Thursday, August 30, 2007

Almost One Year

One year ago, my essay about how knitting helps me cope with disability aired in Episode 34 of Brenda Dayne's podcast, Cast On. Noricum heard my essay and contacted me with the idea that became this blog. So, thank you Brenda and thank you Noricum. You have had a larger impact on my life than you may ever know.

Here is my original essay:
As I’ve listened to this series on Sense of Place, I’ve slowly realized how my knitting does, in fact, reflect my surroundings. I’ve only been knitting for five months, so I assumed it was too early for me to think in terms of such an influence on my craft. I wish I could claim that my knitting is shaped by the endless stretch of Montana grasslands, or the heart-stopping, gut-wrenching beauty of Crater Lake in Oregon, or even the lights of a city nightscape, but I cannot. On the contrary, I cannot leave my home for more than a few hours a week. I am enclosed within the walls of chronic illness, a disability that has remade my life in its own image.

I fell ill at the age of 26, just twelve years and several lifetimes ago. Whether through prescience of my future, or dumb good fortune, I had already slept beneath the big sky of Montana. I had hiked down to the edge of Crater Lake. But I was not a knitter then. Had I been, I suppose I would have knit fair-isle sweaters for nights by a campfire, or thick wooly socks to go with my hiking boots. Complicated lace charts would not have frightened me the way they do now.

My knitting reflects the emotional and spiritual place I occupy within this strange disabled life. I need to knit simple projects that require little attention to detail because I cannot concentrate very well. My energy is my most precious resource, so every stitch must be both pleasurable and successful. I strive to create productivity and accomplishment in my day, defying my body’s restrictions. I absorb every expression of the craft of knitting, from patterns to books, from blogs to podcasts, so that I can transport myself outside my walls towards the community of knitters that I cannot visit in person.

My knitting also reflects my physical place in a simple way. I make two kinds of projects: gifts for treasured family and friends, and comforting objects for myself. The gifts allow me to symbolically travel out into the world with loved ones, since there are too many times when I cannot go with them. The things I knit for myself are simple, warm, soft. Because I spend my life confined to my home, I try to make it a place of simplicity and comfort. I’ve made quilts, drapes, pictures and other things, and each object tells a story about what was happening in my life at the time. I remember where I bought each yard of fabric or skein of yarn.

In May, my husband and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. We met shortly before my illness, and he has walked a difficult road with me. To honor this milestone, we traveled to New Mexico, a place I had long dreamed of visiting. The trip came with a high price, paid with pain and exhaustion, but it also felt like we were playing hooky from our day to day existence. We visited a small wool co-op, and I purchased three skeins of natural colored wool. When I got home, I chose two Barbara Walker stitch patterns: Navajo basket and tri-color tweed. I had never knit without a pattern before, but I calculated my gauge, held my breath, and somehow knit two pillows for our family room. The shades of brown and texture of the stitches remind me of the New Mexican landscape. I use the pillows every day to support my back or cradle my head. Most importantly, the process of this knitting keeps me connected to the most important place of all – the part of me that is not illness or disability, but strong and brave and powerful.

2 comments:

Lisa Copen said...

What a wonderful article on your illness and how you cope with it through knitting. I am from Oregon, so am aware of the beauty of Crater Lake too! I really missed cross-stitching once I was diagnosed with rheuamtoid arthritis. I think taking up more graphic design has been my creative outlet (see www.scrapbookmyadoption.com for my 'creative project.) I have been reading your blog because you mentioned your illness.

I couldn't find an email to reach you so I am posting this here. Feel free to delete it if you want. I know it's a bit of a stretch for a "comment."

I am the founder for National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, held annually in Sept. This year it is Sept 10-16, 2007. Based on the content of your blog I thought you would be interested in knowing about the week, as well as our awareness video at http://www.invisibleillness.com .

You are welcome to share any of the information from the web site with your readers, including the video. This year’s theme is “Living with invisible illness is a roller coaster. Help a friend hold on!” There will be 3-4 chat seminars each day and there are items such as t-shirts, car decals, pins, etc. to help spread the word.

Thank you so much for your efforts in blogging about chronic conditions. Nearly 1 in 2 people in the USA have a chronic condition and 96% of it is invisible. We hope to bring people together to encourage one another, as well as increase the awareness that one may “look great” but not feel so wonderful.

Lastly, I’m giving away free copies of my book “Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend” to bloggers or web site owners who would like to review it on their web site or give it away to a reader as a prize. Just email me back your postal address at lisa@invisibleillness.com if you’re interested. You can read more at http://www.beyondcasseroles.com .

Thanks so much for your blog, helping others understand illness and pain.

Lisa Copen
National Invisible Chronic
Illness Awareness Week
Founder & Coordinator

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Korin said...

Thank you for writing this, and for starting your blog. I believe you will reach many, and educate many more. ::hug::