Trying to Find the Words

I’ve been trying to find the words, but they just won’t come. I sit with knitting in my lap, needles clicking on socks, a sweater, and I swoon. No, maybe “swoon” isn’t the word. It’s a feeling like that though…of love and adoration, for the color, the texture, the yarn, the process of hands moving, producing a fabric.

But there’s something else too, that the word “swoon” doesn’t touch. There’s memory, of past times when I sat making the very same stitches but for my children, or when I was healing, or for gifts for friends, or knitting with my mom or my daughters.

And then there’s focus. A settling down and into a rhythm I would prefer to spend my days. A pace that isn’t frenzied. A repetition of hands that allows my mind to muse and sort out the days events. An anchoring activity that no matter what else is going on, this, these stitches remain the same. And I can do these simple stitches, one after the other, and eventually accomplish something, SOMETHING at least!

All this you say? In the stitches of knit and purl? Well, yes. And yet, so much more. Can the love of knitting be put into words? Perhaps not. Perhaps that is why knitting is wordless, soundless, except for the clicking of needles, the faint swishing of hands.

Perhaps not every knitter swoons. I imagine sometimes the women of past generations who knitted out of necessity, may have just knitted to be knitting and “swooning”, or whatever that feeling is, wasn’t a part of the process for them. But I’m sure some of them did. And perhaps they too couldn’t find the words to describe it.

I’m seeing now that there are a few words here. As little as they may make sense, I have found some words to begin to describe the swelling of my heart, that fullness of contentment, as I knit. Sometimes I even have to put my knitting down just to revel in it without moving the needles, to try to pin down exactly what is going on there as I knit. But then it shyly scoots away and only revisits again when I’m lost in knitting…

…no words, just the clicking of needles and colorful yarn running through my hands.

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Everyday Stitching

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If I could climb into each knitted stitch…there would be something there to learn.

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If I could freeze a moment in the warp & weft of everyday living…I might be able to find what it feels like I am missing.

I want to be able to experience the same wonder and marvel at ordinary knit stitches, made over and over again, in my everyday tasks. Is it possible to approach laundry, meal prep, cleaning, errands, and all the myriad of things we do every single day, day in and day out, over and over, with the same stillness, calm, and enjoyment as the over/under of weaving?

I don’t know. I haven’t been able to master that. At all.

I’m reading a wondrous book. Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren, is a beautifully honest, life affirming litany of the mundane tasks we engage in every day. Her writing encourages me to remember that these same tasks, boring and never-ending as they are, have the opportunity to be oases from which to drink of the goodness God has for us.

Yes! Yes..this is what I long for. For many months now, I’ve been craving a more contemplative life. I long for this in my creative life as well…to make things slowly, carefully, with presence in body and purpose of mind and heart. I even daydream of living a type of monastic life filled with daily prayer, meditation, knitting, spinning, weaving.

It sounds idyllic. Well, to me it does. The thing is…I would still have meals to prepare. Cleanup afterwards. Laundry to do. Lightbulbs to replace. Repairing broken things. Upkeep and maintenance of everyday appliances. Etc. I’m actually quite spoiled in those latter few…my husband does most of the upkeep and maintenance around our home. And yet I still grumble about all the other stuff that seems to fill much of my days.

I’m in sore need, here at the beginning of a New Year, of reorienting my mind and heart to this truth:

“The crucible of our formation is in the anonymous monotony of our daily routines.” -Tish Warren

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Like knitting the same stitch over and over and over again. Like running a thread over and under and over again. This is where beauty is wrought. I know this. I believe this.

Lord, help my unbelief.

The thing is, I’m a dreamer. I dream of grand things, of accomplishments, of revolutionary beauty being brought into the world. Tish Warren does too:

“I was, and remain, a Christian who longs for revolution, for things to be made new and whole in beautiful and big ways. But what I am slowly seeing is that you can’t get to the revolution without learning to do the dishes.” 

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I won’t get to wear the sweater or give the knitted gift, until I’ve slogged through countless knit stitches. I won’t see a lovely tapestry until I’ve worked the over-under over and over again.

Yes. Today. Tomorrow. And on through 2017.

Knit my stitch. Weave my thread. Do my dishes.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Knitting from the Hem

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Ofttimes when I close my eyes

this is what I see –

Genevieve knitting with a string

from the Hem of His garment.

