Letter from Paris: Sweet, Sweet Summer
I know it’s been almost a month since I last wrote, but when I tell you how I’ve been feeling lately you’ll see it’s a miracle that I’m writing at all. No cause for alarm–I’m not ill or in the hospital.
I just can’t sit still.
We are now well into summer. Paris is so far north that the days are shockingly long, with traces of daylight lingering until almost ten o’clock at night. The weather is warm, the windows are open, and it feels like the whole world is out for a perpetual stroll.
I have ants in my pants. I spin in my desk chair, tap my fingers on the work table, stare at the rather magnificent roof terrace across the courtyard wondering when the neighbors will invite me over for a drink. Should I hang a sign in the window? APÉRO DEMAIN CHEZ VOUS? DRINKS TOMORROW, YOUR PLACE?
What even is the point of having a roof terrace in Paris if you are not inviting me over to use it?
Who am I? For years it was almost impossible to get me out of the house. The word “no” has been my best friend. No, I do not want to come to the party, the concert, the baseball game, or brunch. And that was before the pandemic.
Yesterday, I went to buy a bar of soap at the market around the corner. It took two hours. Two minutes to buy the soap, one hundred eighteen minutes to take the soap on an outing that ended up in a cute café near the Tuileries.
My brain is, if anything, more unsettled than my body. Remember how frightened I was when culture shock jangled my nerves to the point that I couldn’t knit? Well, I’ve bounced back so hard they could hear the boing in Toulouse.
In fact, the problem now is that I can’t pin down what to knit or how to knit it.
There’s been a flurry of finishing. The stash-busting granny square lap blanket is ready to cuddle, though it did leave far more stash unbusted than I’d hoped.
And I’m proud to have completed this nineteenth-century lace shoulder shawl; I translated and adapted the pattern as a token of thanks to my Patreon patrons.
The dollhouse (the subject of my next book) has its sitting room carpet (another nineteenth century pattern) after two years of on-and-off stitching.
The teeny tiny maid wants a teeny tiny carpet sweeper. (For more about this project, visit foxeandboxe.com.)
The workroom itself is nearly finished, unto and including stripping the last of the eleven coats of paint off the door from the library, and hanging on it this extremely cool lithograph of a “mercerie ambulante,” a wandering seller of sewing supplies.
The oldest door in the apartment, probably from the eighteenth century. The landlady discovered it hidden inside the wall.
I even got my new summer wardrobe well begun with a waistcoat in linen and cotton, cool enough for even the hottest days.
Waistcoat pattern from Vanessa Mooncie’s The Gentleman’s Wardrobe.
I can’t decide. I would like to do some more lace–but I can’t pick a yarn. I need to knit the second sock of the pair I wrote about in my last letter–but it’s a second sock. I’ve got to add some knitted waistcoats to my closet–but this pile of yarn (lovely Shetland wool from my neighborhood yarn shop, Les Tricoteurs Volants) …
… has already been, I kid you not, eleven swatches and two false starts. Now, as you see, they are once again a pile of yarn. I’ve knit for long stretches of every day–only to have nothing at all to show for it.
The panic from this has been almost as intense as the panic from not being able to knit, and for the same reason. Knitting is my job. Needlework is my job. I have to do my job.
The trouble is, instead of not wanting to knit at all, I now want to knit everything all at once. And sew everything all at once. And crochet everything all at once. And embroider … you get the idea.
My new home is exactly what I’ve always wanted: a charming space in a beautiful city. And instead of gasping for inspiration, inspiration is everywhere, endlessly.
It’s only in the past two days that I’ve realized that my brain is so unaccustomed to happiness that the sensation is actually frightening. I don’t know what to do with it. Excitement is so unfamiliar to me that it’s confusing. I’m used to my mind playing tricks on me, but that’s a new one.
Today, after I sign off, the yarn goes back on the needles. Maybe I’ll take it over to the Tuileries. (The bar of soap really liked the Tuileries.)
I think this latest episode is like the culture shock–the only way to deal with it is by moving forward. It won’t be the first time I’ve knit my way to a calmer state of mind. Maybe you know the feeling?