any, for a coat of this warmth. But here, in the land of spring snow, there are plenty.
This is the only piece of Nanny's knitwear that I have. If I could go a little 'Harry Potter' on you right now, this sweater is like my Invisibility Cloak, inherited from the generation before me. Although I can't disappear from sight and roam the halls of Hogwarts unnoticed when I zip up my Nanny-knit jacket (how cool would that be!), when I put this sweater jacket on, I am transported in time and space. The warmth of the jacket is like being able to squeeze another long embrace from Nanny. The stitches themselves knit me closer to Nanny's spirit, her passion, and her fiber finesse. Now that I have taken up knitting as a personal hobby, this sweater jacket has become an inspiration to wear while I knit and purl, cast on and off. (If only my needles were like wands, then I could really work some magic!)
So far, my knitting projects have been scarves - rectangles, essentially. For a scarf, you basically have to cast on the number of stitches you want for width and then knit for length. Despite their relative simpleness, scarves take me a while to complete. I still fumble with my tension, and can't quit find ease in the way I hold the needles and working yarn. I have to stop every couple of stitches to make sure I am doing everything correctly, and check past rows looking for any glaring errors. I have ripped projects down to the beginning many more times than I have begun new projects. I am still as green as they come, and in my newbieness, I have so much admiration and appreciation for Nanny's creations. I cannot even imagine how long it would take for me to knit something as complex as this jacket. From its multiple stitch types, to changing colors in a pattern, to assembling different pieces together - it all seems foreign, and a little (a lottle) scary. I could probably stay in the scarf zone indefinitely, get really good and fast at my rectangles, but this heirloom that I have from Nanny kindles a certain curiosity in my knitter's soul. It begs more from me, and so I have begun to knit outside the box.
Maybe there is a little magic in this sweater jacket. Through the fibers that she so expertly wove, I channel her creativity and expertise. As it envelops me, I feel Nanny's presence, encouraging me to explore different projects, sending me hints here and there, and giving me strength when I make a mistake and have to start over. It doesn't make me invisible, it helps me to see beyond my limitations. While I am far from Nanny's level of talent with knitting as yet, I know that with patience and persistence any project is possible, especially when I am wrapped up in this labor of love.
While standing out in the snowfall over the weekend wrapped in the warmth of my Nanny-knit jacket, I caught several snowflakes in my hand. I can't remember the last time I looked closely at a snowflake. (Have I ever looked closely at a snowflake?) I was amazed at what I was able to see with my naked eye. I guess I thought that the brilliant patterns we so regularly associate with snowflakes only revealed themselves under the microscope. But no! Each snowflake that landed on me was visibly unique, ornate, beautiful. The nostalgic mood I was in, brought on by wearing the sweater jacket, had me likening snowflakes to handmade pieces of art. No two handmade pieces are identical, no matter how similar the pattern and the materials. The actual craftsperson's special touch on each piece differentiates it from all others. Crafting a homemade piece is like creating a spring snowflake.
The snow is all melted now, and I am not sure if we will have another round before spring makes its official launch. (Which I am totally okay with.) Although I will be transitioning from knitting with warmer wools to cooler cottons as the temperature warms to astrological spring, I feel like I will be holding a piece of that spring snow with me while I wear my Nanny-knit sweater and stitch beyond the rectangles.