September 4, 2009
You don’t think of the word agile all that often when you’re on a cruise ship. It feels so big, so unwieldy and ridiculous. There’s an atrium, for heaven’s sake. A ship shouldn’t have an atrium.
Before long, though, you realize that a minutely choreographed dance is going on all around you, a perfect coordination of people working very hard. You glimpse the details: three dozen bowls of roses sit on the dock, waiting to board for their big night in the restaurant. Six pallets of bottled water load into a part of the ship you didn’t know even had a door. The decks are wet in the morning, clean. You discover the one small, round window in a door that lets you look into a staff stairwell, and it looks like a navy ship: gray paint, bright light, purely functional.
On the night we left Helsinki, a sick crew member had to be airlifted off the ship. The ship seemed to race along even as a helicopter came and went three times, never landing, only hovering. Agile. Crew members lined the stairs of the atrium, watching through the glass door to the pool deck. We passengers lurked in our corridors, not knowing what had happened. When I said to the purser that I hoped the crew member would be OK, he said, shaking his head, “I don’t think so.” That was all he would say, clearly upset.
Sometimes, the ship was as graceful as a fish. In Helsinki, it slipped away from the dock using its mysterious propulsion pods, pushing off the way a swimmer does. It seemed impossible, this almost parallel departure. Ships can’t do that. I looked up, and far above, I saw an officer watching, too, walkie talkie in his hand, focusing on nothing in the world but that wake.
That final morning, I managed to wake up before six a.m. to float through the Stockholm archipelago. It was chilly, in the low 50s, as I sat on our tiny balcony in my ship’s robe and slippers, watching as island after island floated by. There are 24,000 islands to see, astonishing in their number. The ship slid through this chain without a sound, without a wake.
The rocky outcroppings, called skerries, left me wondering what lurked under the water. And the houses on the shore made me wish I could spent a month or two here.
The tiniest cottages were everywhere, stuck into the rocks like little packages.
As we approached Stockholm, the houses became grander. And in some cases, torqued to fit the ground.
It was such a watery, dreamlike end to our cruise.
At breakfast, I had one final encounter with the müesli vat at La Veranda. After a week of breakfast there, I FINALLY figured out that “La Veranda” meant “the Veranda.” All these languages!
We collected our bags, and we bid farewell to our agile little ship.
The Coyote Grind Lounge
Clif and I made a deal, early in the trip: in Stockholm, he could get a full dose of the Coyote Grind Lounge, which was not a slutty bar but rather a skateboard shop that he knew about from his virtual skateboard pals. His skating and my knitting have long had a symbiotic relationship. This was going to be great.
After a little old-town wandering in Gamla Stan (the Nobel museum? why the heck not?), Clif and I set off for the Coyote Grind Lounge.
Along the way, we saw churches.
We were staying in Södermalm (the umlauts I’m typing these days! option-u! option-u!), and we stopped by the hotel to get skateboard necessities. I was so excited to be going to the Coyote Grind Lounge that I forgot to bring my knitting.
Incredibly, and I do mean incredibly because I had not scoped out the Stockholm yarn shop situation, we passed this:
About a block from our hotel.
A skein, waving in the breeze.
Mariasgarn is the juiciest yarn shop you would ever need. Clif sat down, remarkably patient, knowing that the Coyote Grind Lounge was still closed. I had twenty minutes. I visited with Maria, the longtime proprietor of this gem of a shop, and she helped me pick out the most Swedish yarn possible.
Färgkraft (Colorcraft), hand dyed wool from the Gotland sheep I’d met back in Visby earlier in the week. In a deep oceanic blue. Poifeck!
The shade, “odon,” means “bog whortleberry.” And by golly, bog whortleberries are exactly the shade of this yarn.
I had yarn, but no needles. It was sort of OK, actually. My head was so full of sights and thoughts that I easily sat for more than two hours, trying to sort through it all.
The Net Result
I told you that I didn’t do much knitting on this trip. I was not kidding. I’m semi-embarrassed even to show you. One thing and one sock:
I think I had it in mind to make some sort of handspun scarf out of this beautiful LV Ltd. handspun, but it petered out into a wide-ribbed swatch that provided me with a fair amount of amusement, even though it isn’t really a useable piece of knitting at this point. It’s like watching TV, this handspun. I watched at least four episodes of the shipboard hit “Meet the Crew” while knitting this. I loved meeting the crew, and I loved wondering when the brown part was going to show up in my knitting.
I did manage to scrounge a regionally appropriate sock pattern for this Rio de la Plata sock yarn: the superpopular Knitty pattern Sunday Swing socks by FINNISH designer Krystel Nyberg. Krystal, I waved at ya in Helsinki! Next time, next time!
Wish I Was There!
I have really loved reading everybody’s comments about these places–I have a lot of reading to do, thanks to you all. I’m left with more questions than answers about everything we saw, which I reckon is the reason we travel. And now that we have been home for a while, I have almost stopped asking myself the question that has nagged me since we set foot back in Nashville: “Why aren’t we living in some Scandinavian city?”