It was, as these things often are, my husband’s fault. I’d packed up the items for our week at the beach carefully—bags of towels and sheets, waters and snacks, sundry items that would be cheaper here than in a vacation town—and added my own suitcase of clothing, my laptop bag, and my knitting. All my husband had to pack was his own clothes. But I was teaching a class on Saturday, an eight hour seminar that wouldn’t end until 5PM, so my husband agreed to pack the car and pick me up.
We had a pleasant enough drive to Bethany and then arrived at our condo, ready to unpack and begin our vacation. And one of the necessary accouterments to a vacation—or to anything, really—is my knitting. Knitting, that ages-old handcraft gifted to me by my grandmother when I was nine, had seen me through hospitalizations, surgeries, and just downright awful times. Knitting, with its methodical and Zen-like rhythm, its profusion of colors and textures, its ability to create something out of nothing, never failed me.
Wish I could say the same of my husband.
After six trips back and forth to the car—Ron wore out after two and sat down in the easy chair—I realized the awful truth: my two projects chosen so carefully to accompany me on my vacation, had not made the trip.
Ron insisted he had brought the green bag, that I had just overlooked it in the car, that it would show up in the light of day, that I was concerned about nothing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No knitting. Nowhere. I called our son Allen, who was home minding the animals, and he said that yes, indeed, my knitting bag was on the porch.
The porch. All alone. At night.
Needless to say, I had a hard time sitting still that evening. Knitting relaxes me and after Ron’s four week hospitalization in the spring, my job lay -off notice in June, and Allen’s recent diagnosis of autism I needed some calmness in my life. I had envisioned sitting on the porch, overlooking the bay, and knitting my troubles away.
I chewed on my fingernails instead.
At breakfast the next morning, I asked the waitress if she knew of any knitting stores that would be open on Sunday. Sea Needles, a lovely little shop run by two women who adore the fiber arts, was closed. All the waitress could suggest was Michael’s, way up in Rehoboth. I decided I could wait it out one more day and, as a treat for my patience, splurge in something yummy and wonderful.
Alas and alack.
Monday morning found me fairly pounding down the door of the little shop, explaining to the two women how I was totally adrift without my knitting and how my husband had totally failed me with this one, simple request. And after I’d borne him three children! They took my side immediately and allowed me to walk around the store, grabbing sample projects off of hangers and caressing expensive yarn.
I decided on a pattern for a shawl called The Hitchhiker. There were 42 points, the clerk explained. She didn’t know why, but said I could make any number of points because, really, any yarn would work.
42. The answer to life, the universe, and everything.
I told the woman that 42 was significant in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the obvious inspiration for the shawl, and that as both a reading teacher and a literacy specialist I would have to make 42. Because, as I pointed out, it was the answer. To life. The universe. Everything.
She helped me pick out some lovely sock yarn in shades of purples then handed me size 2 cable needles. So excited was I by the prospect of my new project—which had a literary angle—that I gave little thought to the complex task of knitting on size 2 needles.
Which are really small.
As a general rule, I prefer working with DK weight yarn and needles no smaller than size 8. But, as my daughter pointed out when I called her, I like trying new things and this was to be a souvenir of my week at the beach. An adventure.
A small one.
I started knitting with the Lilliputian needles on Monday night while Ron watched some sporting event or another. They all sort of blend together for me. I was immediately frustrated with the task of casting on tiny, tiny stitches, then putting the right hand needle into the back of the teeny stitch on the left hand needle. My hands started cramping up from holding the little bamboo sticks after just a few rows.
I put it aside.
But I am not a quitter. Ask anybody. I’ll hang in there until after the cows have come home, had their supper, and gone off to bed. So I picked up the knitting again the next morning, really looking for the meditative movements of knitting that never fail to calm me. And if you don’t think I needed calming, please see an earlier paragraph. It was hard. It felt awkward to me, not at all what I am used to when I knit. By the time I had knit 4 of the points, I began to get into a new sort of rhythm. I needed to pay more attention to the needles, needed to be careful that I didn’t split the yarn as I slid it from left to right, and needed to count the slipped stitches that made the points.
I felt a little calmer.
The more I knit, the more I saw the shawl become not just a tangled mess of fine yarn, but a whole new creation, tightly woven together. With stitching so fine, details could not be ignored. It was intricate, and the intricacy of the fine knitting allowed the beauty of the colors to pop. Knitting for longer than an hour still made my hands cramp up, but I realized that this shawl was going to be more than just something to throw around my shoulders on a cold winter day.
It was going to be a work of art.
Now, let me confess that I’ve been feeling what I like to call discombobulated. Yes, it’s a real word. And in my state of utter confusion over all that had befallen me in the past few months, it describes exactly how I have been feeling. I handle a lot. With a husband that has been ill for nigh on 15 years and a son who now needs help, I tend to go way too many directions at once. My heart’s desire is to make a living as a writer and set up a tutoring service for adult students, but the need to work 60 and 70 hours a week gets in the way.
I was incredibly worried about not having a job, even though everyone in the Galaxy knows that I am highly qualified and any school would be lucky to have me. Something will turn up, they all said. Write and set up your tutoring service. God’s got this. Take a break. Breathe. You’ll get the answer.
The answer is, of course, 42.
I’ve now managed 15 points with the teeny, tiny needles and I am leaving for home on Saturday. The shawl will not be finished, because it is not a project that will be quickly and absent-mindedly completed. It is something that requires dedicated attention because it is to be a lovely creation.
And so am I.
I might, in my discombobulated state, want instant answers like the number 42. Simple. Easy. Like God’s voice saying, Yes, Linda, here is the job I want you to have. Or, yes, Linda, your tutoring service will be a success and you can stop working those 70 hour weeks.
But God doesn’t usually do quick and easy.
He does fine knitting on tiny needles, making careful stitches that will make us into new creations. He chooses carefully the colors, the textures, the weight. He doesn’t just grab a skein of DK weight acrylic and say, This will do. Because he wants what is best for us.
And that takes time.
I have received no job offers while on vacation, but I have spent a lot of time in prayer. I am not really sure what my next step will be, what I will do if I have no job in September. If I were not a woman of faith, I would just rip all the stitches out and do what was easy.
But fine knitting makes me think about where and how God can use me. It makes me understand that God has allowed many things into my life that are difficult to handle, but he has never let go of me. Even when I had no idea how we would pay the mortgage, God always provided a way. There is no reason to think he’ll stop now. No reason to think he is done with me. There are many more students who need a teacher just like me.
I’ll just need to wait.
It’s hard to wait, but my fine knitting in purple yarn reminds me that good things take time and God’s perfect will is not the easy way to go.
Eventually, I will get to 42 points.
The answer to everything.