Dead or Alive


We had spent the morning exploring the narrow, earthen alleys and passageways of the souk in Fes, Morocco, on a blistering hot day.  We had seen everything from master wood carvers at work, to huge vats of tanned leather, and even a severed camels head, hanging from a stall in the meat market. When I asked our guide if we could buy yarn, he said yes, then asked do we want to see yarn dead, or alive? How do I answer that? If I reply alive, will he take us to the animals or to stalls of live sheep? And If I say dead, well I am not sure I even want to guess where that will lead us, I decided to play it safe and say, “Alive, please.”

Our guide walked so quickly that the hem of his djellabla (the long, loose traditional garment worn by many Moroccan people) seemed to glide around his feet and ankles. His English was excellent as he has educated us about his culture, his people, and the history of the country. To my request for yarn he said, “Come, come, I show you” and we scurried along behind him.

We darted into an alley so narrow that only one person at a time could pass, and so low that Hubby had to hunch over. We came out of the dark alley into the light, rounded a corner and came to an open air area where the poultry vendors gathered. They invited us to hold the chickens and take photos, it made me miss my pet hens. I told myself that when I return home I must remind them of how lucky, and spoiled they are.

Past the chickens, we turned our millionth corner and came to an alcove that serves as hotel of sorts. Many vendors travel great distances to bring their wares to market, they are provided these small tin sheds, in which to sleep and store their goods.  We were guided to a massive ten foot high by ten foot wide, mountain of sheared sheep wool. My nose tickled as I breathed in the smell of the raw, earthy dander. The wool vendor and our guide spoke to one another rapidly, then the vendor offered me a large handful of the un-carded wool. I accepted it with a smile and a handshake, as he would not accept payment. Our guide gestured grandly and proclaims that this is “alive” wool. Okay, so if this alive, what is dead?

“Come, come, I show you” he says, and just like that, the flash was off again, with us trotting behind. More mazes, seriously, how do they know where they are going?

We came to an aisle, a cobblestone walkway with open doorways to the right and left. One room had a huge vat of hot dye cooking over a small fire. Our eyes sting. The next open doorway had a room, lined with dozens of five gallon buckets, each filled with a different color of dye, full of yarn.

The water that ran down the center of the stone alley was a river flowing simultaneous colors of red, blue and brown. The feet and hands of the workers are permanently stained black.

Further down the path we found rooms strung with lines from one end to the other and back, all about shoulder height.  The lines were draped with colorfully dyed, drying yarn. The scent here is musty, almost moldy from the over 100 degree temperatures. With burning eyes and noses, we were relieved to move on.

“Come, come I show you” he said, when asked about yarn that is finished, ready for someone to take home. We pass a collection of stalls, each no wider than a doorway and only a few feet deep. We wondered how the shopkeepers move in and out of their shops.

We pass shops with beautiful silk threads, the threads are stacked so closely together that the eye barely sees the transitions as the colors flow from blues to greens and on to every color of the rainbow. The displays are works of art.

As we were being led from shop to shop, in search of alive vs. dead wool, I was fascinated by it all. My travel companions, however were less than thrilled, and pretty much over the whole thing. I needed to find my yarn, and soon!   

Suddenly our guide announces, “Here, dead wool!” and we stumbled out into the blinding light.

There it was, a yarn shop, at last! The yarns were piled loosely into bins, each color and texture spilling over onto the next, creating an exciting dance of fibers. Inside the stall was an ancient scale, where my selection is carefully weighed, and placed into a plastic bag. I thank the smiling vendor and did a little skip as I walked away with my turquoise beauties.

Is yarn dead, and wool alive? There are so many ways to look at it, it is certainly worthy of debate. However if you are ever looking for yarn in Morocco at least you know that you will be in for an adventure, and it just might include a severed camel head!   

Caminito Del Rey


I was standing on a three foot wide wooden walkway, the walkway was suspended from the side of a towering cliff.  Gusts of wind blasted me, while I held my helmet to my head with my hand, and plaster my body against the canyon wall to stay upright. I was beginning to question my decision to be there.

I had vowed to attempt to do things that made me nervous. Heights made me nervous. That is how I ended up agreeing to go to Malaga, Spain, where we walked the Caminito Del Rey. This four mile trek was once known as the world’s most dangerous walkway. People had died on this path, however it had been closed for years for refurbishment, and reopened to the public.

The path was bolted to the cliff wall from beneath, with the cliff on the right side and a safety fence on the left. I questioned the safety of this however, as it consisted of open wire fencing  placed between intermittent posts, topped with elbow height heavy gauge wire as a railing .

The purpose of that fence was apparently to keep me from being blown off the walkway into the canyon below. Clutching tightly to Hubbys hand, I walked sticking closely to the cliff, not venturing towards the fence.

With each step I became increasingly  more comfortable. Eventually I managed to loosen the grip on Hubbys hand, letting him get circulation back into his fingers. After several minutes I made my way towards the center of the path, not holding onto anything or anyone. Eyes focused forward to the path ahead, never looking off the the openness  of the fencing on my left.

We had been walking for about half an hour before I finally inched my way to the very edge.  With a white knuckle grip on the wire, and the thundering of panic in my ears, I looked down for the first time.

