Saturday, July 2, 2011

Find Your Zone

I ride my own.

I find myself saying this a lot.

I smile when I say it.

It's a standard response to questions like: 
"You have a motorcycle?"...
"You don't ride on the back of your husband's bike?"...
"That's yours?"

Yep, I am a motorcycle mama...a biker chick...a knitting biker or a riding knitter. 

I smile because of the labels and the images this brings to people's minds!  I can just see the wheels turning as they try and piece it they size me up and try to make sense of it.

It's the same when I am in social settings and the standard question that everyone feels compelled to ask is "So, what do you do for a living?"

"I knit.  I teach knitting and I am working at creating and publishing my own designs."  That alone always garners a mixture of curiosity and condescension.  When someone sees me getting off my bike wearing leathers and a bandana and watches as I take out my knitting...well...let's just say I get some unwanted, but no doubt understandable, attention.

For many, in their minds, there couldn't be two worlds further apart than motorcycles and knitting, but I am here to tell you they are as much a part of me as breathing these days. 

I am one happy girl when I get to do both.  Knitting in my saddle bags seems the perfect juxtaposition and represents me in such a satisfying way.

I ride a Kawasaki Vulcan 900.  It's silver.  The pipes are loud and the chrome is shiny.  It's low to the ground and wide.  The seat is cushy and comfy.  It fits me like a glove.  It rides smooth and handles like a dream.  My arms and the handle bars move together, pressing and straightening as the road demands.  My legs hug the bike on turns and I can feel the wheels rolling on the pavement.  It has become an extension of my body. 

 This is the perfect bike for me.  I know this because my first bike turned out to be not so perfect.  In fact, I felt uneasy and unsure of myself to the point I thought maybe this riding thing really wasn't for me.

Well, that all changed when I changed bikes.

Finding a motorcycle that I could become 'one' with was definitely similar to finding needles and yarn I could become 'one' with.  (hang in there with me...I'll get ya there)

Think about it.  Ever held a pair of needles in your hand that felt clunky, uncomfortable, and downright foreign to you?  Ever picked out a yarn that you ended up hating because it felt sticky or rough or too smooth for that matter...just something you wouldn't want to feel through your fingers for an entire project?  Ever found a pattern that you thought was going to be so enjoyable to knit but you ended up ready to poke your eyes out with the knitting needles because it was so poorly written, so frustrating, or so boring of a knit that you couldn't bring yourself to keep going?

I know you've been there. 

So have I.

I am also going to guess that you probably continued to work with those needles and that icky feeling yarn and that awful pattern because you were determined to get your money's worth, but you couldn't wait until that project was done.  In fact, you found that you had to force yourself to pick it up and keep going.

Granted, the needles and yarn I choose to work with aren't a matter of life and limb, like being comfortable on my motorcycle is, but if you take the safety factor out of the equation, in my mind they are very closely related.  

I can't imagine going through life on a bike that I hated to get on.  I can't imagine going through life with needles and yarn and patterns that weren't 100% pure enjoyment. 

No really.  Why would I?

My needles come in all shapes and sizes and I have accumulated many over the years...single points, double points, and my favorite, circulars, in metal, plastic, and wood.  Some I spent next to nothing on.  Some were a serious investment.  I choose which ones I use according to the yarn I am working with, my mood, and of course the project.

I don't use the straight, single points much anymore, but a lot of these are from my Grandma Betty's stash and I cherish them and display them in my studio.
For example, if I am working with wool (which I am almost always working with wool these days) I want a needle in my hands that matches the warmth of the wool fiber.  I tell my beginning students that the yarn and needles should feel good together.  There should be a flow.  Natural fibers tend to go well with natural material needles.  Synthetic fibers tend to work better on synthetic material needles.  These are my guidelines.  You need to find what works for you. 

Bamboo is my go to needle for almost any yarn however.  It comes in many shades ranging from very blonde to a dark caramel.  It is smooth, but has a little bit of grab to help control tension.  It warms to my body temperature and just keeps getting smoother the longer I work with it.  I love projects on size 7, 8, or 9 especially.  They fit me like a glove.  They become an extension of my hands and arms.  

You see how I make the connection between needles and motorcycles?  Why does it matter so much? 

Because a great ride begins with knowing your bike and your abilities, being prepared and comfortable, and having the proper gear.  Starting a knitting project is similar...know your knitting and your skill level, be prepared (read that pattern over and over to be SURE you understand and really want to make it), and choose materials that are right for you.

What I am really doing, in either case though,  is trying to find my zone. That's the goal.  That's the goal for my riding, my knitting, and my life actually.

Let me describe for you what it's like when I hit my zone:

The sound of the engine, the wind, the vibrations, the sights and even the smells all become one moment...all become effortless and connected.  Even though I am concentrating and focused on the road and the ride, my mind lets go, my body relaxes, and I am soaring.  My posture is easy and solid.  I lean back and feel the stretch in my arms.  It feels like flying even though I am on the ground.  And for a little while nothing matters but that moment, that ride, that feeling.   


