The Loom and A Homecoming

by Maria Theresa Maggi on October 29, 2019

A long time ago, the Spring after I received the “probable” diagnosis of MS, I made a list in my journal of “Things I’d Done Enough Of” and “Things I Haven’t Done Enough Of.” The principle of considering how to spend my carefully curated energy these last nearly 24 years now has continued to be guided by these two questions I asked myself so long ago.

Perhaps these days people would call that second column a “bucket list,” but that isn’t really accurate in my view. There’s not even really a list anymore. It’s just that when I come to how I’ll spend my time and energy, the question about whether I’ve done enough of something or haven’t yet done enough of it is often quite useful. Sometimes the things that end up in that second category surprise me, but I trust when they show up unfailingly.

Drawing and painting and pastels definitely fell into that category, and for 5 years it was all I wanted to do. I’d even put food aside or leave it sitting to get into or finish some art, which means it was pretty important for a foodie like me. But in the last several months, I’ve felt my need to draw every day slow to a few times a week, and then sort of recede to the background. In the last 5 years I’ve gained more skill, and more enjoyment, and just a couple of days ago I did a charcoal sketch of a friend’s cat that I love, and I have in mind another figure I want to draw into my sketch book.

Events in the world and our country, though, turned me unexpectedly back to something I really really wanted to be able to do in my youth, and, much to the disappointment of my grandmother, could not master. In those days knitting left handed was sort of unheard of and I never got the hang of how to flip things over and join my grandmother in one of her favorite pastimes.

A few months ago, earlier in the summer, I had just donated an extra few dollars to RAICES, an organization working on the border to provide asylum seekers their right to legal representation, when I happened to see under “other ways to give” the following: “If you knit hats or little teddy bears, you can send those to us too.” I was instantly and utterly overcome with a desire to somehow, someway, learn to knit finally, just so I could do this. In a world awash with dehumanization, in addition to the little money I could chip in for bail and legal support, I wanted to be able to give a little tenderness to those who had made it safely across the border and out of detention, or who had just been reunited with loved ones.

And, I thought, it will lift my spirits, too. I’m always happiest when I am making something–no matter what it is. The only problem: I could not knit a stitch.

Buoyed by visions of little teddy bears and tiny hats, I turned to the internet and also to a friend who’s been a life long knitter. She loaned me some equipment to start with and my re-entry into that long ago effort to try to really learn to knit began.

The  good news: there were plenty of videos showing left handed beginners how to knit or crochet. The bad news: I still couldn’t do it. Despite leading with my left hand, my right hand, the one affected by cerebral palsy, was required to maintain dexterity and tension between individual fingers that is simply beyond my abilities. My friend, ever helpful, suggested that maybe if I googled “knitting for people with arthritis” or something like that, I might come up with a solution.

That’s when I had the inspiration to simply type in “knitting for people with disabilities,” because that is most accurate in my case. Which is where, I’m happy to report, I came upon knitting on a round loom. It changed everything. And the large gage round looms are often given to and used by children–so perfect for my inner child that felt like such a failure when she couldn’t knit.

In the 4 months since I began this creative experiment, the  loom has functioned as a powerful mirror for me. It’s taken me back in time to my disappointments as a teenager that I could not join my grandmother at the knitting shop. I felt the fear of failure and the hope of success and I learned over time how not to knit too tightly on the loom, to “keep it loose,” and how to understand it’s about the stitches, not the peg or the needle. It’s given me a whole new way to play with color.

I love that a hat is basically all one long piece of yarn, and that if I make a mistake I can’t live with or repair I can unravel the whole thing and start over. In those moments I thought of Penelope, and how each night she would undo the stitches in a funeral shroud for Laertes so it would never be finished, to keep the suitors who wanted to take the place of Odysseus as ruler of the kingdom and partner in her bed.

The loom reminds me that all things round are magical and resonant for me, and that I used to love it when my first art teacher would talk about “coming full circle.” I learned that it won’t make me a clean stripe in the round, so I had to learn how to create the illusion that it can. I practiced on these very small hats until I got the hang of it.

I started knitting when Romeo was still alive and snuggled up between me and Cotton. Now Cotton is my knitting buddy and sometimes he gently places his paws on my legs while I work the yarn.

Way back in 2013 when I wrote a post announcing the categories I had decided to use on this blog, I opened with these sentences:

“My brain thinks better in circles than straight lines.  When I started having cognitive difficulties from the Multiple Sclerosis, one of the first things to become unpredictable was linear tracking. So I am lucky that I  am also at home thinking in symmetries, correspondences, any pattern other than a straight line.”

The paradox of the loom for me is that I’m required to track in the round. That means I get to move in the round but think in linear sequence, or vice versa. Like meditation, it’s a treasure chest of the challenge of focus and the gifts of relaxation and clarity.

Some circles, however, are so large and so invisible that I don’t see them ever coming “round,” so when they do, it’s a gift beyond compare. In this month when the days grow shorter in the northern hemisphere, and we haven’t yet “turned back” the clocks, there’s a feeling of loss in the air, laced with the beautiful quality of slanted light. I caught a glimpse of what some of that magic can illuminate the other morning walking back from our brisk jaunt on the early morning beach. Another weaver had taken up residence at my street corner:

In another area of my life where I honor the circle, a dear friend of mine back in Moscow and I continue our tradition of getting together on the new and full moon, only now we do it on the phone. Just the other night, when the moon was new in Scorpio (and therefore invisible to us) as we were ending our conversation, she asked me if I had received a package from her. “No,” I said, surprised, and then had to sheepishly admit I’d probably avoided collecting my mail since last Wednesday or Thursday (we were talking on a Sunday night). She seemed concerned and asked me how packages arrived, given none of us have mailboxes at our house. Some of us use a mailbox bank at our clubhouse and some drive up to a tiny post office in Gleneden Beach where there are PO Boxes. I told her there were lockers for packages at the mailbox bank, but if our regular carrier was working and something heavy came, she always very sweetly delivered it to my door. But if someone else was filling in for her they would put it in the locker. “Well, ” she said, “maybe you’d better check the locker,” but, expert at keeping a secret, she wouldn’t say anymore.

Allow me to digress for a moment to gripe about picking up the mail. I try to work it into our second walk of the day which is late afternoon or early evening, which often coincides with the time the mail is being delivered or has just been delivered to the mailbox bank. For some people in our neighborhood, getting that mail right after it’s in the box seems to be one of their central daily goals, as if it might curl up and disintegrate if it stayed in it’s little metal cubicle too long. Though some people walk down, many people drive down, and the result is often a minor gaggle of impatient seniors idling in their cars waiting for their turn at the bank.

If, as I am,  not known for swiftness, and, until recently, walking with two dogs, this can be a bit of a gauntlet to navigate. I usually solve it by joking about getting run over by senior citizens hell bent on getting our mail. I even end up laughing to myself when people walking the other way tell me with consternation, “the mail isn’t here yet,” or “it isn’t ready yet.” Apparently a few people bugged the postal workers so much that there’s now a sign saying to stay away from the mailbox bank until the postal worker is done delivering mail, or it won’t be delivered. This really cracks me up. Why the intensity over market flyers and bills? In practice, though, I try to avoid “rush hour” at the mail bank, because it can be stressful to be standing there trying to keep the little metal door open, scoop out the mail, fiddle with the key to the parcel locker and try to get it to work, all the while trying to avoid exhaust fumes or having the dog waiting in the ‘wrong” place.

This particular Monday I had decided we would go to the beach first and circle around to the mailbox bank on our way home. It would be later and we would most likely avoid “rush hour.” Still, I was a little grumpy I would have to carry a package home and there might be a bunch of junk piled up in my box. Nevertheless I brought a grocery sack and resigned myself to the walk home with whatever had piled up.

When I got there it looked as if the coast would be clear. Only another couple we know and their dog we had visited with on the beach were there. So I opened my box and found the key to the parcel locker, along with several pieces of (mostly) inconsequential mail. As I went to open the parcel locker, a car drove up and waited right in front of me. Then another behind it. The parcel in the locker was heavy! What in the world had my friend sent me? I could barely get it out of there, and it threatened to fall to the ground, but something told me not to let that happen.

It turned out that one of the people in the cars was a friend of ours and Cotton wanted to see her. I made him follow me to the picnic table so I could put the package down and try to sort things out. My friends saw this was difficult for me, and the one in the car said, “hey, do you want me to take that to your house in my car?” “Would you?,” I said, realizing it was going to be a long walk home with it on a day my hand was sore from knitting (!!!).

And thus the heavy little package arrived at my house before Cotton and I got home. There were many dinner prep things to do for him and for me, and for a little while I forgot about the package. But before I sat down to dinner by the fireplace, I noticed it and thought to my still kind of grumpy self, “well, I guess I’d better open it and see what’s inside.”

Not in my wildest dreams would I have guessed. As I opened the top I noticed there was lots of packing and then what looked almost like Christmas ornaments snuggled into tissue paper. They were about that size, but they were–could it be? Pears from my tree on Asbury Street! I knew the feel of those pears in my hands, the size, the color, from the years of tending the tree and its harvest. I could hardly believe my eyes and my hands. My eyes welled with tears to see and feel and smell–and soon to taste– what must be these old friends from a dearly loved past.

When I texted my friend, “are these MY pears?” “Of course!” she wrote back. “How???” I said, and she wrote back “talk.” So we chatted and she told me the story of how she had had to take a detour that put her in front of my old blue house waiting in traffic. She spied over the one remaining fence bordering a parking lot branches filled with pears spilling over the top of it. She said the tree was calling to her, something both of us consider a normal occurrence in our dealings with plants and animals and even stones. So she pulled over and at first started picking the ones that were hanging over the fence. Then, since there’s no fence at the back anymore (some of what was once my garden is now parking lot) she simply decided to walk around and pick as many as she could manage to pick. We giggled at the fact that while she was doing this a couple came out and got into one of the cars. They smiled and waved and she smiled and waved back.

My friend (who is a talented herbalist) and I have a long history of playing with plants and nature together, so this was yet another pearl on that luminous string of memories. A special one, because holding these pears in my hands again and tasting their unrivaled sweetness is what I imagine a heavenly reunion to be like. Those things we no longer have, those things we had our time with and will love for always returned back to the hand again, to taste and touch and hold yet another experience with them close.

The taste of vanilla sunshine is mine again for its brief tenure this season. And my friend says as long as she’s there and the tree is there, she will go back to pick for us. The circle, when made with love, may be wider than my vision, but it is indeed, never ever broken.

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ew lake October 30, 2019 at 11:06 am

I love reading your posts so much. Thank you for sharing. : )

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2 Maria Theresa Maggi October 30, 2019 at 3:43 pm

It’s my pleasure!

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3 Angie October 30, 2019 at 12:00 pm

What a lovely post. Thank you for sharing.

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4 Maria Theresa Maggi October 30, 2019 at 3:43 pm

You are very welcome, Angie!

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5 Peggy October 31, 2019 at 8:55 am

So good to hear from you! Glad you are doing well. Absolutely love your writing. Blessed be!

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6 Lee October 31, 2019 at 6:50 pm

Maria, what a lovely post! I’m glad you were able to find knitting that works for you (and sounds about like my speed, too—I never did manage to master crocheting, much less knitting when I was young.) And I also LOVE that your friend sent you pears from your old pear tree—what a heartwarming surprise! Hugs,
Lee

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7 Veronica November 4, 2019 at 8:28 am

I’m so happy you found a way to knit! I’ve never tried the loom things, but I hear they’re fun. I knit the old fashioned way, but, like you with your drawing, the desire to do so comes in cycles. Right now, I’m in a non-motivated time, whereas just a few months ago, I was doing project after project! I also donated to RAICES but missed the knitted donation request! I love creating little toys, so perhaps I’ll send them a few.
That is so lovely that your friend sent you pears from your old tree! What a wonderful surprised. Definitely worth the effort of going to the mailboxes. 🙂
xoxo

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8 Maria Theresa Maggi November 4, 2019 at 4:08 pm

Thanks Veronica! It’s wonderful to know you are a needle knitter. I’m sure they would welcome a few more toys. That situation needs all the tenderness we can shower upon it. You made me chuckle to myself about those mailboxes. 🙂 xoxo

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