*Last Saturday I drove 90 minutes north-eastward to Champlain, VA, near Tappahannock, to visit my friend Bess.
I came to know Bess via blogging. A couple years ago, our mutual knit-blogging friend and TNK founder Jane recommended that I read Bess' blog, and so I did, and became quickly enchanted by her fanciful writing style. A short while later, after exchanging blog comments, Bess & I discovered that we'd both attended the same high school, (although not at the same time). A friendship was born. Since then, we've met in person on many occasions, and usually at some fiber-related event, activity or location. Bess gave me my first drop spindle lesson (and ultimately created a monster). Bess is the adoptive parent of my first digital camera, and I freely admit it was given with a selfish, ulterior motive -- I wanted to see more photos on her blog! More recently she's surprised me with spinning fiber - a pound of a beautiful (teal!) merino-tencil roving. Last Saturday I contributed another drop spindle to her collection. You see how it goes -- that's what friends do.
Since my spinning classes last fall, and my more recent Wisconsin spinning retreat, I've been casually, unhurriedly window-shopping for wheels. Knowing this, Bess, as the owner of three beautiful wheels, invited me to come to her place for lunch and to test-drive her equipment. So, off I went.
As I arrived, I rolled down her mile-long rustic driveway through fields of ... something, (soybeans? winter rye?), and came upon this ruin:
Oh, how I loves me a good ruin. I took this as a good omen for the day. I could insert the obvious joke here -- "she told me her home was rustic, but I didn't realize it was this rustic!" -- but I'd rather just do as I always do when I see an abandoned building, which is wonder about all the history behind it. When was it built? Who lived there? When did it become forever-empty? How long did it take for vines and decay to take over? How long will it take before it collapses? I'm inexplicably fascinated by the evolution of decaying architecture.
You know, in 16th through 19th-century Europe, it was considered the height of fashion to have a ruin (also known as a "folly") in one's garden. But those ancient poseurs with their intentionally-constructed ruins had nothing on Bess. Her ruin came by its rot honestly, over time; there was no fakery involved. Didn't know you were so fashionable, did you, Bess?
As I got closer to her actual house, I was greeted by Bess and her sweet dogs, and after parking and hugs (Bess) and sniffs & pats (dogs), I was introduced to Bess' "Big Darlin'" (BD) husband, Ed. Every bit as tall and charming and deep-voiced as Bess has advertised, Ed was the one who built their lovely home in the late 70's/early 80's, and the home is as charming as its builder. As I was walked in the front door I was greeted by the smell of something delicious cooking in the kitchen. Bess gave me a tour of the place, which reminded me quite a bit of Robin H.'s house down in Clarksville, which was built in the early 1700's. I love old homes, and newer ones, too, that just hearken back to an older era.
After the tour we had a delicious lunch of sandwiches and homemade soup, and then set about the business at hand, which was wheel and fiber play:
I was given the opportunity to spin on two of Bess' wheels -- her Ashford Elizabeth and her gorgeous, triple-flyer Golding, the Rolls Royce of spinning wheels. Bess feared that I might be spoiled forever for other wheels after spinning on the incredible Golding, and I must admit it is one smooth ride. But I know my limitations, and know I'm a fickle enough hobbyist that I won't be bringing such a precious thing into my house, where it would likely succumb to a cat knocking it over and breaking off something important. But, oh, it was very good to get to test drive a Golding. Now I can die happy.
I'm still leaning towards a Lendrum, at this stage, but am also keeping an open mind. After all, Maryland Sheep & Wool is just a few weeks away, and I'm very excited to be attending it this year as a new spinner. I will be looking at everything with new eyes, test driving lots of wheels, fondling all kinds of fiber, and I can't wait!
In between lunch and wheel play I helped Bess get her laundry off the line before the rain came, and got to see the yurt where she and Big Darlin' (Ed) and Little Darlin' (son William) lived during their early years. Such hippies! ;-) Seriously, such romantic images that lifestyle conjures in my mind! Little House on the Prairie, as Bess referred to it, but perhaps more accurately, Little Yurt on the Rappahannock River. (I know Bess has a photo of the yurt somewhere on her blog, but for the life of me, I couldn't find it to link to it, so you'll just have to imagine...). Also while we were outdoors, we got to see Mama Bald Eagle carrying some kind of prey in her claws back to the nest high atop a tree on Bess' property, near the water's edge. There's definitely something magical and precious about Bess & Ed's place there. I hope the entirety of it always stays in their family.
Back inside, here is Bess snuggling with one of her super-sweet doggies, Miss Priss, while seated in front of her one-of-a-kind Golding:
Here's Tom Golding's inscription on the bottom of the wheel:
And here is all that gorgeous hand-carving in a whirling blur of motion:
I still recall reading Bess' post after she acquired this lovely wheel, at the 2006 MS&W. It's quite a little thrill for me now to not only have seen it in person, but also to have actually spun on it. That Tom Golding - he's a master.
In fact, it was Bess who first introduced me to his spindles, way-back-when. (I've since purchased three of them, and have set my sights on more, when I hit his booth at this year's MS&W.) And it was Bess who told me about the John C. Campbell Folk School, a place I've since visited, an experience that is one of the highlights of my life. With tongue-firmly-in-cheek, I believe at the time I called her an evil temptress for her shameless enabling, but that's an unfair description, even in jest. Bess has actually enriched my life quite a bit, and I'm blessed to call her a friend.
Thanks for a lovely Saturday, Bess!