On the 17th of February, one of my last days at Fleecewood, I hit the halfway point on my time here in New Zealand. It all seems a bit unreal that I'm on the downward slope of my visit, and that it will only be three more months before I'm on that plane back home. But in the meantime, here's the rundown of my time here so far, interspersed with fibery eye candy so no one gets bored.
Places I've WWOOFed: 6, with two visits to Betty in Nelson
Miles traveled around New Zealand: about 2,200 so far, all by bus!
Times ferried across the Cook Strait between the North and the South Island: 4
(Diagonally woven cowl, using leftover Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn.)
Animals I've worked with: sheep, both baby and adult (lots and lots and lots of sheep), cows, goats baby and adult, ducks baby and adult, chickens baby and adult, horses, both full-sized and miniature, dogs, cats, alpacas, and children!
(felted cowl, nuno felted over woven remnants of sari fabric. Done at the Teapot Valley felting weekend.)
Most importantly, sheep and fiber breeds I've worked with: Romney, Suffolk, Perendale, Hokanui, Texel, Gotland, English Leicester, Fleecewood Leicester, NZ Halfbred, Karakul, huacaya alpaca, guanaco llama.
(wet-felted scarf inset with diagonal weaving pieces, woven from more leftover Noro Silk Garden sock yarn.)
Big life decisions made: 1. In the last week or so at Fleecewood, I had a rather big crisis of conscience as to whether my intended path after my return home, namely, a graduate program in anthropology with a focus on non-profits, was the right thing for me. After all the work I've been doing in the fiber community both at home and here in New Zealand, did I really want to put that on the back burner in order to pursue an academic background? Every time I thought about an impending move to Montreal, the location of my chosen grad program, my interests lay more in how to find a place in the fiber community there than in how I would start to fit back in to academia.
("Horizon Line", my favorite of my felted pieces from Teapot Valley. Wet-felted with inset diagonal weaving, and yarns on top ranging from wool boucle to op-shop mohair to my own handspun of the llama fiber I worked on last time I was at Betty's. These are the colors I see in New Zealand: deep, cornflower blue, steely slate grey, and burnished gold. And white sheep, of course!)
So one day at Fleecewood, I wandered up to the top paddock, the only place on the farm with cell phone reception, and spent an hour swatting away sandflies and talking with my parents about my life path. My time in New Zealand had given me so many ideas for where I could take a business in the fiber industry, and made me feel that it was not unrealistic that I could accomplish them. But if McGill said yes, then I would feel obliged to go. But even if I could come to a decision at this point, I wouldn't hear back from McGill for another couple weeks at least. So I had to sit on it and wait. Which I am really, really not good at.
(The last piece I felted during the weekend, when my brain was shot and I was tired of thinking of composition and color. I like to call this one "The Artwork on the Wall at the Motel 6 in Hoboken, Felted".)
So I gritted my teeth, and sat on it, and waited. I went to the felting weekend (which was amazing, by the way), and had some amazing conversations about marketing and distributing spinner's fleeces to the U.S market. I went back to Betty's, and spun my natural-dyed wool like a demon, and ate plums straight off the tree, practiced driving on the wrong side of the road, and watched lots of bad tv. One Saturday, I went downtown to check my e-mail and run errands, and there was a letter from McGill in my inbox. Basically, "thanks, but no thanks." Now, when I had, earlier in the year, imagined getting a rejection letter from them, I had planned gales of tears--this was my life plan! How dare they! But now, I looked at it, went "hmm," finished my tea, and went off the market.
(A shawl, pre-blocking and on the blocking board, handspun from some of Betty's alpaca and llama, blended with wool and silk, and knit from a lace pattern I designed a couple months ago.)
The next day, I called home again and spent about an hour and a half putting together business plans so that I can hit the ground running when I come home to Maine. Because, if there's one thing I've learned in my time down here, it's that I can travel all I want, but Maine will always be the place I have to come back to. It's too much in my blood now for me to stay away. So I'm coming back to Portland to stay, and to keep working in the fiber community. I've got my eye on a couple online master's programs, so that's not completely out of my plans, but I am so, so incredibly happy that I am able to pursue the career of my dreams in a place I love.
(Shawl, now named "Poecilasthena" after a native New Zealand moth, post-blocking. This stayed with Betty, as a thank you for taking such good care of me during my time there. She's made me promise to come back, and, as the rest of my time on this trip is booked, I guess I'll just have to start planning another trip down here!)
And now? I'm in Wellington for the weekend to see an Amanda Palmer concert and a Neil Gaiman talk. I'm off in twenty minutes to see Alice in Wonderland. On Sunday I fly back down to Central Otago to start up work at an apple-packing place while boarding at Tally Ho. Life is really, really good.
Oh, and you remember the fiber I worked on last time I was at Betty's? Pablo, the exquisite llama? It's been blended with wool and silk and spun by Beth, an 85-year-old woman who's been spinning for about twice as long as I've been alive. Take a look: