The Great Indoors

Hello, it’s Sarah Graves, again, this time coming to you from The Great Indoors, which is what February is turning into in Eastport, Maine. It is if you want to keep your bones unbroken and your ligaments untorn anyway; every walking surface outside is ice-covered. That’s because first it rained, and then it froze, and then it rained again,  and…

You get the idea. I like to call it the winter-on-a-rock-halfway-out-into-the-North-Atlantic effect, if you’ll forgive me a little poetic license. So besides writing, I’ve been reading, knitting, and cleaning, which brings me to the first of my topics today: you know those people who say old houses are hard to keep clean? Well, I’m here to say those people are absolutely, heartbreakingly  correct. Just one example: in a very old house, if you don’t damp-wipe the corners every few days — I know, who’d be so slatternly as to neglect that, right? — the dust sinks into the varnish and attaches itself permanently. That’s right, it can’t be wiped up. (Cue weird, scary theremin music.)


Also in an old house in winter, the task is to keep fresh air out, on

much more fun than house cleaning!

account of the many dollars one must burn — actually, it might be cheaper just to burn dollar bills — to heat the fresh air up again. So… you see where I’m going with this (holds nose). Not only that, but the ice outside has sand on it, and we track the sand inside, and… Oh, never mind, I’ll just wait a few weeks more and then borrow a firehouse from the fire department, connect it to a hydrant, and hose the whole place out thoroughly in spring.

Next: reading. And may I just say right here that John Jeremiah Sullivan’ s Pulphead is in my opinion terrrific? Essays about fascinating things, such as for instance ancient Native American cave paintings and burial sites, a different take on Michael Jackson, roots music, and the coming war on us by the animals, to name only a few. Maybe all of you knew about this guy already, but I didn’t, and what a treat it’s been finding out.

And finally: knitting. Is anyone making nets by hand in Maine, anymore? Not just the handles, but the actual mesh? I know people are still doing those big woolen mitts that get smaller and more felted each time they dry out on the radiator, until they end up the proper size and as strong as iron, and they will still keep your hands warm even when they do get wet. Pattern mittens are ever-popular too, the double stranded kind (for the different colors) with pattern names like fox & geese and flying geese & partridge feet.

I’m not doing anything so clever, but I have knitted a 3′ x 3′ square this winter, all in garter stitch (calming and restorative!) for a lap robe. I’m starting now on the edging, and hope to finish by spring. Or, if the sheet ice outside stays treacherous and I don’t find anything as compelling as Pulphead right away, maybe even sooner…

And meanwhile, just in case I’ve given you any ideas, I’ve got dibs on that firehose.




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4 Responses to The Great Indoors

  1. Lea Wait says:

    Cheer up, Sarah! And I have some other knitting books, not so difficult as the Fox and Geese one … (I have that one, too, by the way.) Be glad to send some north. By the way, for those from Away reading this, we in Maine may have the only Congresswoman (Chellie Pingree) who, as a single parent living on an island, organized the women there who were knitters (many) to design their sweaters patterns so they looked “Maine-ish”, got a local photographer to take pictures of the island folk wearing them, with stories of who they were, and gave birth to North Island Designs. Great patterns! Great pictures! Published by Yankee Books. The books, and sweater kits to match, now help support the island. Chellie? She’s done pretty well herself. Married herself a millionaire recently ….. And it all started with those knitting needles on a cold winter’s night, so I’ve heard ….

  2. MCWriTers says:

    I am not going to be inspired by you and Lea to take up knitting. In high school, as a romantic gesture (?) I knit my boyfriend a sweater. I got turned around and half the front was the knit side, the other half purl…or some such. Then, emboldened, I embarked on a pair of purple socks. He got one sock for Christmas and the other for graduation.

    I just stay at my desk, trying to write and trying not to sneak off to Facebook to play Scrabble or Words with Friends. And I cook. When the weather (mild so far) lets me drive to the grocery store, I go nuts. Last night it was a stuffed pork roast. The night before, over-fried chicken and noddles with sauteed asparagus, red peppers, and mushrooms. And I understand why people with limited incomes don’t eat their fruits and veggies…one bosc pear for a salad cost $1.15, and an orange was $1.10. Cheese worms are definitely cheaper, and they must contain beta carotene, right? Because they’re orange?

    Never mind cleaning old houses. Around the baseboards, the clinging corpses of spiders and flies make little pools of white that have to be scrubbed away by hand. And the dust almost makes me wish the sun never shone, as it all gets illuminated.

    Maybe we’re just around to notice these things?


  3. Ah, winter in Maine. Is it just because I’m from away that it sounds so magical? I read MARJORIE FROM MONHEGAN as a child (we used to spend summers on Monhegan) and always longed to stay through the year.

  4. Lea Wait says:

    Jenny, Monhegan IS magical …..

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