Friday, January 16, 2009

Obsession As An Art Form

I learned to knit when I was 9; knit madly for a year, and then was badly miffed by losing an argument with a teacher on whether or not I could knit in class. So I quit. Knitting, not class; might have made a different decision later in life, but at age 10 - in Catholic school - in 1963 - there was no question.

I didn't pick up knitting needles again for 40 years. When I did I made an appalling discovery. Among the many, many ways in which knitting is nothing like riding a bicycle is its effect on memory. You do forget. But obsession was waiting for me, and now it pounced; I had to knit.

I could remember how to cast on, but not to cast off - basically I didn't know how to stop.
Also, I could knit - but if I'd ever known how to purl, I had forgotten. Kind friends showed me how to cast off again (though I must say - all I've managed so far is to stop specific projects. Nothing seems about to make me stop knitting.) I learned how to purl from the excellent illustrations in my Reader's Digest Complete Book of Needlework, which is a vital resource for me.

I had to learn how to purl because I wanted to knit cables. So I spent a weekend sitting on my bed with the bedroom door closed, and practised purling until I got blisters. Then I knit cables until my fingers bled. Getting the tension right was harder than I'd anticipated. But by the end of three days, I could both purl and cable, in any direction or angle. I promptly went nuts and made an afghan that had just enough non-cables to hold the cables together; it was ecstacy.

Maybe it was the 4 decades of abstinance. Maybe I was at a good point in my life for an obsessive behaviour to surface. Maybe I just need something passionate, and was getting a little old for casual sex or mountain climbing. But it worked, and that crazed beginning has led to an entirely new portion of my life. There really aren't all that many opportunities given to any of us for life-changing experiences, you know? I'm grateful.

Gonna hold on tightly this time. I don't have time for another 40 year lapse!

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