Monday, September 25, 2017

Dyeing to Stitch Fall Retreat 2017

Have you ever chased the sunset? I have.

But first I had to get up before the sunrise. I had to be in the air to see it come up, with mountain peaks showing off their height through the clouds. I had to watch the colors fade to pastel, examine the topography of our great country from cruising altitude.

I say "had" to, but really it's all about the sheer pleasure of "getting" to. Getting to spend a weekend with the Stitching Sisterhood, the Cult of X's, the Cross Stitch Nation. And this time, I was going not as a teacher, but as a regular cross stitcher. Or at least that's what I told myself. I wasn't truly able to be anonymous as I would have liked to, but at least I was going for fun and not with the pressure of teaching.

And the fun started even earlier than I expected. As I was lined up to board from my connection in Chicago, I heard a soft voice just over my shoulder saying, "Beth?". I turned, and there before me was a familiar face from my retreat earlier this year. Yes indeed, I was to share my final flight with not one, but two delightful stitching souls headed to the same place as myself. We also happened to share the Virginia to Chicago flight on the return trip home. I love it when the world gets that small.

After a day of travelling via Southwest Airlines with their bare-bones no-food-in-flight service, I was ravenous enough to order an entire pizza all to myself, which I then continued to snack on the rest of the weekend. Because my eyes were indeed larger than my stomach. But the hard cider they had to offer was really good, and so was the pizza, which made all of the other times I ate it that weekend okay.

The hotel stitching room was packed with beautiful projects and beautiful people. I don't think I'll ever get over the feeling of sisterhood that happens in a place like this.

And then it was the official Day One of the retreat, with a shop full of lovely things to catch my eye. I didn't shop, because I just can't find the time to stitch anything other than my own models, but I enjoyed every minute in that inspiring space nonetheless.

This dear lady was checking her stitching app to make sure she didn't already have the charts at home in her stash that she had chosen to buy that day. I'm sure you all have that same app, don't you?

Even though this was Paulette's Plum Street Samplers retreat, she was kind enough to share a little counter space with me and a few pre-releases.

At dinner, we toasted to new friends and old friends, and stitching, and everything else that is good in life. I can't quite remember what all was in my Manhattan, but the Rosemary garnish added a yummy herbal note that was delicious!

Saturday morning was class time with Paulette, and you should have been there to hear the gasps and oooooohs and aaaaaahs as she revealed goody after goody. I have no idea why I don't have a picture of the main retreat kit or of the lovely gifts that we received from Ann and Pat, or of Miranda Weeks giving a talk during the lunch hour. Because it was all overwhelmingly great.

Maybe I was too busy inspecting my new pretty things, or maybe I was having too much fun making new friends with my table mates, and this made me forget the camera in my bag. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's probably it.

After lunch, I had a few hours all to myself, which is a rare treat. So, I headed to the beach. With nothing to sit on. So I bought a sweatshirt for myself at one of the boardwalk shops and parked myself on it and soaked in the warm sunshine and listened to Led Zeppelin wafting through the air from someone's boombox.

I was freshly hurting from my dear, beloved hive of bees absconding during the smoke and heat of late August. I was sad and felt like I had failed the bees; even knowing that at least 60% of beginning beekeepers lose their hives in their first year. As I sat there, it was all about being still. There were no thoughts or prayers in my head, just a shell-shocked blank. I had had more than enough to keep my mind busy for several weeks. Big changes, frantic attempts to save my bees, start of another school year.

When a not so small shadow started hovering over me, I was prepared to swat away a horsefly, because that's what we get on the West Coast at the beach. Annoying horseflies. But when it landed on my shirt, I saw not a fly, but a sweet Italian honeybee, the same variety that once lived in my hive... I almost cried. This may sound weird, or like grasping for straws, but it felt so overwhelmingly like forgiveness that tears pricked my eyes. I fumbled for my phone and quickly took a picture so that I could capture the moment. I wanted proof that it was real... I know that bees don't communicate across great continents. I realize that I was nothing more than a potential food source (pretty flowers on my shirt!). But I finally was able to let go of the guilt for losing my first hive. Thank you, little Virginia bee.

The rest of the weekend was about spending time together. Dinner, a birthday breakfast for a good friend, a meaningful church service shared with two kindreds. My buckets were all filled up by the time I boarded my final flight from Chicago to Portland.

And that's when I chased the sunset. All the way from Chicago to Portland, the sun's last glow lingered on the horizon. I have never before been so glued to the window of an airplane. I kept thinking it would end, that the night would win. But it wasn't until the very final hour leading up to descent that the darkness overtook my airplane.

It was a magical way to end a magical weekend.

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