Archive for February, 2009

The Journey

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

As I write this, I am looking out into the back yard, and as much as our plantings are a mess from the neglect of winter, there is beauty all around. The first thing I see is the bold red flowers of the poinsettia tree. I think it definitely needs to go into the ground this spring or maybe it just needs repotting. To the right of the poinsettia is a thriving snake plant. My love of snake plants with their long slithering tongues goes way back as they were successful for my mom. The tulip magnolia is awash in pinkish-lavenderish-whitish blossoms. It has maybe a week or so more before all the petals drop and it has already begun to leaf out into lush greenness. It is hiding a hanging angel wing begonia, also full of blooms.

Quan Yin’s bed is overflowing in the lush greenery of bougainvillea, soon to be removed for its dangerous pointy thorns. Perhaps relocated, perhaps just trashed, its fate is still uncertain beyond it’s removal from where it currently resides. To the right of Quan Yin is a lovely patch of pentas covered in mauvish red blooms. It started out last year as a six inch pot and the patch is currently two to three feet across. To the right of that a red blooming rose bush, its thorns much less pervasive than those of the bougainvillea.

The far left edge of my window view contains the bold pink flowers of our hibiscus tree. Darling, indeed. There is plenty of other greenery to report on, but I don’t know the names of most of it. That we have cultivated such an oasis with so little deliberate work, is amazing. Sure there is a lot of work when we go on a little garden center shopping spree, but beyond that, the maintenance we do is minimal. I guess we need to be a little more conscious of the need for watering, but we have a few plants that totally let us know when a drink is in order by their pitifully droopy foliage.

When we go on a garden center spree, I always have the best of intention for repotting some of the more prolific plants. I get into the bag of planting mix, and something skitters away. I am halted in my tracks and quite often scream like a girl. This cracks Elizabeth up every time, but for me, halted really captures the moment. I am frozen not from fear so much as anxiety. I will dream about those creepy crawly things for days much like when a trip to the dentist results in dreams of teeth crumbling out of my mouth.

Regardless of the dreams, the lushness of the patio has a poetic spirituality all its own. Add a fire crackling in the chiminea and the aesthetic is beyond soothing.

I find this same serene peace in knitting. There is a pulse coming through the needles, whether from me to the yarn or the yarn to me, I am uncertain, and sometimes, I am certain both are true. I think it is somehow a reciprocal balance. There are times when I pick up yarn and needles and have no preconceived plan. The yarn was too pretty to not buy, and a skein here and there eventually come together at the right time to be crafted into something unique and soothing. I am currently working on a blanket of Patagonia cotton for the bed that is like this. My original intent for it has already been morphed once, but the resulting patchwork is both intensely bright and colorful, as well as soothing to knit. I am considering it a sort of palate cleansing project. I can work on it here and there to refocus my brain from something gloriously finished on to whatever is to come next.

My current next might be a sweater kit I have in my stash. There are two to choose from and like repotting plants, there are things along the way that might be halting. I could just plainly be bored by something so grand. Though I know I will adore both as finished sweaters, getting there might just make me crazy.

Tedious repetition isn’t the real problem though, because I tend to take a meditative view of this dilemma and consider it part of the therapy. The real problem skittering away in the knitting is the potential for mistakes, flaws in the fabric that might be more visible than they are in something more, well, small. Like a scarf. Or mitts.

Of mistakes, Susan Gordon Lydon says in The Knitting Sutra
“Sometimes I would rip out enough rows to correct the problem, sometimes not, but I began to appreciate these mistakes as small lessons in mindfulness or humility and as expressions of the spirit or soul of the knitting, which seemed to exist apart from me, the knitter. My experience of knitting was enriched the more I knew of spiritual matters, and vice versa. And I found that once I could accept my lack of perfection in both areas with humor and grace, the whole business of knitting, as well as of living, became far more pleasurable to me.”

My own policy on this is similar, I most often consider them the charm of the hand knit, and rarely do I rip back my knitting to correct them. It really does depend on how glaring they are, as well as how far back, if it is a gift, or for personal use, that sort of thing. That said, however, these two sweater kits are a bit more elaborate than a scarf. There are proportions to be considered. It can be terribly daunting if I let it. It can be as halting as the crawlie things in a bag of planting mix.

In some ways, the idea of halting is extended to posting on this blog. There can be a paralyzing quality to the words I let out onto the page. I want them to be just so. More effort is required to craft them to such a degree. There is a writing, stewing, editing, and finally publishing process that is very different than other blogging endeavors. It isn’t that I care about the other blogs less, but they are much more of the moment, more casual perhaps. I want this blog to say something more deliberate. More intentional.

In my first post on this blog, I loosely defined Cultivating Grace as a :…catch all for all those moments when I have a sense of understanding. when I get it. Whatever ‘it’ is.” This is how i feel about the yard and gardens today, about the knitting of sweaters or the knitting in general. The essence of pure beauty that result from the endeavors is something I “get” right away, something I have always known. The journey to this arrival I also “get” but is so many ways, it is still a charming mystery.

Again, I quote The Knitting Sutra, “After all, the important thing is not so much what you knit as what happens to you while you knit it. Where the interior journey takes you. What you find there. How you are transformed and when you come back home.” Thought of thusly, I can knit either sweater, or another scarf, and arrive at the same destination because the “interior journey” is about more than the finished product. The resultant blooms of the gardening efforts (mostly eb’s gardening efforts) are much the same and the thinking greenery is just as amazing and beautiful.

Let all of life’s journeys be remarkable.