Friday, August 7, 2009

The Excruciating Dilemmas of Daily Life

As the countdown begins to the new school year (only 17 more days of vacation - sob!) I have paused to reflect on the terrible, agonizing decisions I have had to make over the past few weeks.

Should the boy have swimming lessons at 9:30 or 10:00? IPod on Shuffle, or on a playlist? Library before swimming or after? Riding lessons on Tuesday or Wednesday? Clean the house today or tomorrow? (Actually, the answer to that one is tomorrow. Always tomorrow.) And the most difficult, the one that has caused me the most lost sleep and mental anguish, is this: reading, or knitting?

It is a matter of constant sorrow to me that I can't read and knit at the same time. There comes a day in a person's life, though, when they have to choose: Peanut butter or chocolate? Fixed rate or variable? Rock or country?

I believe that, while my plan for world domination has not yet come to fruition, I have solved the reading/knitting dilemma to certain extent.

I have chosen to read about knitting.

The other day I went to a little knitting/weaving place not far from here. It's run by this teeny tiny leprechaun-type guy, who used to be a teacher, with a bluetooth thingy stuck in his ear, big round glasses and long flowing grey hair. He has a small shop that is full of yarn, and spinning wheels, and equipment for weaving and spinning and knitting, and books. (He has all of Barbara Walker's stitch dictionaries in stock. I am not thinking about that right now.)

Here's the thing about the books, though: you pick out the one you want, and then he goes and gets you a brand new copy from the depths of his stash. One that has never been touched by human hands. One that is pristine. He does that with knitting needles, too - it's very interesting.

So anyway, the other day I went in search of yarn - mitten madness has begun chez Artsy, and I needed a couple of skeins of worsted weight in nice colours. Of course, being me, I browsed for some time among the books, and found this one: "Two Sweaters For My Father" by Perri Klass. I have a previously undisclosed fondness for books about knitting: essays on the noble art, personal reflections, funny anecdotes. They're not exactly thick on the ground, but a couple spring immediately to mind: one edited by Annie Modesitt called "Cheaper than Therapy"; and one at the local library (whose title escapes me) about knitting through sorrow and change. It seems to be a universal theme: knitting is more than just knitting, it is soothing, it is solace, it is creation, it is warmth, it is challenge, it is everything you need it to be.

Perri Klass's book was full of essays she's written for knitting publications over the years, and includes an essay she wrote for the New York Times Magazine back in 1992, about knitting through meetings and lectures and classes when she was a medical student, intern, resident, and finally a fully qualified pediatrician. The quality of writing is fabulous (turns out she's won a boatload of prizes for her writing) and the stories were all excellent. I couldn't pick a favourite if you asked me, but I did appreciate one essay about how knitting goes well with murder mysteries - in particular, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. "The scarf [knitted by Miss Marple during the investigation] after all, we might imagine, is rather like Miss Marple herself: feminine and traditional and even maybe just a tiny bit ditsy to look at, but strong, well-constructed, warm, and highly serviceable." I like the idea of being strong, well-constructed, warm and highly serviceable. Seems like a good thing to be.

She goes on to write "Knitting goes perfectly, in so many ways, with books that are themselves constructed as sophisticated puzzles, complex patterns full of twists and turns. When you come to the end of such a novel, you look back and appreciate all the most elaborate zigs and zags, all the places where the pattern turned inside out, or where the individual twists suddenly wove together into a remarkable braid that you hadn't been expecting."

So you see? Sometimes you can combine your favourite things: raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Mint and chocolate. Warm woolen mittens (in red Lamb's Pride bulky) and the stories of Perri Klass.

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