Wooly Thoughts

Purple Haze. Photo credit: Ev Bishop

I’m learning to knit. (Emphasis on the learning—though my very patient, good-humored instructor/friend may laughingly, kindly—but mockingly nonetheless—question if I’m actually learning anything. I might have to post a picture to Facebook to prove that I have mastered, er . . . managed, the knit stitch and the purl stitch now.)

When I told her, pre-first lesson, that I was a complete beginner I don’t think she realized that meant I had never knitted a stitch in my life. People downplay their abilities all the time. Not me. It took me a full hour to grasp how to make the slipknot needed in order to cast on. I even had to be shown how to hold the needles, for crying out loud—but I digress.

“You’re overthinking it,” she said. I couldn’t argue. Overthinking is what I do. In fact, I’ve made it an art, not merely a way to procrastinate. Over the next few weeks I thought a lot about my overthinking while I knit row after row after row—only to take out every stitch and restart from scratch multiple times.

I really like knitting. It’s incredibly soothing to sit, mug of tea close at hand, repeating the same stitch again and again, watching as a lovely (in my current project) swath of deep purples, plums, and blues—like a night sky over the ocean—grows in a gentle swell beside me. I haven’t quite reached the phase where I can knit without looking (though I can glance up, hold a conversation, etc.), but I can let my mind roam—or my mind insists on roaming all on its own. And with my hands busy, whatever topics I dwell on, even not-so-nice stuff and “hard” things, seem more manageable somehow.

As a culture, we’ve benefited a lot from automation and the invention of a bazillion machines and tools to replace work previously done by hand, free time being our biggest gain. Yet in losing those types of chores, I find myself wondering if we also haven’t lost something important—an age-old way our brains used to cope with worry, stress or sadness.

When doing productive work that engages my brain just enough to keep me attentive to my surroundings, but not so much that I can’t think about separate things, solutions to everyday problems seem to arrive out of nowhere. It’s like moving through the rows of a project causes my thoughts to move forward too. I can’t stay stuck on one track or dwell too obsessively.

And unlike so many other parts of life where there are no easy answers, perfect solutions, or quick fixes, there’s something very satisfying and rewarding about this type of tangible-results task: I worked for this long; I accomplished this.

North American culture, one of the wealthiest and most pleasure-orientated of any society, ancient or modern, is also one of the most unsettled and discontent. We’re bombarded by noise, images, and information constantly—at work, at school, and, ever-increasingly, at home too—and all too often we have no outlet, no avenue to deal with the sensory overload.

Enter knitting—or some other wooly-brained pursuit. I don’t think the majority of us will ever make all our own clothing, blankets and bedding again, but we can all benefit from reclaiming some of those old skills. Learn to knit, even just to make your own dishcloths. Darn socks and sweaters (and teach your kids). Bring back the mending basket—where shirts or pants with torn seams sit, then get repaired on a wet afternoon, instead of being thrown out. It’s healthy for the pocketbook, environmentally responsible—and good for our heads.

I suspect I have many, many scarves in my future, and that’s, well, perfect. I like scarves. And so does my brain. Never felt a minute’s stress or mental overload? Lucky jerk, ha ha—knit anyway. It’s also just plain fun.

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“Wooly Thoughts” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, November 26, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

And the winners are . .

In the whirlwind of having the contest end and flying out to SiWC, I just realized that I forgot to say who won. (At least I remembered to notify them!) The happy book winners are:

Deniz Bevan of Montreal, Quebec – one signed copy of Facing Fire by kc dyer.

Laura Best of Springfield Annapolis County, Nova Scotia – a copy of both Facing Fire and A Walk Through the Window by kc dyer.

Congratulations, Deniz and Laura! And thank you for playing, everyone else. 🙂 I might do something else like this in the nearish future . . .

Facing Fire by kc dyer – Win a free book!

Dear All,

It’s an exciting day for me — and a bit of a different type of blog post from me to you. Several years ago now, I had the pleasure of meeting this crazy-fun, spontaneous author, kc dyer, in Surrey at SiWC.

kc dyer’s books include The Eagle Glen Trilogy (Seeds of Time, Secret of Light, Shades of Red), Ms. Zephyr’s Notebook, and A Walk Through the Window – the first novel in a new series. Its sequel, Facing Firing, was just released this week and her main character Darby is gallivanting about the Internet, doing guest blogs to stoke flames of interest for this latest tale.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s Darby on Facing Fire and how journal writing can spark a great story.

p.s. Please comment so I can enter you name in a draw for a free copy of Facing Fire!

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Hi Guys!
 
My name is Darby Christopher, and I’m here because Ev kindly offered to share her special writing space for a day. I’m on a wicked blog tour celebrating the launch of my new book. I’m heading all over the place but this is definitely the farthest north I’ve been since – well, since I had a bit of an odd encounter with a polar bear last summer–
 
While we’re on the subject of polar bears, I’d better start by telling you something about myself. I don’t generally pursue polar bears in my spare time, but after the past year or so it’s become pretty apparent that I do have a weird talent for . . . time travel. This month, as you know, I’m celebrating the release of my new book, FACING FIRE, and it’s got me to thinking. 
 
The story tells what happened after the magical summer that you may have read about in A WALK THROUGH A WINDOW. But before I got to the walking-through-windows and slip-sliding-through-time bits, I had to do a little writing.
 
In the first story, my teacher gave us the dreaded summer journal assignment. At first I was hugely upset –- I wanted to spend my summer skateboarding down Yonge Street in Toronto, not writing my deepest, inner-most thoughts into a lame coil notebook. But you know, after the summer I had . . . well, let’s just say I was pretty glad to have kept a record.
 
So, in a way, I guess you can call me a writer. And if I thought things were weird in the first book? Well, they got a whole heckuva lot weirder in FACING FIRE. Not to mention this little problem at school . . .
 
I’d better not say any more, I think. Let me just tell you – if you write a journal, I think it’s a GREAT idea. And if you want to learn more, I think you’ll just have to read my book. You can find out more about it at www.kcdyer.com
 
Or better still, how ’bout winning a copy as a prize? If you comment on this post, Ev will put your name into a draw to win a free copy of the new book – FACING FIRE. And if you link to this post somewhere else (like in another blog, or on Facebook post or even a tweet) we’ll put your name in for the draw for BOTH of my books. So comment away!
 
By the way, if you’re into looking for prizes, check out my blog HERE at Darby Speaks. I have an AMAZING contest going with some totally fantastic prizes. If you like Twitter, you can follow all the latest on the contest and the blog tour and launches @DarbySpeaks.
 
See you there!
 
And hey, Ev? Thanks for having me. I think you should start, y’know. Tell us all about what goes in YOUR writing journal!
 
~Darby