Handcrafts belong to an earlier world, the slower pace of preindustrial life where one had the leisure to sink deeply and profoundly into the rhythms of nature within and without and to feel a connection with the earth as a living spiritual entity. We make things by hand to express who we are, our identity as individuals as well as our affiliation to our tribe or our clan. Handcrafts throughout history have often been fashioned with the aid of prayer, one prayer for each bead or each stitch, while keeping good thoughts to enhance the spiritual purpose of the object. . . . The motions of needlework are singularly well suited to the practice of contemplation.
-Susan Gordon Lydon –The Knitting Sūtra: Craft as a Spiritual Practice
I’m back from a knitting retreat with my Wednesday night knitting group. I spent the weekend ensconced on a screened porch under sheltering trees, overlooking a lake, knitting and talking and living outside of normal time.
A weekend with no schedule, no agenda, no list of things to get done, allowed me to hear the approaching whir of tiny wings, allowed me to watch the hummingbirds defend their claims to red plastic flowers as they darted between the feeders. A bald eagle screeched and landed in the tall pine beside the house, and I watched in wonder for a small eternity before he silently beat outstretched wings and glided deeper into the forest. Titmice and chickadees cracked open sunflower seeds one by one. A green lizard sunbathed on the porch railing until warm enough to advertise his prowess by inflating his cantaloupe-colored neck pouches.
The quiet clicking of our knitting needles and our quiet attention to our stitches and to each other created safety, created a place to speak the history of our hearts, created sanctuary. Our deep listening created sacred space, and a place where we all belonged. In our circle, we spoke the horrors we survived, we honored our courage and strength, and we celebrated who we’ve become: incredible, creative women who drink deeply from life; courageous women who share our strength with those who cannot yet find their own; fiercely loving women who decide every day to turn bad to good, and so love this sweet old world and the people in it a little bit more.
And in our sanctuary, every stitch, every word, every breath, was a prayer.