the beach at Arbroath, Scotland

14 January 2004
on and on

freezing cold, so freezing today as i stood outside the little knitting shop where i was working just for today because they needed the help. the cold air was like knives, hurting my lungs which were not quite healed from the low-grade cold i'd had since sunday. the kind of cold where you are perfectly able to go about your daily activites, not quite sick enough to lay around and feel shitty, but instead you must do things and go places while feeling shitty.

the little knitting shop that hired me, the lady who owns it knew nothing but my name and phone number and the fact that i was a frequent patron to her establishment. i actually have issues with her stock - not nearly enough inexpensive staple yarns, but way too much luxury and novelty yarns - not all of us can afford to spend $35 on 50 yards of 100% cashmere, and not all of us like neon pink eyelash yarn with fucking sequins all over it. moving on.

so i worked at this little knitting shop for the day. and for a place as tiny and as new as it is (only opened last July), it was incredibly busy. i taught several people how to knit throughout the day, as well as helped a couple people through trouble spots (as my limited skills would allow). it occurred to me that this is the communication between humans that i love the best - the meeting of two minds over some activity that they both love. i loved nothing better to have a woman come in with a battered Neiman Marcus box and open it to reveal a collection of aluminum needles she'd inherited from her grandmother. i've done lots of needlepoint and sewing, she says, but never knitting. i directed her to a couple yarns that i thought would be good to start with, trying to feel her out, to see what she liked. she finally decided on a dark green 100% wool yarn. we sit down and i teach her how to cast on and then how to knit, and she picks up amazingly fast. she leaves with a little knit piece on her needle, the tension nearly perfect, and promises to come back if she has problems.

i ended the night with the knitting circle. originally, i wasn't planning on staying, but being around yarn all day made me want to knit. i tore out the skinny half-finished scarf i had in my purse and started over again, sitting on the huge maroon couch in one of the back rooms. eventually the ladies filled in around me. out came half-finished sweaters and delicate lace throws. i realized halfway through the night that i was youngest in this group by at least thirty years. i mostly stayed silent as the conversation drifted back and forth, from knitting to real estate to what high school did you attend to knitting again.

it's woman's work, this knitting. it used to be something we had to do, to clothe families, but now it's something we do for fun, to reach out and connect and find a community in a society that's making that sort of thing increasingly difficult. i think it's a deeper way to communicate that just words, it goes far beyond the gossip and idle chit-chat that i heard tonight. it's a way of finding a common thread (pardon the pun) between the women in our past and ones around us today. there's nothing more beautiful, in my mind, than something that has been made by hand, with all the history of that person in it. look, this is the part where i was watching reruns on television. this is the part that i did on the train to new york. this is part i did after i got off the phone with my mother. the night it snowed, but it was so cold that the snow skittered around on the asphalt, like white charcoal on black paper. on and on and on, just like that.

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