A Design for Living
The water poured from the ceiling light in our home office and onto the floor, which would soon start buckling like wooden waves. There was a steady splat from the bedroom ceiling; a more rapido staccato in the kitchen. This was at 2:30 in the morning, so I was groggily fazed, but I became wide awake when I saw water pooling at the baseboards … near my yarn. Noooooo!
There have been leaks here and there in the apartment my husband and I moved into sixteenish years ago as honeymooners, but this was looking more like Niagara Falls. After putting every pan and towel we had under our new indoor water features, I did what I do when I don’t know what to do: I sat down to knit.
I came to knitting in 2001, just after 9/11. During that time, one of my best friends was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I lost my job, and my cat died, all within six months. A friend took me with her to knitting lessons. The scarf I made was too wide and too long (I think I was trying to build a yurt to hide in), but as I made each careful stitch, the volume on my inner existential shriek was lowered as if by magic.
I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation for 30 years, but when this pandemic came and we were all locked in our homes, I was not enthused about closing my eyes, focusing on my panicky breath, and chanting Om. A simple garter stitch shawl, granny squares, a scarf—these “mindless” projects are the best mindfulness techniques I know.
Knitting, and my other love, crochet, take me not away, to a place unaware and in denial, but to a place where I know I can find some peace: within. The home of the “still, small voice” that guides us, or that sometimes says, Nothing you can do right now. Make the next stitch. And the next one. Take the next breath. And the next one.
Our neighbor’s ceiling collapsed from the water damage. Ours held, but I wouldn’t let you sit for long under certain parts of our home. The pandemic changed the gauge of stress: Is this leak issue getting to me more, or has ongoing tension dulled me? Both, and neither. It’s Life. It goes on, some of it joyous, some tragic, some just annoying.
We all have a favorite pattern for a sweater, a shawl, a scarf, or a hat that never fails us. The pattern I return to again and again is a design for living: I sit in silence and knit something simple for 10 minutes. One stitch at a time, one calmer breath at a time. Always, the yarn leads me to a place where I understand that, while things around me may not be OK, I can be OK.