Joy No. 15: Earth and Sky

I wanted to get some serious writing done this summer. For the first month or so, every time the little guy went down for his post-lunch nap, I would race to my computer. And every day, just about the time I’d be getting into the flow of writing, I’d hear the call: “Mommy?”

I realized I was not being very present for the little guy, and I was also not feeling very present in my writing. I was frustrated. Talking with one of my sisters-in-law, an artist, I decided it might be easier to focus on visual arts till the little guy was back in school.

So I started a quilt. Then, every time the little guy went down for his nap, I would race to drag out my fabrics, my rotary cutter and cutting pad, or I would race to my sewing machine. And every day, just about the time I’d be making some serious progress, I’d get the call: “Mommy?”

I stopped to ask myself, what was with this manic need to produce, despite the byproduct of frustration? I realized that in the midst of parenting, in which the path of progress is unpredictable, rising and falling like a scrap of helter-skelter┬árickrack,┬áI was craving progress that I could touch, progress that I could control. And ideally the source of that progress could be picked up and put away at a moment’s notice.

Enter my friend Sarah B., who I had met 17 (gasp) years ago in Japan and had not seen in the past 12 years. We reconnected this summer, when she and her family moved to a small town an hour away, and she reminded me of the joy of knitting. (Since I had last seen her, she had learned how to knit and now is a pro knitter and pattern designer.) I went to my closet, pulled out my Grandma M.’s old knitting needles, picked up some yarn and a new knitting book and began casting on stitches, beginning my first project in years: a simple bag.

I don’t get many rows knit at any one time — “Mommy?” — but I can pull my project out and toss it back in my knitting bag in a flash. I don’t get frustrated at all. And every time I get to work the blue section of my variegated yarn, which carries the name “Earth and Sky,” I smile, thinking of how aptly the yarn was named, how the browns are so like the brown earth of the landscape in which I now live and how the blue is so like the perfect summer sky.

And when I get into the soothing rhythm of the knit, I wonder whether it was the colors or the cadence that drew my Grandma and caused her to knit all those sweaters and vests, some of which continue to wrap me in a substitute for her warm embrace, now twenty years since she passed on.