yesterday i finished one of the more difficult things i've ever knitted. its difficulty for me came not from the skills it required but rather from the thoughts that are as much a part of the finished project as the yarn. you see, knitted things (or at least things i knit) always have a recipient before they come into being. whom they are knit for is as much a part of the process as selecting a pattern, choosing yarn, and sizing it. i need to know who the recipient is because each stitch is not just made up of yarn, but also of thoughts. in this way, my knitting is woven together (hopefully) by skillful stitches and a complicated tangle of memories, thoughts, well-wishes, and hopeful reflection. (this is not including the couple of times when i got engrossed in some Law & Order episode and briefly forgot what was going on with the yarn in my lap...)
what i just finished was a prayer shawl. a prayer shawl is an old craft, made completely by hand, for someone who is ill or grieving. it wraps its recipient up in all the warmth of beautiful yarn woven with the thoughts and prayers of its maker. it's a woolen hug.
the one i finished today is for a friend of Cob's who lost a child. losing a child is something i can't imagine beyond imagining that its terribleness exceeds words. and i know that learning to live through loss is a terrible and necessary journey. so, i trimmed this shawl in knitted leaves, which always remind me of life and its promises.
eight years ago when i suffered a loss that exceeded my power to describe it, my sister gave me a small plate made by a local artist from her area, decorated in the center by a tree whose sprawling branches unfurled out into curling leaves. the tree of life, she told me. since then, i take a certain comfort in the trees around me, and i pay attention when they leaf out in the spring. i inspect them closely, watch their progress, cheer them on, and silently thank them for coming back.
they are simple things, these leaves, but as part of venerable old trees or brand new saplings, they endure and reinvent themselves. in some very basic way, they are life itself.
in times of loss, there is precious little any of us can do. i did my best with my one good skill to make something warm and beautiful, and i lent it the power of leaves to help my husband's friend.