Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Universal Cowl

I'm starting to understand the ways in which having a reno is every bit as miserable as parenting a baby. Those occasional waves of anxiety - out of nowhere - that veritably wind one, the nausea, that omnipresence - never being able to escape otherness and new accountability that continually fucks with one's identity. I'd like to tell you I'm better at it this time around. I mean, I am better, mercifully, because I never want to be less elegant than I was when I was coming to terms with motherhood. But I'm not better enough.

No question, this shit is 100 per cent Buddhist. I had a kid and, in addition to it being nerve-pingingly intense, I was no longer what I had been. I didn't realize that I'd care about what I had been and honestly, in retrospect, I don't think I did. What I cared about was stimulus management.

Some people are creatures of habit because they're inflexible or, maybe, because they're dull. I'm a creature of habit because every new thing displaces the things that came before it and I have to come to terms with that, tetris-style, and it leaves me fucking unmoored. There's a reason that I won't bring something into my life without careful consideration. I have to find somewhere to put it.

To wit in the most pedestrian terms: I ordered some new yarn, sight unseen - very standard-issue sock stuff which I've used before. I wanted white and navy to recreate the recently finished object below, my first foray into fair isle and one which I enjoyed tremendously:

Midwinter Neck Warmer by Runningyarn

Alas, I took this when there was no natural light so it looks washed out. But it does show SNOWFLAKES!
The store had only had white-white in stock, not cream. I debated whether it would work, suspected it wouldn't and ordered it anyway. I mean, the freakin' yarn store, formerly up the block from me is now effectively down the block from me. No big deal. Scott went to pick it up. When he brought it home and I opened the bag I was absurdly fussed. Of course, the colour was wrong. Instead of wrapping it up and putting it in my bag for a Monday return, I obsessed for a good 10 minutes. It was so ugly. Why had I taken the risk? I knew the shade was wrong but I'd inconvenienced myself anyway. Now I had to be in the midst of hideous yarn, albeit hidden away across the room (but still taking up space), and I wouldn't be able to cast on my project. Note to reader: I also bought other yarn which worked just fine and allowed me to cast on immediately in a different colourway.

OMG people, I'm talking about a fucking skein of cheap and cheerful yarn. Imagine how I'm managing being 8.5 months into a 5.5 month project with no end in sight and a truly unprofessional construction team. (I'd like to say those people don't know what's going to hit them at the end of this bullshit but I suspect they do and they just don't care.)

Do I wish I'd never started this? I don't know. That's kind of like asking: Do I wish I'd never been born? It's a fait accompli and it will continue on its unknowable trajectory. My displacement is about me. That truism about perspective being reality is apt. Sadly, I am seriously attached to my illusion of control. Honestly, as it fails me again and again in every way as it pertains to this reno, I do not know what to do. What is a world without control? Random stupidity? Random joy? This whole random thing is NOT ok.

What is one to do? Well, my jam, when I'm beside myself, is to engage my brain fully. I spent years avoiding fair isle (stranded) colourwork because, um, that shit looks hard. In truth, I've tried it on a few occasions, every now and again, and I was so mediocre (ok, bad) that I was disinclined to continue. Well, no time like the present to get good - especially when a skill is so difficult to develop that it leaves me with no mind-state to feel existential chaos. (See what I mean about the illusion of control?) Do you ever knit for 12 hours straight because you can and the stitches, slipping quietly from one needle to the next, create the most gorgeous brain-groove?

From the existential to the practical: I may suffer under the illusion of control because I'm human that way, but my perfectionism is getting itself in check. There's a great 80s song by the Roches (a name I always thought was pronounced the Rosh but actually they call themselves the Roaches) called Everyone is Good in which there is a big-ass lyric, IMO: Forgive yourself for everything, having once been blind.

The great thing about experience is that it speaks of temporality. I couldn't do stranded colourwork until I could, and even though my first project is flawed (some of those interior floats are a mess),  it is creation. Time was, I would have laboured over its imperfection. Now I see that, for all its flaws, it's also beautiful because it's the incarnation of a moment in time - a moment in mind. It's how I gave up control and let my autonomic self do the work.

I am a strangely un-tense knitter. Sure, my nature is akin to a bouncy couch spring, tightly wound and a pain in the ass for all that, but somehow, when I start to knit, the tension recedes. In fact, I'm the only person I've ever come across (though I'm sure there are millions of us) who needs to tighten up her tension while stranding. If you fall into this category, may I suggest that you work with a springy, non-superwash, wool? Skip the silk, the fibers with drape, because drapey yarn tends not to recoil and, if you're on the loose side to begin with, you want to create a feedback-loop with an assertive yarn that talks back.

Yarn is my universal translator. It takes all experience and contextualizes it. It expresses the biggest things in the most compact, most visible, most tactile way. Sometimes things are impossible-seeming for their scope but that's a fallacy. The universe of the fair isle cowl is just that - thousands of stitches cohering in organized chaos. And that's creation. Nothing till it's something. And very stimulating, for all that.