The adventures of a knitting grandmother

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She spins, she knits, she blogs about it all.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Z is for...


What's a zamboni, you say? It's the big boxy machine that smoothes out the ice between periods at ice hockey games. I grew up knowing what a zamboni was, since I grew up in Hockeytown (Detroit).

Why a zamboni for my letter Z? After a zamboni has gone over the roughed up ice, it is clean and smooth and ready to be played on again. Kind of like winding up things at the end of the year, and getting ready to start January 1 with a clean, smooth slate.

It was a funny year for blogging. After Nana passed away in March I lost interest in blogging for several months. I seriously considered stopping. Posting went to a minimum and I stopped doing as much commenting as I had been doing. But I still kept on reading my favorite blogs and decided to give myself some time before I abandoned my own blog. Guess what? Slowly the interest level did come back, and I no longer have any thoughts of quitting. I still don't comment quite as much as before, and I spend a lot more of my online time playing on Ravelry, but I think that now the blog is evolving and may involve more next year than just knits and travel. Certainly I will be posting more than I have been this past year.

Each day I try to do at least a small amount of spiritual reading. This year there has been a heavy emphasis on studying the Rule of St Benedict. This is a work written in the sixth century that is still deeply relevant today, especially for anyone seeking to live a life of balance and meaningfulness. Two particular books have comprised my study this year, both by Joan Chittister, O.S.B.: The Rule of Benedict, Insights for the Ages; and Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today. I've read through both three time and am working on the fourth go-round. I'm still finding much food for thought that I've missed in prior reads. I've also started a new book on the subject, The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris, and am attempting to mine the wisdom in this one as well.

In my latest reading of Chittister's Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, I realized how much of what she (and Benedict) write can be related to the practising of craft, craft for it's own sake and craft as a form of work. Craft, and by inference knitting as a craft, is highly valued as a form of co-creation. It is spiritual and valuable and holy. As such, it is worthy of being practised.
It was eye-opening to me to see what I do as a hobby be praised as something highly worthwhile and valuable, as something as worthy of my time as the job that brings in the money, as the housework that keeps home comfortable for everyone. It made me see that time made for the exercise of the craft can be, with some awareness on my part, another path towards spiritual and personal growth alongside the more traditional forms of prayer, worship, and study. While prayer and worship is a part of everyday life, I don't always knit or do another form of craft everyday, although I seldom miss a day without picking up something for at least a few minutes. But if I now place a higher value on the spiritual possibilities of the practise, then taking time for it each day becomes a practise as valued as any other exercise. Not that I would ever substitute knitting for Mass, of course, or for my actual daily prayer time, but as another tool to help me down that spiritual, meditative path. I will make a resolve for this New Year to make a greater effort to knit and/or craft each day, and to give it a greater importance. I will stop thinking that craft is something to only give the meagerest crumbs of my time to practising, but make it a firm part of my daily life. And to return to spinning on a daily basis, if possible, as well. I've really let the spinning slip by the wayside, which is a shame considering how meditative I have found that in the past.

It's often said that non-knitters question the money and effort put into a knit project, especially socks, when it is so much easier and cheaper to just go out and buy the article in question. Benedict and Chittister have an answer for that as well. In brief, and I am liberally injecting a knitter's perspective here, the act of creating something that takes time and effort is an exercise in keeping our hearts open to others and to the world. Rather than racing through life and buying some last minute gift for a family member's birthday, we take the time to do something that involves effort and personal participation on our part. Time and expense do not matter. By putting the effort in to knit something, rather than buying an impersonal article, we keep our hearts open and our beings centered. We do not become self centered; we slow down and let the hustle and bustle of life slip away. We become, and remain, more human, more true to our best selves. Hardly a small thing. And if I am knitting for myself? Then I am taking some responsibility for clothing myself, for not expecting someone else to labor to provide for me. I am able to do what it takes to be responsible and caring for myself. I am able to use the materials, the wool or silk, as it was intended, to fashion myself or someone else a garment of usefulness and beauty. I respect the gifts of the earth; I respect what my hands and brain were given, the ability to accomplish craft and contribute to the co-creation of the world. As it ought to be. Pretty awesome stuff. And it took me a long time to see it.

I've been trying to finish up the Monkeys in Alaska socks before the end of the year. Like that's going to happen. I keep finding myself tinking back the second sock, due to mistakes that crop up several - or numerous - rows back. It's as if subconciously I don't want to finish the sock. Perhaps I don't.

While on the cruise I only took along two books to read. Both were by Susan Gordon Lydon, The Knitting Sutra and Knitting Heaven and Earth. It was a marvelous choice. Her thoughts on knitting, craft, and the spirituality of place fit in perfectly with what I was experiencing on the trip, and a lot of the Benedictine study as well. I was particularly impressed by her efforts to knit thought, medition, and life events into her sweaters and shawls. Although I could probably tell you what was generally happening in my life when knitting a specific article, I had never experienced a project becoming an embodiment of a particular time or experience. Until now. The sock yarn that I purchased in Victoria, B.C., and began knitting on the trip, has come to symbolise the thoughts, experiences, and spirituality of the entire experience. Knitting with it now becomes a meditation and remembrance of all that happened. And I'm afraid that once I am done, the socks will become just another pair in the sock drawer, with nothing special at all about them anymore.

Perhaps I will keep the bit of yarn that will be leftover in my project bag as a remembrance. Perhaps the other yarns I bought on the trip will take over the ability to lead me into meditation, although the Baby Cashmerino I bought in the same store as the sock yarn did not do this. Maybe with some effort in this new year, in the effort to integrate Benedictine spirituality with my daily life, I will be able to let the knitting lead me into more of a spiritual experience, more of an awakening to place and metaphor, God and Spirit and the here and now.

And in case this all seems too high falootin', I've also made the usual resolutions about knitting up the stash, eating more veggies, and losing 20 pounds. And we all know how that's going to go, don't we.

The Zamboni is back in the garage. The ice is clean and smooth, inviting. Happy New Year! Woohoo!

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Anonymous Jan said...

This is a most beautiful post, and leads to a lot of thought. Thank you.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Kathy said...


GREAT post. Your wonderful Hat for Charity arrived today. Some woman is going to feel quite lovely and warm wearing it! GOod luck in the yarn prize pool!

5:27 PM  
Blogger Roxie said...

Those meditative socks will not become just another pair of socks in the drawer anymore than a well-used rosary becomes just another string of beads. Every time you see those socks, a part of your subconscious will resonate to the spirit of those socks, and even if it's just a twing, it's one more spiritual twing in a day. Or you may get in the habit of pausing a moment, when you pull any pair of socks out of the drawer, and tossing a thought of gratitude and joy to God. Not even a prayer in words, just a quick thank you.

8:49 AM  
Blogger KnitNana said...

What a refreshing perspective you offer here! And yes, tho' I don't know Chichester's work, Susan Gordon Lydon is by my bedside, I've read her over and over, too. I'm so said we don't have her here to write more for us to savor.

Happy 2009, I'm so glad you decided to come back to blogging!

12:03 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

Wow. What a thoughtful, beautiful post. I'm a big Joan Chittister fan (also Kathleen Norris) and have had the luck to meet and interview both of them. Thanks for your thoughts today.

10:19 PM  

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