Saturday, February 2, 2008

Knitting Zen

When I learned to knit as a young woman, I never really got too skilled at the craft. I never took a class but instead was self taught out of a poorly written and illustrated book. Subsequently, I lost interest as I had no real skill and I had no drive.

My learning methods weren't too different when I picked up knitting again many decades later. I bought myself a few items at Michael's: "I Taught Myself To Knit" booklet complete with wonky needles, cheap yarn and "Knitting for Dummies" which I still reference today. What was different though was my drive. The marvel at creating something from 2 sticks and a piece of yarn. And need. Need drove me to create. I needed to make good of bad things that were happening. My husband's mother Pat whom I adored was very sick and I found myself taking her to all of her doctor visits. I spent countless hours in waiting and hospital rooms in a sort of vigil. Waiting. Waiting for the inevitable that only experience at such things can give you. It was a painful period for my family and the only good thing I could do was create.

I have learned many skills since this time several years ago. I know that with books, on-line tutorials and local yarn store classes that I can take on just about any project. I still need to create and to make good of bad. Knitting automatically puts me in a calm state of mind. I feel my mind clear and my heart rate and breathing slow as I methodically plod along placing my needles in and out of loops of yarn.

I always take something I am trying to create to work with me. I find that if I can take a break from working and thinking that the act of knitting calms me and clears my mind. It is usually a sock or something small and mindless. Miles and miles of stockinette on circs or dpns usually does the trick. After a couple of rows, I'm in that zen state. After my break, I can return to my work with clarity of thought and a relaxed frame of mind.

This didn't really work for me this week and I have found myself unable to coax myself into this peaceful state. Instead of my knitting, it was my real job that I took with me everywhere I went. The patient that I had treated for 4 days this week finally passed last night. Perhaps it was the inevitability of his passing that struck a chord deep within me; the certainty that only experience brings that no matter what I do, the outcome will be the same. He was dying. It wasn't the critical nature of his illness and the level of care required that exhausted my mind and body, it was witnessing the suffering of his relatives as they went from fighting to relinquishing all in the course of one week. It was such a private thing that few are privileged to witness: a mother's love and loss, a partner's shattering grief, a father's tearful good-bye that made it so obvious that this special young man would be deeply missed. This family touched me very deeply and in a most permanent way: they had knitted their way into my heart. As I fell asleep last night, I was thinking of them, especially this young man's mother. Her loyalty was fierce and her devotion so very palpable. Today, I cast on for her: a pair of socks to warm her feet when February rolls in for February will never be the same for this broken hearted woman.

No comments: