Wednesday, February 22, 2006

dreaming with my hands

Something happened along the way and knitting got to be just another brick in the wall of mundanity. The list of chores: Do laundry, wash dishes, organize desk, grocery shop, pick up library books, return phone calls, cook dinner, knit like a slave.

I noticed the transition, of course, and developed a very practical attitude about it. Everything new becomes old. You can dream of living in a place your entire life, but once you finally arrive, set up a sofa and hang up some curtains, you stop noticing the skyscrapers. The mountains that told you you weren't in Ohio anymore, Dorothy, barely register while you're driving the boulevard, lost in visions of what you have to do to get all the other things you want and will, no doubt, acquire and forget in favor of new things (unless you go to sleep one night and wake up Gandhi).

And love. Those who traffic in the ways of the mind are close to convincing us that this whole romantic love vs mature love thing holds water. Meaning that even the boy who made you leave the skyscrapers in favor of the mountains will start to feel more like your brother than your lover, once you get used to him. And you'll have to be okay with that, because what did Bruce Hornsby say? That's just the way it is.

Ah, but don't you believe them.

When I started knitting, it was so much like the beginning of my love affair with The Bubba. My life before was okay. Good, even. But when knitting showed up it was like somebody turned on the sun. I had never known such brilliance, such startling illumination, in my life. Except with The Bubba. Every little bitty thing changed. My senses, previously blunted by my acute inability to stop chasing my own tail long enough to really notice anything, sharpened. People talked, and rather than just seeing their lips moving, I heard words coming from them. Patterns and textures sprang at me out of nature and man-made edifices. My impression of the color orange changed. Orange went from a fair to middling color to a color that added kick and spirit to just about everything. And on its own -- wow. And green. Who knew how lively and soothing this color could be? I'll be damned if there's not some shade of green that looks good on every soul on earth. Knitting lifted me out of my blacks and browns and sometimes grays and catapulted me into a kaleidoscopic world of pigment.

When something makes you feel like this, don't you want more and more of it?

Of course you do.

I did.

I went from an eBay unknown to an eBay star building up my knitting needles, supplies, and oh yes, yarn. If I wasn't knitting, I was reading about it. I took knitting wherever I went, restaurants, dinner parties, movies, plays, road trips, plane trips, you name it. If eating and sleeping even looked like they were going to interfere with my knitting time, I'd skip them. Whatever. I'll sleep when I'm dead, I figured.

In the process of all this, I learned about my own generosity and compassion. I've said before that most of what I've knit I've given away. If I hear somebody's in a tough spot, I immediately want to knit him or her a little softness. I am lucky enough to have many friends and family members I dearly, dearly love, and who have supported me beyond words all my life. Straightaway I recognized knitting as a way to express my love and gratitude to them. In showing adoration through fiber, garter stitch scarves for everyone won't do. I chose projects based on the people they were intended for, even if it meant having to learn new skills in a pinch (which isn't all bad), buy yarn I couldn't necessarily afford at the time of purchase, or work on more projects at a time than I otherwise would choose to so I could meet birthday/holiday deadlines. It is true that no one was standing over me with a whip. But I am the rabid-eyed obsessive type, often worse than any external master.

Marry the way knitting made me swoon with my determination to swaddle the world in wool, and you get a shiteload of works-in-progress.

I cannot tell you how noise-making having a bunch of projects going on at once is for me. Stash yarn I can deal with, but yarn specifically earmarked for patterns, sitting around in various states of UFOness, that there's my idea of purgatory. You see, I have enough unfinished business, enough things I need to get around to doing before I make the grand exit from the stage of life, in my regular everyday dealings. I do not need this in knitting.

What I need, and what I have decided to return to, is to dream with my hands. I need knitting to be that place where I birth my own creativity. I need it to be a pressure-free ode to pure hedonism. I need it as my haven. I need it as my place of discovery and daydreams and light. I need it as my friend.

Just like I refuse to go gently in to familial love with The Bubba in favor of keeping the romantic, the dreamy, the unpredictable between us, I refuse to continue knitting like I'm working on somebody's chain gang. I alone have managed to make knitting another form of toil. I alone can restore it to its former celestial glory.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

sometimes people have to go

The regular writing has taken over and by the time I get home from my office, aka the library, I don't feel much like blogging. Today I came up with the genius idea of blogging before I head for home. So, here I am. Back on the blog. I wrote this entry last week and have decided to post it today. Imagine it's still Monday, January 30th:

Today I am deeply saddened by the death of playwright Wendy Wasserstein. I logged on to the New York Times this morning like I always do when I want to make sure the world is still standing, and found a picture of Ms. Wasserstein on the homepage, with the caption "Wendy Wasserstein, Chronicler of Women's Identity Crises, Dies." She was 55.

I've been an admirer of Wendy Wasserstein's work since I picked up her book of essays, Shiksa Goddess (Or, How I Spent My Forties) from the library several years ago. I read it. Loved it. Tried to understand where she was coming from. One of the essays details her quest to have a child, which, at 48 after having undergone numerous painful and disappointing procedures, she did. It's difficult for me to comprehend this kind of longing for motherhood (see "I had Schmin at 18," below) since I have spent my entire adult life trying to avoid the having of more children, but Wasserstein wrote of her experience with such clarity (I want a baby), candor (This is how and where it hurts in doing this at my age), and wit (The baby's here. We'd both better live through this) that my understanding and compassion for women in her situation squeaked open. I'll never be able to relate on an experiential level, but I know what it's like to want. When I consider Wasserstein's journey, I can see the joy that happens when this aspect of a person's life vision is fulfilled.

I did the book and then, as a new playwright, wanted to find out what her dialogue was all about. I haven't had an opportunity to see her work performed but I have a very, very deep appreciation of it. My favorite is The Sisters Rosensweig for its humor and spirit. I've read the Pulitzer Prize winning The Heidi Chronicles and found it problematic. Okay, I borderline hated it. I felt that the eponymous heroine gets lost in a shuffle of ideas, didacticism, and stronger, more colorful characters. Even still, I applaud the play's thoughtful exploration of what it means to be the last feminist standing in a post-feminist world. As a woman of color from the modest side of the tracks, not every one of Wasserstein's concerns resonates for me (her family includes a brother who owns New York Magazine, for crying out loud) but the conviction with which she depicts them does. One of the smartest playwrights I've read, her bold intellectualism and fierce humor will be missed. Her death, along with that of August Wilson's last October, has left me a little weepy for American theater, replete as it is with Disney adapations and star chasing. Wasserstein and Wilson were original voices, both dogged in their determination to open up the doors and stages of the theater for a more expansive view of American life.

I'm glad I went to church yesterday, where the Rev discussed his "team," the group of people he imagines surrounding him and cheering him on while he meditates and prays. They include Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, the Buddha, and Jesus. Hearing this, I thought, Some nerve! How does he have the balls to deem himself worthy of such company? As he kept talking about striving for excellence and doing things that have no precedence, I realized that if you want to be into derring-do, you'd better get the best help your meditation can buy. That said, the next time I can stop chasing my thoughts around long enough to imagine my own team, I'm going with Wendy and August.

By the way, the picture of Wendy Wasserstein was taken by Jill Krementz, whose book The Writer's Desk is my favorite photo book. If you're a writer or you like writers or photography or even desks -- Pablo Neruda's is particularly stately, Eudora Welty's, most imposing -- check it out.