SOMETHING HAPPENS IN November that tips off a wave across the Northern hemisphere, turning otherwise attentive women away from the bandaging of knees, backing them off from stuffing picnic baskets, and discouraging the raising of their hands to volunteer to score at scholastic sports events. A harbinger of fall, this tidal shift begins with one woman, and for years I’ve been trying to spot her: the first to go, the very first, and like those marvelous people who have lifelong bird lists and travel the world in search of the very last example of a single species, I do the opposite, searching each year for the very first of this breed of woman. This year, I found her.
There she was, at a local soccer game, one chilly afternoon, nodding every once in a while to her family, paying just enough attention to the game, whatever lines on her lovely face utterly smoothed by the deep satisfaction of having a very long, sharp stick in each hand, and a ball of wool in her lap: Fall’s first knitter. And soon, just like red and yellow maple leaves, I saw them everywhere.
Perhaps it’s a temperature thing, but whatever it is, while in some parts of the world the wind may indeed be called “Mariah,” or perhaps whisper “Mary,” into the heads of millions right now wafts a tune that can be sung to the rhythm of “knit one, purl one,” and the soon the socks and sweaters and hats are flying off the needles.
I knit, and here we are, back in the woolery, and I for one am delighted to be face down in the soft and scratchy aspects of life.
After all, it’s a great antidote for all things, including the writers’ block that many otherwise-productive memoirists seem to have.
Don’t believe me?
Writer’s block has been immortalized in story, no fewer than 33 movies, and as the threat lurking behind every time-sucking exercise and writing prompt. And by the way, you’ve got writer’s block if you are merely exercising and not writing with intent. And if you don’t, you will; I’ve seen people so sure they cannot give up their pre-assigned, writing-book-provided-prompts that they shake, making me think writer’s block is the new crack. Either way, just say no. Say the hell with it and do some research. I’ve told you this before, I know. But in every class I teach, I hear about people being blocked.
One great place to look for information is in deeply personal books including diaries, recipe files, and, of course, yearbooks.
Since I knit, I keep a photo journal of every sweater/hat/sock, who it was for, the date it was begun, and when it was delivered, and only recently realized its value as a reference. In it, I am reminded that a favorite piece of clothing is named my “Gulf War” sweater, knit when watching war on television was still a novelty, but so upsetting that I had to keep my hands busy. The photo caption for “Lillian’s funeral sweater,” reveals that the casting on began as we departed for my mother-in-law’s burial in Indiana, and how the last button was attached eight days later, when pulling back into our driveway. If I can locate a theme in there—and I think I can—I could write a memoir from this journal, and never get blocked.
The other reasons I love knitting? Well, while I failed miserably at my last project, I am about to rip it out and turn it into a reproduction of a favorite sweater purchased more than 25 years ago. And that’s just one reason why I love knitting. I mean, it’s a lot harder to repurpose the ingredients of a failed chocolate cake than it is an elaborate shawl. And after that? A friend gives birth at the beginning of December (baby hat!), there are holiday socks to be made, and my oh my, there is that sweater I’ll have again to love and love.
I’m not the only one who looks forward to this time of year, of course. My husband does, as well, suggesting as he does each September that “things go better,” when I pick up my needles again, and like most things said in a marriage you’d like to wake up to tomorrow, I don’t ask him what he means by that, but knit along, just nodding every once in a while in his direction. The perfect marital aid.
Hear that contented sigh on the breeze? I’m sure you do.
What’s on your needles?