Wow! what a view.  The river flows quietly 300 feet below, the striations in the rock formations were mesmerizing. I gathered enough courage to bend over the rail, and I saw a pair of sunglasses that had fallen to rest on an outcropping of rock several feet below. Note to self, hang on to the Ray-Bans.

At a point where the cliff, and the path jut out, there was platform. This platform extended out beyond the hanging wooden walkway, sides and bottom made of glass.  It appeared to be suspended in the air, magically floating above the river.

Posted near the platform was a sign, indicating that the maximum capacity of the platform was four people. There were already 2 people out there when we approached. It seemed to me, that one of the guys out there should count as two people. I point to the large, bright yellow sign, to make sure Hubby has made note of it. He was ready to add our weight to the platform, I was not. I insisted that we wait until the others had moved on, before we took our turn.

I stepped out, clutching the railing with both hands.  I bent my knees slightly, as if somehow lowering my center of gravity would keep me safe.  I took baby steps working my way to the very edge, I leaned my head over the railing and looked down.  I felt a moment of panic, like when an elevator makes a jolt and there is a sudden flash of fear.

I could hear only the wind, as it barrelled through the canyon,  it flapped the hem of my jacket against my body and blew my hair into my face.  It seemed the wind had blown my fear away as well because suddenly I felt calm and happy. I shouted to the wind, “look at me! I am doing this!”.

Standing out there in the wind I could see the beauty of the river below, and stare in awe at the stunning layers of red and browns in the rocks above,  below and all around me. We stayed for a few minutes, took our selfies and moved on.

I was more confident and comfortable with each step, finally free of the nervousness. We were enjoying the camaraderie of our fellow hikers, sharing stories of where we were from, and where in Spain we had traveled. I was having fun. Until we rounded the final corner.

At the point where canyon gets deeper and narrower  there was a bridge. That bridge had to be be crossed, to get to the other side of the gorge.  The bridge was more of a beam. A narrow steel beam, about two feet wide and thirty feet long, with holes in it large enough to see through to the river below. Along each side was one heavy gauge wire, waist high, that spanned the length of the bridge. Oh no.

The bridge was one person wide, and allowed  only one person at a time to cross. Hubby crossed first, to show me it was going to be okay. I was not convinced. Holding back my tears, I let a few others take their turn ahead of me while I bolstered my confidence.

My fellow hikers offered words of encouragement  “is okay, you can do”. But from the back of the line I heard “for Pete’s sake, go already”.  I was holding up the line.

I  was thinking to myself,” Okay,  I can do this, but how? Do I just go fast and get it over with? Or slow and precise, which means I will be out there, hanging in the air, for even longer?” What happened next is a blur. I remember taking a big breath and one step, then another, and another, until  finally there was the blessed feel of solid ground beneath my feet. I did a little happy dance, feeling very pleased with myself. I did it! Yay me!

There is a notice which says “persons of a nervous disposition” are advised not to attempt the walk. But I did it and I am proud of myself, for overcoming my hesitations and fears, and for not losing my Ray-Bans. I still don’t love heights,but I am eager to see where my vow to overcome my fears will take me next.



I experienced a yarngasm… in public.  I tried not to. Really I did, but some things simply cannot be stopped.  With one look at that sensuous yarn, I was filled with an intense physical need to touch it, to feel the warm, soft, tenderness against my skin. Ahhh, Qiviut.

I had disembarked our cruise ship in Juneau, Alaska,  wandered along a seaside street, climbed a set of stairs, and walked into heaven. Sitting on the counter was a misty cloud of yarn, a cotton candy ball of fluffy fiber ecstasy. As I fondled it and purred, the shop owner shared  some facts about the object of my desire.

Qiviut (KIV-ee-ute) is from the Arctic Musk Ox, this shaggy creature is able to survive the frigid tundra temperatures due to its thick undercoat. This undercoat is shed naturally each spring, gathered and spun into a fabric that is softer than cashmere and warmer than wool.

I happily purchased two balls of pleasure.  I would tell you the cost, but Hubby may read this one day, and no good could possibly come of that conversation.

I returned with my treasures in my pocket. While I continued to stroke and bathe in their bubbly softness, I dreamt of what I would create with these beauties.

After much internal debate I decided to transform one of the fluffy clouds into an Alaskan “Smoke Ring.” This  elongated cowl forms a hood that covers the head, ears and neck. It took me months to complete the project, not because it was difficult, but because I am incredibly slow at crocheting.    

When it was complete, I fell in love with the feel of my smoke ring. It covered me in warmth, I felt like a princess, wearing royal crown of yarn.

Months later, I braved the ice covered streets of Istanbul, on a snowy New Years Eve.  My smoke ring kept me beautifully warm and dry. I wore it with pride.

Qiviut is the ideal travel project, it almost weightless and adds no bulk in a carry on.  I was crocheting the last ball of my treasure while sitting in an airport lounge, when a woman came to a dead stop, right in front of me. I looked up at her, she wiggled her eyebrows and smiled mischievously, as if we were sharing a secret. She bent down, touched the yarn in my lap, and with a quiver in her voice she whispered, “Ahh, Qiviut”.

I am pretty sure that she had a yarngasm of her own as she walked away.