Saturday, April 8, 2017
In The Company Of Extraordinary Women
For the third time, I'm back at home from the annual Knitting Pipeline Retreat in Georgia. Each one has been wonderful, but maybe because it WAS the third time, this retreat was truly special. It was different than that first year when I arrived not knowing a soul except for one person that I only "knew" through Ravelry messages. That first day was tinged with anxiety when I walked in alone. So many new faces.
This year I was late getting there because we celebrated Baby Girl's 3rd birthday that afternoon. But when I walked into the big gathering room last Sunday, it felt like I was coming home. In an instant, I was enveloped in hugs and shouted greetings and love. These are people I know now. Someone slipped a tiny gift into my hand. A "just because" gift. Another brought me "Mimi socks"—a treat from one Mimi to another. How good it made me feel to hear, "We're glad you finally got here!"
I've written before about the wide range of interests that these knitters have outside of the yarn world. And I'm always amazed that they gather from every corner of the country to spend a few days together in the middle-of-nowhere Georgia. One even comes from London each year to be there among this group of creative women.
But this year in particular, I felt that I was in the company of extraordinary women. Women who know so much about goodness and kindness and caring. They had much to teach me about generosity and being gracious. As I knitted, I took note of how they listened to each other and how they encouraged one another. At each mealtime—in defiance of the law of human nature—knitters looked for a seat at a different table, wanting to sit with different people. Wanting to make sure everyone was included in the conversation.
I have come home finding myself challenged to be a better me. To be more aware of those around me, to be kinder, to be more generous, to see who might need a hug or a whispered encouragement. To let someone gently know, "I see you. I know you are there." To be quicker to do good.
Possibly because this conference center is in a remote location where phone service is spotty, WIFI barely works and there is no television, friendships have grown deep here. I had a few minutes of conversation with the retreat organizer. She said there are two kinds of retreats—those that are organized around classes and learning new skills and those that are designed to let knitters be together, away from everyday activities. She chose to let her retreats to be the latter, to be occasions for building relationships.
And yet there is still plenty to be learned as you sit next to a knitter who knows a thing or two that you haven't tried yet. Or, you'll find someone sitting on the porch who has already encountered the problem you are having at the moment. The collective knowledge of the craft and the skills possessed by these women is enormous. But the magic of this retreat is in the relationships that have been created.
We now know the names of grandchildren. We know who left a sick cat at home. We know who takes care of elderly parents. We know the knitters traveling to Australia and Iceland and India this year and we look forward to seeing pictures on Instagram later. We know who will have a new baby in the family by this time next year. We know whose son will graduate this spring and whose son is getting married soon. These knitting friends may live several states away but each one is as close as a text message.
Yes. Of course, it's about the yarn and the knitting. That's what got us here. But, oh, it is so, so much more now. Thank you, Paula, for making this happen. And thank you, Missy, for sending me a message on Ravelry that first year, "This isn't far from you. You should come."
Now, I cannot end this post without mentioning this year's weather. It will be part of the retreat lore forever. We spent nearly an hour sheltering in a basement hallway on Monday while the tornado sirens were going off outside. It was just another place to knit and visit. And two days later, the second weather front passed through on the day the retreat ended. Several knitters ended up spending the night at the airport (the lucky ones got hotel rooms) when hundreds of flights were cancelled. Those driving home had some white knuckle moments as they carefully maneuvered through Atlanta highways in torrential rain and high winds as they headed to other states to the north, south and west.
Some of us left a little early hoping to get out of harm's way. It was hard to miss a minute of retreat visiting, but we were glad to be off the road when the worst hit. It was a relief when we learned every knitter finally made it safely to their next destination, whether that was home or another knitting retreat in different state.
Until next year, ladies! I'm already looking forward to it.