The throng of living is pressing

in on all sides.

Yet He has stopped, turned

and bending over

He lifts my face

to gaze into His own.

In this way

I shall knit on.

***

‘Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.  She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.’

Matthew 9:20-22

*****

“Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your dis-eases.”

Psalm 103:2-3 (hyphen added)

The Fault in our Counting

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I haven’t been aware that I count stuff, but lately the realization that counting is a regular and frequent activity of mine, has been cause for pause. Why do I count and what does it all add up to?

As a knitter/crocheter, counting offers a sense of safety, confidence, security and well-being. You may feel this is overstated a bit. But it is true that when my stitch count matches that of the pattern, a sense that all must surely be well is won. Take socks: 64 stitches for an average adult size sock is the magic number to cast on, to knit for round after round, and even return to after a crazy jaunt around the heel. Even the half and quarter numbers, 32 and 16, provide that feel of security and confidence when you’ve slipped and knitted your way up the heel flap. Count…count…count again and if your numbers are right, you’re safe in moving forward, shoulders can be lowered, and that sense of ease and well-being returns. I’m totally serious when I say that this is precisely what I do in life as well as in knitting. I count. And if the counting adds up, I feel that same sense of well-being and safety.

I probably count many of the same things others count – dollars in my bank account, hours/minutes on the clock, speed on the odometer, number of snacks in the pantry, how much food is in the fridge, miles I walked for exercise, servings of veggies and fruit in a day, hours of sleep, etc.

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But I also count things that many might not – carbs for my T1D daughter as well as how many blood sugar highs and lows she has in a day, how many ostomy bags I have left before I need to order more, number of students in my classes, number of paintings/drawings of any worth or value for an art show, and how many fiber projects I have begun and are still in a state of incompletion.

The thing about all this counting is not so much that I count, or that I keep a running tally. The issue at hand is what meaning I’m attaching to the numbers once I’ve counted.

Every now and then, a knitting/crochet student will declare something about their personality, character, or mental ability when their stitch count has gone awry. “I’ll never get this right!” “I’m just not creative!” “I don’t have what it takes for this!” “I’m just not cut out for this kind of detail!” “I’m an old dog who can’t learn new tricks!” I gently remind them that the wayward stitch (or stitches) has absolutely no bearing on their character or abilities. Finding 63 stitches on your needles instead of 64 doesn’t mean you’re a dumb person nor that you are incapable of knitting. It simply means that a stitch has been lost somehow and it can be found fairly easily and fixed in a few different ways. Would that I’d listen to my own instruction as I’m counting the rest of my life. 

Maybe its being 51, that strange crossroads of life where counting and taking stock seems to be a turnstile we all march through on the way to our mature years. Maybe it’s watching my children grow up, go to college, get married and begin their adult lives that has me assessing the many years of parenting, looking for and trying to count something I might have to show for all those years. Same with years of making art, writing, knitting and crocheting. Is there anything in my life quantifiable? Countable? Verifiable? It certainly isn’t in the bank account. And it isn’t in medals or awards on the mantel (not that I would even display them there if I had them).

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What we choose to count AND the meaning we attach to it can drive us crazy, hurl us into sadness or even depression. I’m learning that there’s something flawed with my counting. I need to take care not to stitch up meaning in the counting. I need to focus more on process, not on product. Yes. Helpful. But I woke up this morning with these words, more helpful words, running through my mind:

“The only thing that counts is faith

expressing itself in love.”

Ahhhh…..yes, this is solid. Even though I’m sure I could twist and mar the meaning of this verse by trying to count the times I’ve had “a faith that expressed itself in love”, I do recognize that this is NOT what the verse is saying here. Faith is the point. Being certain of things we cannot see or count. Living full and rich lives without counting our wallets as the determiner of that richness. Faith to believe that even if whatever we’re counting doesn’t add up, that we are loved just for who we are and not because we’ve got 64 stitches on our sock needles or for any other of our quantifiable assets. And to express the love we have received to others in whatever ways we can find, whether they are countable or not.

Faith and love…unquantifiable, uncountable… that’s where I’d like to live today and tomorrow and the rest of my days.

Even in my knitting. 🙂