Wrote this a few years back and think I've already posted it.......posting it now for a dear friend from Colorado!
Sit. Knit. Cope.
by Julie Webb Kelley
Last year, I received a diagnosis of breast cancer. I had no idea what I was in for. No one does. No one tells you that it isn’t the diagnosis that gets to you; realizing the big ‘C’ has his grip around your throat is now a fact of life that is out of your hands. What is in your hands---or rather on your needles---is learning how to live with it.
The first several weeks, you’re recuperating from shock, bad dreams and late-night pity parties. Your world becomes very small and self-absorbed; you’re living inside the Fun House at the carnival. There are walls, but they’re moving. There are windows, but you can’t see out. There’s a fluorescent bulb glaring on your new world screaming “pay attention, this is serious”. You can’t help but look back to catch a glimpse of your old life . . . just as it blacks out and goes limp. Your body, perhaps painful and still plotting against you, trumps all. You must find a way through this; you must survive.
You will cope. You will learn skills to cope. I had to learn a skill to cope. I had to practice coping. I picked up a pair of knitting needles. I fondled a ball of wool. There was no end to the coping; I needed to know that I was still valuable, that I could still contribute to this crazy world, that there were people out there who were glad that I was coping . . . even if that meant knitting.
In response to all that coping, I got a sweet demonstration of one of life’s best blessings: giving is better than receiving. I practiced the knit stitch on size ten needles with a ball of chunky weight. My youngest daughter hovered nearby, precious and sacred, observing as my coping produced an ordinary scarf. She soon had it around her neck.
I tussled through a knit two, purl two pattern with a hank of fisherman’s wool, the tasty oatmeal color pleasing my senses. My oldest daughter came home for a visit from college, claiming the patterned scarf and I understood, for the first time, what it must have felt for her to think that I might be at home, lifeless and meek letting ‘C’s grip press the final ebb and flow of life from my body.
I worked my first cable stitch with a medium weight colorway of dark blues, rich oranges and bright reds. It made me think of the forest floor on an autumn afternoon; that familiar place I’d run off to after school too long ago. It felt good having an excuse to let my thoughts reverse time for a while each day. I had chosen a vivid yellow cable needle and relished each moment of slipping the next three stitches, passing the needle to the back, knitting the next three stitches from my needles and at last knitting the gorgeous colorway off of the cable needle. It sounds tedious now; I’ve discovered that most knitters hate using a cable needle, too time consuming. But handling the daybreak-bright cable needle in the middle of every row was the articulation of symmetry that my soul craved. That scarf was the perfect Christmas gift for my sister.
Through the strains and turmoil of doctor visits and blood tests, I needed something more. I found just the right pattern: an entrelac stole made from the most lavish yarn I had yet to invest in. I decided to pour my being into this project, purchasing not only the luxurious wool but new needles that I had spent costly time lusting after. The splurge freshened my spirit. I had learned the knit stitch, the purl stitch and the cable stitch, I was ready. I signed up for the class. I was the only student.
“You want to make the entrelac stole, huh? How long you been knitting,”
“A few months,” I wonder now if I should have lied---“ a few years” may have softened her heart.
“You ever knitted entrelac before?”
“You’ve got your own book with the pattern, don’t you?”
I pulled out the book, opening it to the right page.
The women, whose skin was the color of Christmas peanut brittle, began slapping papers around and tossing hanks of yarn into bins, “I’m the last one here. It’s six o’clock, time to close the shop. Start casting on, I’ll be right with you.”
As I began to cast on, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was having a rotten day or maybe, like me, it had been an especially tough year.
When she came back to the table, she brought her finished entrelac stole and whooshed it out across the table, the tilted squares bending perfectly into each other. My breath tripped over my awe.
“That’s beautiful,” I said, tentatively outlining the edges of a few of the diamond shapes with my finger.
“I made it for me. It’s all mine.” That matter settled, she rubbed an open palm over the surface of her stole. “ Who you making yours for?”
I shrugged, looking up at her as she pulled it around herself in an audacious display of visceral confidence.
“It’s too much work for a daughter-in-law. Make it for yourself or . . . maybe your own daughter. But no one else.”
That’s when it hit me. So far I had given away almost everything I had made. Of course I could make something for myself. Something elegant and superb. That stole was her piece of splendor in this world, a glaring suspension of cellophane wrapping her intentions in crystal-clear passion. And it was ok. All I had wanted was a way to cope. All I had needed was to learn to knit, ascertaining comfort from each stitch and every project. But maybe, real coping has less to do with the motions and more to do with the motivation.
“You ready to get started?” She interrupted my thoughts.
“Let me help you make something worth keeping.”