Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gatherings

I have many friends who started off as students.  My dear friend Jan J. is among them and I can't imagine how it is we didn't meet years before.  I say this because she and I seem to have a connection that was obvious from the beginning, but not spoken of often.  It's just there. 

We share a love of reading and gardening and interest in spiritual matters.  But most obviously we share a passion for knitting...what knitting means to each of us individually...and how it feels when we get to sit down and knit together.

Sadly, like many friends these days, Jan and I do struggle to find time to get together.  It seems to be the new 'norm' for most.  Email and Facebook, Twitter, texting and phone calls have replaced coffee and brunch, lunch and dinner and happy hour cocktails. 

We have moved to a state of disconnect, don't you think?  In my view the disconnect comes from several things:  a lack of eye contact, a lack of sincere conversations catching up and dialing in, and just not experiencing the feeling we get when sitting in someone's physical space sharing our lives in real time.

And just for the record, while I do have days I feel like doing it, this is not a post or a rant about how we should all give up our modern day conveniences to go sit on a mountain top somewhere with each other and contemplate life.   In fact, it is just the opposite.  Life changes and so do we.  Instead of wishing for days gone by and simpler times, I have found I personally am much more content moving with the times and acknowledging the advantages we have at our disposal, instead of fighting it.

The challenge is to blend all of the cool things that technology does for us with activities and moments that counter balance the lack of one-on-one interaction.  For me, recognizing that it is happening is the first step.  Prioritizing is the next.

Spending time commiserating with friends is one of the most valuable things we can do for ourselves.  Soulful chats, quiet conversation, laughing out loud, passing the box of kleenex to dry tears, sipping something delightful that you don't normally serve just yourself...all reasons to gather with each other and share a moment.  The benefits are real and in fact quite necessary for us as humans to experience. 

Time deficit is a self-created dilemma.  Ask me how I know.

I am a strong believer in being in the moment, what it can do for you, and how it can change your perspective on yourself, on others, and the world.

I practice yoga for that reason.  I practice meditation for that reason.

I run.  Oh how I love to run.  It clears my mind and makes me feel empowered.

I want to hone that skill of being in the moment every chance I get.  I watch children play and I learn something about being totally engrossed and happy for a time.

I sit down on the floor with my dog and run my fingers through his wild, soft, white coat while he is completely still and content to be with me and enjoy the attention.  He teaches me that true companionship with another means accepting the person and the moment exactly as it is, no judgment.  Just allow things to be.

When I get on my motorcycle and head out on the road, my senses feel sharp and my mind is totally focused on the feel of the bike underneath me and the wind and the sun washing over me.  It's as close to being truly free and truly in the moment as I can get.

And that is why I love knitting so much.  No matter my mood, no matter the circumstances or the energy around me, when I put knitting in my hands I am instantly grounded, centered, and just BEING.  I know that's a contradiction, in a sense, because actually knitting is DOING, isn't it?

But mindful knitting is like meditation.  In meditation you breathe and you your body is still.  The duality of it is what makes it work. 

When I am knitting, the movements of my hands are the breathing.  My mind becomes the still. 

No matter what's wrong in my life or in the world that day, I am okay when I am knitting.  The feel of the yarn, the warmth of the needles, the rhythmic sound they make when I really get on roll...that all gets me there and keeps me there.  

Everyone needs something that gets them there.

And the only thing better than knitting by myself is knitting with others, because it allows me a double dose of being in the moment.  All the benefits of knitting and all the benefits of connecting with others.  My soul is filled to the brim in those moments, IF I truly allow myself to be there.  (That is the key.  Purposefully and intentionally choosing to place yourself in a moment and gather from it whatever you can about yourself) 

I have found it is especially good for me, as I tend to isolate myself for days or weeks at a time from real moments with others.  Why?  Well, I get overwhelmed, I suspect, and then I shut down.   And of course, alone time, quiet time, is equally important.  You have to make those choices for yourself.  Ask yourself what it is you need.  But often, I can get stuck in that alone time, and for me that's not the balance I am working towards.  Gathering with others (to knit or otherwise) brings me out of my world and into theirs.

These are the reasons then, that since I have been teaching, I have been offering what I call "Knit Aways"---small gatherings, special occasions, learning something new with friends of your choosing, in your environment, at your convenience.  Sounds lovely, doesn't it?   More than any other type of class I teach, these are my favorites.

