Saturday, November 24, 2007

Spirals

When Knitting Daily editor Sandi Wiseheart asked me to make a guest appearance on her blog on November 12th, I cheerfully agreed. Little did I know what I was getting myself into . . . I mean really, I participate in online chat groups, recently joined Ravelry.com (I'm sixswansflying), and I write an editor's letter in Spin-Off magazine four times a year. And many readers respond—okay, in reality, it is a very small fraction of the Spin-Off readership who respond to my editor’s page letters, but after each issue goes out I can expect a smattering of emails and snail mail letters—some with constructive criticism, some with stories to share sparked by something I said, some with ideas for future articles. I love it all.

So, back to the Knitting Daily post. It came out on November 12th, the week we were going to press. I wrote about a cardigan I’ve been knitting for my Dad since 1996 out of a lovely brown millspun yarn that he selected (but quite frankly, puts me to sleep). That’s more than a decade ago—I started it six months before I started working at Interweave Press—a lot has happened in the intervening years. I got quite a bit done that first holiday season that I started working on it, but soon lost momentum; that momentum would gather again each holiday season until his birthday in February. Pretty soon, a pattern emerged—I’d pull it out as the temperatures dropped, and tuck it away again once the crocuses appeared. Each year I made a little progress, each year I was determined that this would be the year I finished it. After a while, it occurred to me that had I spun the yarn for the sweater, I would have finished knitting it years ago. I even confessed my spinning snobbery to the massive group of knitters who read Knitting Daily daily. I was a little bit afraid to confess this. But this confession went over pretty smoothly.

What I didn’t expect was the instantaneous responses—comments came pouring in (Oh—Sandi did warn me, but did I believe her? Her posts might generate hundreds of responses, but she’s lovely, adorable Sandi--but I certainly didn’t think mine would.) So far I’ve received hundreds of notes from knitters (and spinners) with stories of their own about UFOs and WIPs, their spinning, their sheep, and punctuated through out—encouraging, urging letters (some gently and some not so gently) to finish my sweater for my Dad.

Before. He. Dies.

Having just lost my very dear Grandmother rather suddenly and unexpectedly, these admonitions from people I don’t know are hitting a very raw, tender spot. I forwarded the post to my Dad with the promise that this year is the year that I will finish the sweater. His response? Totally in line with the wonderful man who is my father—how could I have been guilt-ridden? He knows me. He understands me. He confessed, that as a word-man (he’s a professor of language, literacy, and culture), the story I wrote about the sweater probably means more to him than the sweater itself. Well, of course I believe him—but also, I think he’s being very generous with me. I think he’s demonstrating one of his most admirable qualities (and he has so many), he loves his children for who they are. As one of the knitters said—that sweater is a promise to my Dad—and by not finishing it, I’m not keeping it the promise. Well, that made me sit up straight and listen. But I think it was more the encouraging stories of projects that took years, but were eventually finished that really helped me see that finishing the sweater will be a wonderful and good thing.

But all this thought about process reiterated what I’ve known for a long time . . . that I am not a linear thinker. Sure, I knew I was creative (I was an art major, afterall), but this experience helped me see my creative process in a new light. I work on things a little at a time. I work in a continuously growing spiral. If all my projects were lined up in a room, I would work a few minutes on each one until they were all completed. And I do complete things. To the more linear thinkers (my wonderful husband for instance)—this way of working may not make sense—but it works for me. Some projects have deadlines and require more attention than others, but basically, this is the way I handle my life. I get up in the morning, on my way downstairs, I take a load of laundry to landing, while in the kitchen, I clean up the dishes while I wait for my morning tea to heat up, I add the dishtowels to the laundry on the landing, I need some thing from the pantry in the basement, so I take the laundry downstairs, start a load of laundry, pick up the item from the pantry, take it up stairs along with the clean load of laundry that was in the dryer. Back in the bedroom, I start folding the laundry. I do a little bit at a time and it all gets done. Part of this is because of my attention span—sometimes I walk into a room and I’ve forgotten why I’m there (I’ve always been like this—I can’t blame it on age)—but I start working on something else. Eventually, I make it around to the thing that I forgot about. This organic way of working is reiterated in my creative life and in my work life.

My creative life is dominated by spinning and beads—both resonate with the spiral. I bead photographs with a spiral that starts in the center and works out, I spin yarn—the ultimate spiral. It is a spiral that is connected to the most basic elements of life, the spiraling pattern of DNA, the gentle growth pattern of a fern, the curve of a snail’s shell. This spiral begins in the center, and grows slowly out and around, reaching out and touching things on all sides as it moves in a pattern that grows outward, and yet repeats itself, each time in a different iteration, each time the same and yet different. And then it is complete and a new spiral begins. And sometimes these spiraling lines overlap, connect and grow. The twist, the spiral is always in the yarn, sometimes asleep, but always ready for life.

2 comments:

LuckyinKY for Interweave said...

Amy - Your non-linear thinking probably makes you a great Mom. You're able to juggle more, handle household duties without getting frazzled, and still play creatively. I enjoyed your post! --Jaime in KY

Mary Timme said...

I knew I loved your dad. Mine was that way too. Isn't it great growing up with a dad who loves you just as you are! I've often thought the same thing, we keep on keeping on doing dibs and dabs, (today I nearly finished a painting of an atom bomb explosion and got the face and arms almost done on a kaola bear and baby before I came in here to do this.) and it all gets done. What, is there a time limit in life I have to meet because someone else wants me too! Ha. Ha! I think not!