The familiar feel of the needles in my hand, the very slight sound they make when they connect to form a stitch, the beautiful, soft yarn...all become one moment...all become effortless.  The stitch pattern is memorized and I don't have to look down.  The textures, the colors, seem just right.  Somehow my hands know what to do.  My mind lets go, my body relaxes, and I am soaring.  The work is flying through my hands.  I feel like an artist.  I see the work growing from the needles and I don't want to stop until it's done.  For a little while nothing matters but that moment, that process, that feeling.


The sound of my own voice is familiar and comforting.  I feel loved and wanted and needed.  I trust my instincts.  I speak only when I really have something to share.  I am totally comfortable with the silence and the task at hand.  Minutes flow effortlessly into hours and my place in the world seems confirmed.  Somehow there is a point to it all.  I know my purpose, I know myself.  Compassion, respect for others and their journey...even conflict and pain, do not seem a match for the calmness I feel inside in those moments.


That's what it feels like to be in my zone when riding, knitting, and living. 

The zone isn't always easy to find.  It by no means comes over me every time I ride, every time I knit, or every day of my life.  Not at all.  But it is what keeps me going, keeps me moving forward. 

The pursuit of that feeling is a huge part of my journey. 

The knitting and the riding help me to evolve spiritually.  Truly. 

Why?  Because they make me feel passionate and alive. 

Tapping into your passions is tapping into your spirit.  You open it up and begin to explore who you are and who you are becoming.  Without passion and creativity we would be stagnant beings just taking up space on this planet, going no where, contributing nothing, learning nothing.

It seems the more often I can find the zone on my bike and with needles and yarn in my hands, the more often I find the zone in my life.

Challenge is the other word that comes to mind.  Riding, knitting, living...all require me to challenge myself, if I really want to evolve.

Last weekend my husband and I rode to the Black Hills with 4 other friends.  600 miles and over 20 hours on the bikes in just 2 days was my most challenging ride to date.  Beyond the challenge of the miles and the time was the terrain. 

 We went through Custer State Park, Needles Highway, Deadwood, and Sturgis the first day.  (For those of you who have not been there, Needles is a winding, twisting road with curves and switch backs that seem to go on forever.)  Throw in several one lane tunnels and narrow bridges and you have the makings of a wild ride.  I have heard other bikers talk about it for years and wondered if I ever got the chance, would I be able to do it? 

I didn't think it would be this soon into my riding that I would be presented with that choice.  I have always had a fear of heights.  Curves haven't been my favorite thing either.  Tunnels?  Bridges? 

Needles and the Black Hills in general was all of that and more. 

Here's where riding and spiritual lessons come together for me. 

I am a firm believer that our deepest fears, worries, and anxieties show us where we need to be most gentle with ourselves and at the same time come face to face with, if we want to move past them.  It is in understanding and conquering those fears that we have the most to gain.  In other words, my fears are my greatest teachers about myself.  I can choose to ignore them, hide from them, or meet them head on. 

This is all the more reason why I NEEDED to do this run.  Combining curves and heights and long distances with much more experienced riders all in one ride seemed the ultimate 'walk your talk' challenge for me. 

It left me feeling spent, exhausted, fatigued, proud, empowered, and grinning from ear to ear!!  It was exhilarating and freeing.  I wanted to do it again! 

The next day we headed back home by way of  Keystone, Iron Mountain Road and the Wildlife Loop.    

These guys were really close during the Wildlife Loop...right on the road sometimes

Taking a corner, loving life

Phil and I on the Wildlife Loop

Did I find my zone the entire time?  Nope.  Not even close.  I was thinking about too many things (as I should have been:)  But in order to get there I knew I needed to just ride.  Being on the right bike (for me), being selective of how I spend my time, my money, my moments, all made a difference that weekend and every time I ride. 

My knitting is the same.  In order to get there, I just need to knit. 

Finding my zone in knitting and finding my zone in life seem to walk hand in hand these days.  I will do it on my own terms, my business and my life.  Everyday I get a little more comfortable in my knitter/biker 'skin'...everyday I find that I can talk with ease about who I am and what I do. 

I do not let those thoughts in nearly as often, as I have the past few months, that say I am not making a difference in the world. 

The process of putting my own designs down on paper, working through all of the things that I don't know yet, don't understand, and some days don't want to, is definitely my challenge.  Teaching others, sharing what I love in hopes they will find something they love and bring moments to their life, make me feel like I am making a difference.

I have set my sights on designing patterns that help other knitters find their zone.  I seem to have a vision now.  I have been able to start putting it down.  Sometimes being on my bike I can plan out a whole design or project in my mind.  Again, these things just seem to be working together for me. 

I want you to work with materials you love.  I want you to spend time making patterns you can't wait to start...and to finish.  I want you to find your passions and challenge yourself.  Some things we don't have the luxury of choosing,  This is not one of those things.  You choose.  You enjoy the process.  You find your zone.


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