Where’s a musk ox when you need it
Tuesday October 24th 2006, 6:37 pm
Filed under: Knit

If you’ve read the story of my Strawberry Pie shawl on my website, you remember that I tried to doorbell-ditch a completely homemade strawberry pie on a friend’s doorstep when I was 18. So. Last week, while I was in the hospital, the doorbell at home rang, and my 18-year-old son opened up to find that FedEx had just doorbell-ditched a surprise package. From Scott. It was a copy of a favorite book of his to help make the time pass faster for me (many blessings on you, Scott, thank you.)

When someone goes to that much effort to get a book to you, you read it. Not that anyone had to twist my arm; I love a good autobiography. I love to knit, too, but knitting without music playing just isn’t quite the same… Note to my doctors, if any of them happens to read this–yes, I’m deaf as a post. I also have perfect pitch and was trained as a musician once upon a time before my ears got to this point, and when I’m home, all that background hospital noise doesn’t exist. It’s just me, my needles, and the stereo, and let’s crank it up, folks. (How many households are there where the kids get to come home and groan, “Mom, your music’s too loud, turn it *down*.” Lol!) So. After I got the book, I put down the knitting and lost myself for a day in “Winterdance,” a memoir by Gary Paulsen about his running in the Iditarod sled-dog race in Alaska.

We used to live in New Hampshire. I used to race walk every morning, four or five miles’ worth, before our small children woke up for the day. Let the hubby deal with them waking up. Time to exercise, time to myself to get out and enjoy the outdoors, time to not have anyone to have to keep an eye on but me. Yeah, and a few cars, especially when the road was only partly cleared of snow and nothing else was. Over our last 17 days there before we moved to northern California, we had 70″ of snow. (My brain’s going off on a tangent about the moving van driver who arrived in our five-degree March weather in a yellow short-sleeve t-shirt, came inside long enough to call the company and tell them he wasn’t doing anything but sitting in his nice warm truck with the motor running for however long it took, thank you very much, you guys go hire someone else to load the *&# thing: it’s COLD! …Yeah, dude. Ya think?)

I remember one particular morning when I bundled up in my 6’8″ husband’s down jacket as well as my own (I’m 5’5″) and braved a particularly bad cold front. Cota Road in Merrimack curved into basically a long circle, but halfway around I realized how nuts this all was. I went home, turned on the radio, and found out that the wind chill was running at minus 40. Yowsers.

So here is this Iditarod guy talking about how -20F is the perfect, nice warm temperature for the dogs going full bore. Minus 20 may be a whole lot of things, but I gotta tell you, cozy warm it ain’t, not in my book. I definitely needed a mug of hot cocoa while I was reading–but you just can’t get, say, Scharffenberger cocoa at Stanford Hospital. Although, someone mentioned there was a Starbucks in the cafeteria. A little hard to get there when you’re wired to the wall for a four-day EEG.

As those dogs slogged on across Alaska, I kept thinking, this guy needs two things: a GPS unit in case something goes really wrong, and qiviut everything: socks, sweaters, gloves, hat, you name it. Nothing warmer. Or softer, for that matter. At sixty bucks an ounce, I wondered how much the yarn for that getup would have set him back–and whether the dogs would have gone nuts at the smell of it on him.

Which got me thinking about the densely-shaggy musk oxen it comes from. They are survivors. Even with icicles hanging from their eyebrows, their fur can handle any wind chill factor. When danger threatens any of them, they gather the herd in a tight circle, wagon-train style, their little ones on the inside and the adults’ backs to each other, with faces looking any wolf right in the eye. Staring it down. You just try. Git!

I have lupus. Which is the Latin word for wolf.

And with my knitting, I am keeping thoughts of my friends in a tight circle around me, and with their own kindnesses large and small, they keep me centered.

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It’s not exactly the same, but the other thing that you and I make me think of is geese, flying north. The way they call out to each other to keep each other going, and the way they take point in turns, so that no one gets too tired.


Comment by Kristine 10.25.06 @ 9:15 pm

And always seeing clearly ahead and below as we move forward through the open blue skies. I like that flying-geese image, Kristine; thank you. Although, you notice, you moved back north again and I stayed here where it’s warmer.

The retired neighbor across the street took note of our belongings as our movers were at work, 19 years ago, then when they left, sauntered across the street, and he said, “I noticed you have a snow shovel. What do you think you’re going to do with THAT?”

Rent it out for a hundred bucks an hour if it ever does snow, how about? After all, who else would have one?

It’s still waiting. But its day will come (one of these generations.)

Comment by AlisonH 10.26.06 @ 12:28 pm

A beautiful story, Alison.

I am hoping for snow this year on our usually rainy west coast (but not -20C).

Comment by Mary Anne 10.26.06 @ 1:16 pm

What a lovely gift, as you are going in for a prolonged hospital stay. So thoughtful… and there’s a message there. Whenever I think about the Iditarod, I think *Perserverance*. You are definitely a survivor, too, Alison, circled about by good friends who love you.

Comment by Bonnie 10.28.06 @ 3:03 pm

I’m there.

Comment by Lene Andersen 10.29.06 @ 8:01 pm

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