Sister Letters :: Silence

Dear Sister,

They say Silence is Golden. It is certainly palpable around here now that our guests have gone. I relish the silence. Our youngest does not.  I must confess that I do miss our oldest daughter and her sweet presence. And as much as I adore a quiet & contemplative space, what happens in my creative mind is anything but quiet.

Much like race horses held behind gates at the start of a race…or a stack of papers held at the ready for flipping through…I feel the tension build during times when creative ideas and juices are not given free reign. Busy times, a full house, and yes holidays, create this kind of containment and boundary around the ability to pursue any of the crazy ideas I may be tossing around in my head and heart. Sometimes I feel much like a wild animal frothing at the mouth, just waiting for the signal to run free! When the gate is opened, or the first paper launched, they all come tumbling out, flying and lurching forward at an alarming speed. I can barely hold it back. Perhaps I’m not supposed to. Or perhaps I need to develop even further discipline to contain the creative horses even when circumstances inhibit free expression.

And so it has been this week: continuing to teach my lovely knit and crochet classes to Sisters wanting to develop their craft, while also giving room for exploring a couple of ideas I’ve had for quite a while. One is a crocheted Advent Shawl. The other is a plan for sketching and drawing through the December days leading up to Christmas. Both are ways for me to focus in on Christ and His Coming, rather than simply give in to the whirl of holiday hustle and bustle. But I fear that I may be creating another layer of activity. What I need is to let go of some things to make room for more thoughtful making and stitching. Would you pray for me in this? Would you pray that I might be able to hear my Father’s voice in it? Even in, and perhaps especially in my creative life, I long to live rightly ordered, so that I might walk this Life in stillness and a slow pace for catching all of the beauty Christ has for me.

What a treasure your last letter was, which you posted on the notice board to me. I laughed and laughed at your account of hospitality gone awry, or at least what we think is so inferior in our attempts at this holy work of offering our home to others. It is not for the faint of heart. Certainly not easy. But I think I would do well to let go of my own expectations of what I have to offer and simply focus on the guests. I am wanting to do this next week as we walk toward the Thanksgiving holiday and on into the Christmas season.

One stocking is done. The next one has begun! These stitches are delicious. Truly, I feel it so! They remind me to slow down. To relish the humble, simple, overlooked elements of life. How is your stitching? Your sketches and drawings? May they reveal the heart of our Father’s constant care and attention.

Your Sister,

Jennifer

The Silence of Stitches

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It isn’t often that I am alone in our house. On top of that, to be alone and sitting down with feet propped up, knitting in hand. I know you may think I get to do this a lot. But the thing that is so very delicious right now is the

SILENCE.

Oh how I crave silence. That deep, rich silence, punctuated only by the tick of a mantel clock and the click of knitting needles. I marvel at it. I revel in the silence as one who slowly twirls in falling snow reaching out the tongue to taste it. It’s that kind of silence…snow silence…albeit with an air-conditioner running in the house.

This silence seems to seep into my body…shoulders relax, brow unfurls, weary thoughts abed, breathing slows. Only the automatic movement of hand and fingers belie the stillness infusing my mind and body. I drink in the restorative properties of silence.

Silence with reading is not true silence for me. My mind is still taking in words and words are not quiet. Silence with someone else in the room is not true silence for me either. My energy is still tied to them. Silence with my eyes closed is good for a few minutes, but if it’s late in the day, like it is now, I’m asleep in the span of 2 minutes, head lolling about as I sit on the couch.

But silence and knitting is perfection. The no-thought activity of my hands keeps me awake to the silence, alert in its presence, and almost seems to allow the silence to be knitted into the fabric of my mind and heart.

Knitting and crocheting is wonderful with friends. It’s terrific while waiting at soccer practices, the pick-up line at school and while riding in the car. But knitting or crocheting in absolute silence is a delectable treat you must allow yourself from time to time.

No. Check that. It needs to be quite often!

Bow Your Head

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To knit or crochet requires a certain posture – head slightly bent, hands in lap, lightly (or tightly) holding the fibery creation. It may seem to some that those who work with yarn are in a constant state of prayer. And they might be! Sending up prayers to the knitting gods that all would go well with this project.  Begging said knitting god to help, help, help in the midst of a knitting disaster. Or actually praying for the loved one for whom the project is intended.

There is something inherently humble and unassuming about the act of knitting or crocheting. To spend hours with head bowed over fiber is not typically thought of as rebellious or flamboyant. Though knitting can be both of these and more, it is, in its everyday mode, one of surrender: here I am, with just some string and a hook or needles in my hands, making a stitch and then another and another. And though some of us may want to change the world through knitting and crocheting, it is, by its very nature, a quiet, behind-the-scenes activity. Not your typical world-domination kind of thing.

Yet it is in the knits and purls, in the singles and doubles, that life takes on new meaning. Much like prayer, knitting works into us a sense that all will be well somehow in the end. Even when it all seems to be going haywire–stitch patterns not lining up, sleeves too long, patterns not making sense–somehow we move forward in life. We pick up a different project, or start something new, or slog it out with the currently wayward design…all with our head bowed, as if to lean into the wind, gain traction, defy the gods, or simply pray like mad.

*****

It occurred to me days after writing this, that in most types of creation there is a bending over what one is working on. Drawing in my sketchbook, I’m typically hunched over. Any hand sewing or even at a machine requires a bowed head. Throwing clay demands leaning over the pottery wheel. On and on we could name these creative acts and they all have a posture of surrender and contemplative concentration.

“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.”
― Julia Cameron

I hope you can make something today!