Welcome to our Wednesday My Place post! I’ve been thinking a lot about knitting and time of late: Knitting takes time, makes it, and reflects it, and I’ve noticed that knitters have recently been using their projects in a range of really interesting ways to mark time’s passing. Some of these projects seem to be a response to what I’ve seen described as a purgatorial lack of temporal differentiation throughout the long days of this pandemic, while others seem to emerge from a much more joyful, interrogatory attempt to document a distinctive experience of seasonality or locale. Mary O’Shea’s My Place contribution sits squarely in the latter category: her Na Séasúir circular scarf or cowl is a beautifully creative exploration of the seasonal changes she experiences in her particular place – in rural Maine. I’m a big fan of Georgic – Virgil, Thomson, and Haydn after Thomson – and in the same way that these poets and composers interrogated the seasonal alterations of rural, working landscapes through words and music, so Mary’s contemporary design does so through the creative medium of yarn and her own stitches. There are so many things to love about Na Séasúir – for example, the shifting shades and rhythmic motifs that are a hallmark of Mary’s design work more generally. But I think that what I enjoy most about this design, is Mary’s careful documentation of a place in which there are not four, but eight discernible seasonal changes. Like Mary, I am very aware of those distinctive in-between-y seasonal moments that define my place (though mine in western Scotland would be a little different from hers in eastern Maine) – and I’m sure that, wherever in the world you are, you’ll be aware of another set of annual markers, sitting in between Spring and Summer, or Autumn and Winter, which for you define the turning of each year.
I’m sure you’ll love this design – and Mary’s thoughtful writing about her place – as much as I and the rest of the KDD team do. And perhaps Na Séasúir might inspire you to think about the different ways in which you might document time’s passing, and the turning of the year, in your place, through your own creative projects.
My family and I have made our home in a quiet, hilly part of downeast Maine—just far enough away from the coast to stay peaceful, but close enough that we sometimes enjoy some morning fog in the summer, and find it easy to go and explore. Many of my knitting designs have been inspired by the landscape around me—farms and gardens, dirt roads and paths, clear swimming ponds, streams and rivers, and the nearby coast with its small, quiet harbors and open ocean vistas constantly changing as the tides cycle.
The morphing colors of this place around me, both wild and human-influenced, have been a constant bass note accompanying all the other seasonal aspects of life—the beginning of the school year, holidays and visitors, garden dates for planting and harvest, and so much more. We talk about more than the usual four seasons in this state, and each brings up a palette in my mind’s eye. This is what I have tried to translate into this piece—a circle around the seasons using colors to try to evoke a sense of each notable part of the year. The zig-zagging pattern represents the many twists and turns in the year, our lives, the roads and trails we travel and the water upon which we paddle and sail.
Na Séasúir (Na Say Zur) means “the seasons” in Irish. Our family includes branches in Ireland on both sides. My grandparents were all born and grew up in County Cork, and my husband’s family is originally from Cavan and Donegal. This design reflects the seasons here on Tullymongan Farm in Hancock County, Maine, but with a nod to our heritage overseas, using yarn produced in Ireland.
The repeating pattern using Bruce and Birkin (a dark charcoal and a pale, silver grey) is more than just a way to separate one season from the next—we are all dark-haired, feathered or furred here—people, chickens and dogs—and as we age we slowly morph from dark to light. We have lived here long enough to go from young parents to grandparents. Our black Australorp chickens are important to our farm economy—bug-eaters, egg-layers and fertilizer providers—this place would not be the same without them! And our several black labs have grown from shiny black puppies to aged and grey friends, and in their time left us—in body, but never in spirit.
Now, some people say that Maine has just two seasons—winter and the 4th of July— but in my neighborhood there are quite a few more than the typical four (I came up with eight!), and they are closely linked to this place.
For this project, we start in January, with that truly longest of seasons, winter (even though it only gets one chart!). We then journey through several phases of spring and summer (including mud, bug and tourist seasons) and on to fall/early winter with its own special sub-season (deer season).
snow shadows blue and grey
wave-tossed turquoise waters laced with frothy surf
bare branches, icy roads
Early Spring (Mud Season)
frozen ground, warming Sun
blue skies, racing clouds seen through budding branches
soupy paths underfoot
golden yellow coltsfoot
crisp and clear, Sun’s reflected in the tulips
flowing trails and rivers
Bug Season (June)
buzzing, crawling, biting
garden colors dimmed in a world seen through mesh
grass growing, seeds sprouting
peonies pink and rose
rainfall fresh and bright, sparkling garden and house
lacing green everywhere
High Summer (August-aka “tourist season”)
family, friends and tourists
we’re all together, eating blueberry pie
swimming, biking, hiking
Autumn (Fall Harvest)
bright skies, quiet waters
garden overwhelms, and kitchen overflows
forests reveal magic
Late Fall (“Deer Season”)
fallen leaves, racked guns
woods are quiet, don’t forget, wear your orange
colors ebb, skies lower
Thank you, Mary, for this wonderfully evocative and thoughtful knitterly journey around your place. And thanks, too, to Mary’s daugher, Margaret (and her dog, Webster) for modelling.