Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Well, I must say that this didn’t turn out at all like I thought it would. Why am I still surprised about this?


Learn to knit.

Every year, I put the same thing down on my list of New Year’s resolutions: learn to knit. It sits there on my to-do’s for 12 months, while other more pressing issues crowd out this odd, old-fashioned desire. Still, it’s a skill that I think I should have, if only to appreciate the centuries of spinning and stitching that have preceded my life, to add my little gathering of twists and loops to that longest of skeins.

Cast on, cast off. Knit one, perl two. The reality of it is one monotonous row after another, though there is something comforting in this, too. People always say it is soothing. I see the Director of Medieval Studies in the front row of the lecture hall, tick tick tick tick, clicking her needles to the droning rhythm of a visiting professor from Harvard or Princeton. Everyone knows she’s listening – maybe better than me, since all I can think about is how gorgeous the sweater she’s working on is going to be. I used to feel that certain arenas should be be kept apart, nurtured and nursed separately. Meanwhile, she is knitting and thinking up a good question for the speaker. My adviser keeps a playpen in her office for her newborn baby. Down the hall – “Do not disturb” – a sign that the girls are pumping breastmilk in the grad student reading room again.

It used to be that I could tell myself to finish one part of life, then move onto the next. Now that seems impossible, or at least unsatisfying. Instead, life is where knitting needles become bookmarks, and a little kid is on my hip when I lean out to see if any students are waiting in the hall for my office hours. Take the stroller to the library. (The first of many trips.) One row of blue loops dives down into the next row of beige in a ball of variegated yarn I found in my mom’s stash. I cannot separate one stage from the next, and that is what makes it complete. Otherwise, our ambitions are nothing but a pile of simple, unconnected chains. Oop. Dropped a stitch. Unravel and go back. Do it right while I can, and keep the rhythm going.

Maybe this year I will finally learn to knit.