Happy Birthday Ms. Pearl-McPhee!

I like having heroes - individuals who inspire me as I fumble through life. I've listed my knitting heroes in the side bar so I thought every so often I would write a post featuring one of them and why they are on my list.

Since its her birthday this weekend, I thought I'd start with Stephanie Pearl McPhee.

My son once asked me what the equivalent of the Yarn Harlot would be in "the real world" (his term). I told him "Oprah without the major appliance giveaways or Tom Cruise jumping on the couch" - although, just imagine it - it would make a great picture with the sock!

Her blog draws bajillions of comments a week - even generating comments on posts when she only states she won't be writing a bonafide post!

She's a productive and accomplished knitter. I've seen her designs on Knitty. She's in every knit bloggers' list of favourites. Her pre-released books sell on line before she's finished writing them. She's funny, insightful, frank and yet apparently approachable. She's raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity. If you've heard her speak, and by all appearances most knitters across North America have, her intelligence as well as her wit is extreme. All this, however, did not make her one of my knitting heroes. She became a member of that group on March 13, 2008 when I saw a photograph of her on her blog.

In one picture in that post, in the dead of the snowiest Canadian winter in 30 years, she's standing alone in the woods. Her husband who had driven her to this locale and who snapped the shot must return to the city, four hours away. She must get herself to a cottage an hour's hike distant through snow to her thighs along an unexpectedly unplowed road the car cannot maneuver. Darkness is imminent and having already struggled to and from the cottage once, she is already tired. If she doesn't make it the second trip she may not...

a) survive (if you've spent time in the Canadian Woodland in winter you know this is not a joke!)

b) facilitate the intense solitary writing she needs to meet a looming publisher's deadline.

She writes that she will transport her "essentials" (laptop, yarn and wine) wrapped in garbage bags to the cottage by towing the flying saucer snow rider they've managed to find on their first trip on foot into the cottage. She is leaving the majority of her supplies behind for retrieval the next day. The light is failing, but as the famous poem about the snowy woods by Robert Frost says "...(she nonetheless has) promises to keep and miles to go before (she) sleeps".

In the photograph her expression is across between uncertainty, professional resolve and nausea. It should be - there is a lot at stake for her. (see a) and b) above).

She is very alone, in a strange and inhospitable, snow smothered wild place with a heck of a hike ahead of her and once her husband drives away, no one to whom she can turn for help. ('Sounds a lot like life doesn't it?)

To get the writing job done in the time available she must nonetheless stick to the plan. (Even if the plan didn't include an impassable road and a snow saucer!) So despite the prospect of the challenges she doesn't leave in the safe, warm car. She decides no matter what she will take care of her family and her responsibilities by getting the book across the finish line and to do that she will get herself to the cottage to work undisturbed. I think that decision alone makes her pretty heroic in a Canadian Wilderness sort of way.

But a knitting hero? She's a knitting hero to me because she faces the challenge with yarn and needles at the ready! Okay there is also wine but this is about knitting and I'm calling her a hero not superhuman! The trek, the darkness, the isolation and the work will be helped by having the knitting at the ready! Otherwise why not leave it with the rest of the stuff until the next day?

Because with the knitting on board, the total load is actually lighter! (I don't suggest knitting materials can defy physics - I'm saying mentally lighter - the whole "perception is 9/10ths of reality" thing.) With knitting to do at the end of the trail the trek should seem shorter. Once the destination has been reached knitting can sooth, ground and calm.

So the picture from that post which made her one of my knitting heroes shows her walking away from the camera, with only the essentials in tow - a little woman in the big woods, who, with the help of her knitting is heading off to get the job done.

Do you have knitting heroes? Who are they?

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