Sunday, May 03, 2009

Wool and Waves

The surfers are here. When they come for the championships--in this case, O'Neill Cold Water Challenge, the median age drops significantly. They add to the landscape not only on the streets with their young, lean enthusiasm but also on the waves. It is great fun to watch them. And they have a great effect on locals and amateur surfers from nearby who climb into their suits and take their boards on to the shores away from the competition sites.

Their arrival gives a whole new dimension both to the land and the sea. I like adding more facets to my vision. Yesterday after a workshop on identifying bumble bees (more about that later), I was waiting for my husband to pick me up. While I waited, I enjoyed the waves on Dunnet beach--short, white ripples following closely one after each other with the regularity of reps in corduroy. A clutch of young people huddled around their car in the nearby parking lot pulling on the requisite wet suit--one surfer told me that the water had been positively balmy--he only needed a 3mm layer of neoprene. I wished them well as they headed to the waves. I do believe they look much much like seals and, with fins on their surf boards, I understand how they can be mistaken--even by other seals--for one of them.

Unlike the first time the surfers arrived, due to the influence of some local folks who opened a little surf shop and cafe down by the harbour, there was more official recognition this time, including an exhibit in the local museum on the art history of British surfing. I must confess my midwestern parochialism limited my knowledge of surfing to Beach Boys and "woodies"--those station wagons of days gone by that still had wood on their sides.

The Brits, of course, including some Scots, were way ahead. Captain Cook's men, it seems, "discovered" surfing in 1769 when they met the Polynesians. In addition to outriggers coming out to meet the ships, one man arrived having paddled out on his surf board. This led to some of the seamen trying it without much success but setting the precedent for a fondness and respect for surfing.

I had the opportunity to interview Peter Robinson, the creator of the collection currently on exhibit at Caithness Horizons, who has spent the last 6 years looking for a permanent home for his collection of artwork from posters and periodicals as well as surf boards themselves. His website is With a little luck and more hard work, he may have a permanent home for it in Devon, one of the more traditional sites for British surfing.

That's the waves, but this is lambing time in Caithness. Even though we do not have sheep here, we know folks who do and so a common greeting is, "How's the lambing going?" So in this season of lambs and waves, I have been working through my fleece. If you are country person or a woolie, then it is as best as my husband could say, the wool of a cross bred hogg. It is coarser by far than her elegant cousin, merino, and has a definite kink to it from what I presume is the blue faced leicester, the purported daddy of this ovine lassie who gave me her coat.

I threw myself into this wool project when I got the latest rejection letter--or in this case, email. I'll be back to writing soon, but I needed to be away from it for awhile and the wool took over. I took notes, I wrote out designs on backs of napkins, I collected bits and bobs from my wool stash to use as inclusions, and I slogged through a lot of soap and hot water. I had a great time. I'll share the results soon (I have yet to get my digital camera working), but wanted to fill the empty spot where my blog should be.

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At 6:55 PM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

I am sad about the rejection. But I love to think about you playing like a little kid in soap and water and wool.

At 9:14 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, it has been great fun even when it was hard work. I wish you were here. We'd have great fun. I'll see what things I can cook up for when you are here. I know knitting was not relaxing to you but I'll bet we can find something that will make you laugh or go hmm.


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