Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Shawl Thoughts

This summer started, and is coming to an end, with shawls.

The summer started happily. Dad had a new pacemaker and was doing well, I had a conference and thus a rare chance to travel, and I was working on a bold, red shawl of my own design in lace.

Sumer is closing sadly. Dad is gone, and I am working on a simple triangular shawl in garter stitch. It is a shawl I cast on only a few days before he died. Although the colorful yarn clashes with my mood, the rythmn of plain knitting soothes the soul and allows for an empty mind.

The act of knitting invokes something inside me that I call "kinetic memory," as though knitting is a way of physically recording my life events with sticks and string. Grief, happiness, anxiety, love and exuberation each have their own secret way of encoding themselves into yarn and stitch patterns.

I look at certain item and not only do I recall exactly what was happening in my life when I was working on it, but my feelings from that point in time are summoned as well: that is the bag I was working on when Simon died. Those are the socks I knitted when Dave was in the hospital. That is the afghan that got me through the days after 9-11. This is the hat I made on our vacation to Portland.

And this is the shawl I had just started when Dad died. This is the shawl that is helping to make things bearable right now.

This particular shawl is going to be hard to have around. I am sure I will store it away when it is done. And maybe one day it will not bring me down every time I look at it. Maybe, one day, it will stop reminding me of the deep sadness of this August and, instead, remind me of the solace one can find in yarn and needles. Maybe, one day, the colorful ribbon yarn will feel cheerful again.

So before I go to bed tonight, I will knit for a little while on this simple project, let the softness of the yarn comfort me, and wonder when I will be have the heart to wear the resulting shawl.

When this is done, I need to work on something besides shawls for awhile, I think.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Garter Stitch Is Good for You

Garter stitch never ceases to amaze me with its humble beauty, its balance, and its soothing, meditative, and even healing qualities. This is a good thing, because after the last few weeks, garter stitch is about as much as I can wrap my brain around. So I have picked up some needles and some ribbon yarn, and I am making an Idiot Shawl.

I might make several.

Mom and I are in the process of pulling things together after Dad's funeral. I have been calling her daily, and somehow the house sounds empty in the background. But Mom is a trooper. She is finding her way through her grief by keeping busy, spending time in prayer, and getting ready to move into an apartment close to us.

I am finding my way through my grief with my job, which distracts me from it, and with sticks and string, which guide me through it.

Garter stitch is hand yoga.

I knit, the nearest cat purrs loudly in her sleep, my brain shifts into neutral, and images float through my mind slowly, one at a time, like floats in a parade.

I am thinking of better times with Dad. Mostly simple things: listening to Cubs games on the radio on summer nights, going to the zoo, catching tadpoles, drinking Cokes out of little green bottles, and riding with my arm sticking out the window of his old two-tone 1950s Chevy.

These thoughts make me puzzle over one of life's greatest mysteries: why it is that some of our most profound and vivid memories are of the most ordinary things imaginable, and why we often can't remember the details of events that were, usually with great pains and extensive planning, intended to be remembered. I have no idea what happened at my sixth birthday party, for example, though I have no doubt that Mom decorated the house and invited my playmates, that presents were received, and that cake and ice cream were consumed.

But last night I spotted some fireflies. When I was a kid they were everywhere, even in the heart of the city, anyplace there was a backyard or a small park.
Today they are much less common, so it was a real treat to see a small group of them blinking away in the bushes. I watched them blink silently in the darkness, and...

suddenly I am six years old, running around in our small back yard in New Orleans, capturing fireflies in my cupped hands and putting them in a pickle jar. I can see the fireflies, feel the humid air against my skin, and even smell the freshly cut grass and the faintly pickle-ish scent lingering in the jar where the baffled fireflies flit and blink.

And I can see my Dad standing on the other side of the yard. He is wearing a white undershirt and a pair of dark pants. One hand is occupied by a cold bottle of Jax beer, and the other glows like a lantern, blinking, as he walks toward me and puts another firefly in the jar.

Then he walks across the yard to sit on the steps. He is young and tall.

He takes a cold sip of beer, and watches me catch magic in a jar.


Monday, August 15, 2005

On Standby

The Knitting Asylum is temporarily on standby.

My father, Adam Rabeneck, died last Saturday at the age of 88. He was a disabled veteran of World War Two, worked as an accountant, and was a lifelong resident of New Orleans. He loved baseball and football, especially the New Orleans Saints. He loved animals, and, above all, dearly loved his family.

He died of sudden cardiac arrest after a long history of heart disease.

His mother was the first person to teach me how to knit, crochet and sew.

Dad had a lovely funeral with an Army honor guard, and went to meet his Maker in a pair of hand-knit socks.

I'll post again as soon as we have some things settled down.

If your folks are still alive, call them today.



Inmates in the Asylum since July 27, 2006: