That’s an expression the Shakers used. They were very good at celibacy, animal husbandry and moments of high religious transport. I studied the Shakers for a while so that’s another subject I know about, not a whole lot, but a fair amount. Did you know that your clothes pins, most of your better strains of sheep and beets and the world’s most beautiful solid cherry free standing double spiral staircase comes from them? As well as that most perfect hymn, "Simple Gifts.
Anyway, I like the spirit of this expression. It’s the half full version of "idle hands are the devil’s workshop."
There’s a beautiful book that a friend gave me, in an hour of need or for an occasion, I can’t remember which, titled, Knitting Heaven and Earth: Healing the Heart with Craft by Susan Lydon. Susan Lydon has since died of breast cancer. In this book she writes about "The swaddling of the baby. The shrouding of the corpse. The wearing of a prayer shawl to ease the pain of grief. All these times demanded a kind of bundling or wrapping that would somehow aid the body’s passage between the states of being and non-being."
Most of my knitting has more to do with the day-to-day routine of life: Dan doesn’t perform without one of my fine-gauge merino wool multi-colored knit caps on his head (I use a wonderful Japanese fiber called Kiogu Painter’s Palette). Rich and I wear heavy fall sweaters of Manos del Uruguay to explore our new cityscape. (This is a fair trade wool spun in rural South American communities.) When Abby spoke at my mother’s memorial service she wore a pale blue cotton and silk blend sweater that made her eyes appear more the color of the sky than the sea. Wait. I guess knitting for day-to-day includes knitting for those milestones of life and death and everything in between.
Still. When I knit it is a very ordinary sort of activity. It calms my body and my mind, it settles me down and it focuses my attention- usually not on what I am knitting but on what I am attending to otherwise. I used to knit when I saw people in my role as a psychotherapist. For years I worried that this appeared so unprofessional that it was off the wall. Later, since I knew that I listened better and focused more clearly when my hands were occupied, I didn’t care quite so much about appearances. I simply said to people that in spite of or because of my knitting, they had my full attention- and they did.
Color possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me
always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I
are one. (Paul Klee)
This is the time of year, as the days get increasingly gray and short, that my fingers itch for new wool. One of the very best things about knitting is the yarn. I like to think that, in spite of my magpie predilection to large collections of shiny objects, I’m addiction free- but it’s possible that I am truly addicted to yarn. Fiber. The colors of yarn and fibers. The texture. The "hand" and the weight relative to warmth factor. Fortunately or unfortunately, like an alcoholic moving in next to the state liquor commission outlet, I’ve moved half a block from The Knitting Workshop.
I’ve been working on a lace shawl of Noro Aurora, a wool, kid mohair and silk blend (shhhh, it might be for my sister, Betsy, if it’s finished before Christmas).
This is a simple lace pattern but it requires some counting and manuvering every 4th row so it’s hard to stuff in my pocket and do while walking about or while watching television. Today I sucumbed to this beautiful cashmere and merino wool so I could do a simple and quick sweater- in colors that will shock the hell out of winter.
(note stunned cat.)
I could go on for days about the zen of knitting and fibers but there are so many others who do it better. Starting with Susan Lydon. You might really enjoy this book because it’s more about the meaning of life than the meaning of knitting.
Speaking of the meaning of life, I was searching hard and long for that Monty Python skit on The Larch for Deb, at Sand Creek Almanac , because she wrote a nice bit about said tree. Am I the only one who remembers this ridiculous sketch with John Cleese and Terry Jones on "How to Recognise Different Types of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away"? My, how I wish Monty Python would come back- I would be in heaven if I could watch that and knit away…
What are your hands busy at this time of year?