Why?  Well, I think the biggest reason is that someone taking the time to create a moment, a pause in their lives, for themselves and those close to them, is really so very wonderful to be a part of.  It gives me an opportunity to do mindful teaching, intuitive instruction like no other setting or circumstance can.  (more on those things another day :)

I have done a few of these Knit Aways over the years, but sadly, not many.  Marketing this concept has been a challenge.  Weeknights and weekends are taken up by so many other things for families these days, it seems that we feel almost wasteful with our time if we are not checking things off of our to-do list instead of spending an afternoon with friends.

In many parts of the world, knitting, handwork, and other creative endeavors are a way of life, not just something you do when you have nothing else to do.  And there's no guilt involved.  You need not explain what you're doing or why.  Beautiful concept really.   I would venture to say individuals who live this way are more centered, content, fulfilled, and generally well-adjusted and equipped to handle the inevitable stress and pressures that come with being human on this planet.

Since I have embraced knitting and fiber art as a career and way of life myself, I have had one 'small' goal above all others:  to share my passion for knitting, but more broadly, my passion for creativity in all of its forms, and how it can enhance your life.  And the only way I know to do this is take it moment by moment, be out there, not afraid to 'do my thing', in my way, on my terms, and seize every opportunity to break down gender barriers and age stereotypes that seem to go hand in hand with knitting.  (oooh, yet another topic for another post...lovely:) 

So when Jan J. approached me at the fiber arts fair last fall about doing a class in her home based on a pattern that one of the fair vendors, Bijou Basin Ranch, had on display, I  immediately thought what a great idea, and at the same time wondered when and how I would be able to put it together for her in a way that honors all of these things I have been writing about.  That is why I do them after all. 

Jan, too, had a vision for how this class would look and feel.  Because obviously if she had simply wanted to knit the project, we could have made that happen long before now.  Her thought was to make it special...share it with others.  Create a memory.  That's who she is.  She herself works very hard every day to focus on the elements of life that bring her closest to knowing herself better and she continually amazes me at her willingness to grow and expand and experience new things. 

I respect that deeply.  I believe that is why we are here.

March 19, 2011, Jan will host a knit away in her home. (and just fyi--as of the day of this post, I still have 2 openings out of 7, if you are interested in joining the class--email or call me for more details and questions) 

But here's a sneak peak at what this Knit Away will look like:

We will be making a simple, but stylish little button up cowl that caught her eye many months ago...

 
...it is made from Bijou Basin Ranch yarn called "GOBI."  It is spun from yak and camel down!  (This is a new one for me to work with too!) 

It has a soft, silky feel that I look forward to wearing close to my skin.  I am working on the test sample now. 


The yarn comes in natural colors only and this particular one is a very beautiful taupe that can be worn with almost anything.  It will also be what I call an all-seasons accessory because of it's weight and texture.  I love to knit pieces that can be used every season of the year. 


The sweet and delicate cable/lace stitch pattern is fairly easy to memorize, but presents some challenges.  Even though it is marked at an Easy skill level, I would consider it appropriate for a Strong Advanced Beginner ready to expand their skills or an Intermediate knitter looking to practice his/her lace techniques by way of a very portable, satisfying project. 

We will sit down in the morning and learn the pattern together.  I have lots of tips for lace knitting as well as a couple of new techniques to show everyone.  Cabling without a cable needle, the perfect buttonhole, tensioning with lace stitches, blocking, and working with luxury yarns will be some of the topics we will cover.

Afterwards, Jan will be serving a delicious lunch of Southwest Chicken Chili, Blueberry Cornbread Muffins, and Spinach Salad.

Spring will be upon us by that time next month and I can't think of a more wonderful way to usher it in. 

I encourage you to to look at your day to day life and acknowledge that you are doing the best you can with what you have to work with...accept this...but also understand that there's nothing wrong with slowing down, striving for more balance, and realizing that you are not being selfish when you take time for yourself.  You will have more to give to your family, your job, your friends, when you don't feel cheated out of the things that really tickle your toes!

The knitting is a big part of it, the company and conversation another part.  Sitting down to a meal with friends, yet another part.  These all combine to create a deliberate moment to share, to learn, to celebrate the fact that we are more than our to-do lists and our jobs and roles and titles and responsibilities.  These are the details of our lives, the specifics.  That's not who we are as a whole. 

I hope to conduct many Knit Aways this year as a part of my journey.  I wish you real moments of your own.   

Knit On,

Donna

1 comment:

  1. A new friend, who I recently taught to knit, and I have been meeting on Friday afternoons after school for a few hours to knit and let our kids play. It has been lovely. This Sunday I'm holding my first Yoga & Yarn class at my studio. I have about 10 ladies signed up to attend. I'm very much looking forward to the gathering. And in March I am headed your way...unfortunately I'm returning to Iowa 2 days before this class...or I would be all over attending!

    This post is lovely...as are you!

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