Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Bitter and the Sweet

Fall is always a bittersweet season for me. There's a lot that I love about it, and have recently posted about, but fall has another side. The side that's about darkness, and death. It's bare trees, and decaying leaves, and longer nights. It's the knowledge that winter is coming.

Last week the air was much colder, and we had a few days of frost on the ground. I wanted to capture a picture of the frosty grass, but unfortunately didn't have my camera with me. This weekend seemed to mark the proper start of the fall rains. The forecast is up and down for the next few days, but I can't shake the feeling that the rains are here. 

Today I knit away on my Monkeys, finishing the leg and heel flap of the first of them. And as usual, today I was overtaken by the sensation that I'm sure many of you knitters out there can appreciate: the calm of knitting. The way that simply knitting a few stitches can make breathing slow, and blood pressure drop. It's almost a magical feeling, but I feel like knitting in general is a kind of alchemy. String and sticks and hands making something where there was nothing. 

I learned to knit as an adult. I took a class at my LYS a few years ago with a wonderful woman named Pearl Chow. Pearl has patiently taught me how to cast on, how to knit and purl, and how to pick up my dropped stitches (a feat that requires a medal all on its own). With her guidance I knitted a rolled-brim hat, and a bag. As I've continued to knit, Pearl has been there, calm and pragmatic at our weekly local knit nights, helping me select yarns and choose patterns. She is the one who ushered me into the knitting world, and I am very fortunate to have had a guide such as Pearl. 

Tonight I found myself thinking about my motivations for learning to knit in the first place. I've often told myself that the historicity of knitting is what appeals to me. To an extent, this is true. I like the fact that people, particularly women, have knit for hundreds of years. I told myself that I like knitting because I like making things with my hands for the people I care about. This is also true. But tonight I finally realized that one of the main reasons I knit is because it connects me to my own history, and one particular knitter: my grandmother. 

I don't mean to say that I've never considered this before. I grew up watching her knit and tat. Her hands were always  busy when I'd come to stay with her and we'd watch "The Price is Right". I remember asking her to teach me how to knit. I was probably eight or so. She cast on the stitches, red wool on grey Aeros. She showed me what to do. I dutifully knit across the row. Then came time to purl. I wasn't having any of it, and had my grandmother do it for me. Then I knit across the row again. No, not purling. 

As you can imagine, this endeavor didn't last long. My grandmother didn't have the patience to keep purling for a recalcitrant granddaughter, and obviously wasn't a fan of garter stitch! I wasn't interested enough to pursue the idea of knitting any further. Yet when I began knitting, I went looking for a pattern for the checkered slippers she made for all of us in hard-wearing acrylic, in colour combinations like mustard yellow and brown, or burgundy and navy. 

And now I realize that one of the reasons I knit is to apologize to my Grandma Helen for being a flighty and impatient granddaughter. I knit to honour her, and the many hours she spent knitting for me. Sadly, my grandmother was lost to senility many years before she died, and I never got to tell her how much I appreciated everything she did for me. She knew I loved her, but on some fall days it doesn't seem like enough. And so I knit, and in the calming ritual of making the stitches I validate what she did for so many years. I tell whatever energy is out there that is Grandma Helen that I saw, I appreciated, and I remember.

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