It was late at night. Usually I would have been reading a book. But, that wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be alone with myself, not immersed in a world with other characters. I needed to be fully present to my thoughts and feelings, not escape them.
I had some thinking to do. I decided to knit.
I’ve been wondering what the purpose of my knitting might be. Years ago, it would simply have been a thrifty skill to have. I would have knit sweaters, scarves, blankets, hats, and gloves for my family and friends. I could even rip the stitches out of one piece after it’s usefulness was gone – say, after a child had outgrown it – and make it into something new. Talk about resourcefulness!
But, that’s not what I do. Nor is it what any knitter I know does. Knitters these days mostly knit as a hobby. They do it to express their crafty sides. For the satisfaction – and novelty – of making something with their own fingers instead of buying it in a store. Generations ago, it would have been unremarkable. Possibly, it would even have been embarrassing to wear hand-knit clothing. Now, it’s a practice that’s been adopted by hipsters. Women with comfortable lives and time on their hands. Women, I guess, like me.
There are lots of other things I could be doing with my time. I could cook – that’s very useful, and it’s also truly thrifty. I could be writing, which is something that I love and it’s also a way for me to earn some money. I could be reading, napping, catching up with friends, or any number of other errands that are on my list.
So, why am I knitting?
The answer (or, one of them) came to me that night as I lay on the couch in the middle of a quiet night. My fingers automatically completed the repetitious movements, my eyes saw the yarn but also looked past it. It felt a little like a meditation, like what I imagine a rosary might be like, if I ever did a rosary. I had some troubling thoughts, working out what I felt about big changes that are coming down the road in my life. As I knit, I was reminded – by row after row of purposeful knots – that sometimes we must allow for, even create, knots in order to make sense of our lives. In other words, sometimes things have to get pretty messy before we can clean them up.
In fact, knitting is a little like writing this blog. I’ve been questioning why I’m sending these little projects out into the hinterland of the Internet, out where few people will ever come across them. I’m realizing that, even if no one reads these meditations of mine, they are still useful, if only for me. I write to know what I think.*
Which, I suppose, is the same reason I knit.
*I’d love to accept credit for this sentiment. But, it was Auden who said something like this and many writers whom I admire have echoed and paraphrased it.