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.
Yesterday evening, leaves were in tight little bumps of bronze-green at the tips of tree branches.
Today they are unfurled, returning shade to the world.
I awake this morning to a cloudless sky and twin suns: one above and one reflected in the mirror of the ocean. Pelicans are already on the wing, gliding mere inches above gentle swells being pulled towards land. Bluebirds and purple martins perform acrobatics above the dune vegetation, warning me that today the sun will be warm enough to coax gnats and no-see-’ems from winter slumber.
Despite this morning’s late winter chill, I bring coffee and journal to the deck, where the entire arc of the horizon is unobstructed. The weathered oak bench soaked up the night’s freezing temperature, and my pajamas offer no resistance to the cold. The sun is not yet high enough to offer much countering warmth. No matter. Coffee warms from the inside out.
Terns are cavorting in the ripples of the morning’s small waves. Like small children, they leap over the approaching breakers and with wings still flapping, settle back into the water to float until the next wave. There’s maybe a hundred of them playing in the waves, waiting for the new tide to deliver breakfast. As the current carries them down the beach it is harder and harder to distinguish the sparkling white of their wings from the white of the wave tops.
Despite the cold, the air is still. The winter-bare stalks of sea oats barely waver in the morning air. Ocean sounds fill the air. The land birds are yet silent, and slow to greet the morning. The sounds of shore birds are drowned out by the swishes and booms of waves. Even these small foot-high swells have a big voice.
So begins my last peaceful morning at the beach. Tomorrow morning will be filled with carrying my things down the 30 steps to my car, and readying the condo for the next arrival, whoever and whenever that may be. I am grateful for this calm, clear morning, for the sunrise that called me out of bed to see this day begin. The sights and sounds and feel of this morning are my spiritual breakfast, a communion offered by Creation to all who sit at Nature’s table.