Thou shalt knot.

It’s Sunday of Labor Day weekend and Brenda and I are visiting our son Christopher in CA.  As I write this I am sitting on a patio in the middle of the Anderson Valley, our favorite part of the wine country, north of San Francisco.

This is the view that greeted me today as I enjoyed my first cup of coffee and sat down to write begin this post.Brenda found this wonderful little cottage nestled in the woods on Airbnb.  Nicely done.  We are out here visiting our younger son Christopher for a week and remarkably, he’s even agreed to take a few days off from work to hang out with us.

Before I get to the story behind the title of this post, bear with me for a few more photos of what we have been up to.  We visited Golden Gate park near San Francisco a few days ago, prior to driving up here.  Brenda and I had a greenhouse for about 20 years so we continue to be drawn to tropical plants.  This greenhouse, in the park, was built from a kit in the late 1800s.  Nice kit. It’s loaded with tropical plants of all descriptions including these carnivorous “pitcher” plants. Nepenthes actually, not to put to fine a point on it.  We grew some of these but none as huge as this species.  Amazing. Of course, I should include a photo of Christopher and his mom. Ok, now that I have all of that out of the way I’ll get back to the real purpose of this post.

Perhaps I’ll close with a shot of the sunset from this deck last night.  Those of you who have followed my exploits, know how much I love sunsets.   Of course, we shared a bottle of wine together, locally sourced, of course,  as the sun set behind the mountains in the distance.  We won’t talk about the fact that the temperatures were, uncharacteristically, in the 90s.Last week when Brenda and I visited the USCG air station on Cape Cod, we stayed the night in New Bedford and visited the Whaling museum to take in a new exhibit about Clifford Ashley, the guy who brought us what is widely regarded as the all-time-go-to book on knots, the “Ashley book of knots” This book, more of an encyclopedia, includes drawings, descriptions and instructions, om the use and how-to-tie of some 3,800 knots.   Eleven years in development, the book was first published in 1944 and is still in print.  The show, put on with the help of Ashley’s daughter, offers highlights from the book and information about his life and a remarkable life it was.  Here’s Clifford himself.  Well, a photo of a painting of him, actually. This show, and the title of this post, is quite clever.   And very nice typography too.  The welcome graphic as you enter the gallery. Ashley, drew all of the illustrations in the book and was also an accomplished artist in his own rite.  He studied under Howard Pyle, known for establishing the “Brandywine School” and teaching many successful artists.  Some of Pyle’s best known works include his illustrations of pirates in this edition of “Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates”.
Ashley too illustrated pirates including this piece.   You can certainly see Pyle’s influence on Ashley. This wonderful photo of Ashley in his studio.    Swashbuckling enough for you?  Break out the Dramamine, quick!If you love knots, or have some ongoing use for them, you should have this book. However, I will warn you, some of the “instructions” are a bit tough to follow.   However, the finished pieces, of some of the more complex knots, are wonderful like these samples from his collection. Sinister uses include this ceremonial dagger and a “cat-o-nine-tails” for whipping prisoners.  Of course, what exhibit of knots would be complete without a sailor’s knot board?Or a sail maker’s kit of tools?There were plenty of other knot examples of his work displayed wonderfully. A really elaborate becket or handle for a sailor’s kit chest.
Amazing detail. Of course, many knots have nothing to do with sailing but are wonderful anyway. Sometimes photos can be deceiving.   This knot is larger than it appears. A lot larger.And, some are downright creepy, to me anyway, like these woven from human hair of a deceased family member.  “This is my dead mother’s hair and I am never taking it off, never!”
Brenda loves doing bobbin lace and was drawn to these beautiful lace bobbins and samples of hand lace. Really intricate stuff. Unrelated to Ashley, I loved this model, but part of the museum’s collection, a classic Concordia Sloop, a design long associated with nearby Padanaram MA. Wonderful attention to detail. Down to the rail on the stern. And like the really big knot above, sometimes things are not as they appear as this “model” is actually 20′ tall.   It would be tough to fit this in most homes. Of course, it’s small compared to the model of the whaling ship Lagoda, reportedly the largest ship model in the world and the centerpiece of the museum. And, just to prove, with no question, that this is a blog about boats, how about I close with a view of the fishing fleet from the observation balcony at the museum.  Now, that’s nautical.  Yes indeed, it’s been a busy “bi-coastal” few weeks with lots of miles “under our keel”, with more to come.  But what a thrill to visit a wonderful exhibit at the Whaling Museum, a tour of the USCG station Cape Cod and cap it all off with a week long visit with our son Christopher.

Brenda sometimes feels that I am running her ragged and I’d guess that’s true.  I For me, I’d say that, “thou shalt knot let grass grow under our feet”.

Besides, there are plenty of wineries still to explore and San Francisco awaits…

One response to “Thou shalt knot.

  1. Another great post, Bob! Boy, do I regret heading straight home and missing the Ashley exhibit in New Bedford. I recently learned that the Ashley Book Of Knots (published in 1944) is in the public domain and can be downloaded for free. Just Google search for it.

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