Friday, April 8, 2016

Charts and Checks

I'm cross legged on the ottoman by the window for a few rare quiet moments. It's April and, although I always like to pretend that means it's warming up, it's cold. I'm wrapped in an oversized cardigan, knitting by the light filtering in. It's one of those sacred moments when my home is completely still - few and far between these days - and I'm soaking up the brain stillness that comes along. He interrupts my reverie -

"Geez, Mom. You look like a Grandma over there."

The bluntness of kids is really something, isn't it? I smiled at him, and said "well there are worse things, right?" and he rolls his eyes and heads out the back door.

I'm not sure when my Grandma learned to knit, but I do know it was long before I came to be. By the time I was cognizant of such things, I knew that wherever Grandma was, there was knitting. She brought it with her everywhere. And not just knitting, but her bag of curious knitting gear that mystified me as a kid. She'd sit in her recliner, little hands working impossibly fast and it looked like she wasn't even paying attention. On the arm of the chair would be the pattern, paper, and as she worked along she would make little check marks with a ballpoint pen as she completed a section.

I started knitting regularly as an adult, in the brave new world of technology, and I rarely have a paper pattern. Everything is digital, and my phone works just fine, thank you. In nano seconds I can look up yarn types, hundreds of thousands patterns, reviews, completed projects. It might seem better than when Grandma would go to an actual yarn store and touch all the yarns, squinting over paper patterns she found in magazines to find one she liked. I have access to more. Better.

I'm knitting off a chart and it's after I screw up and pull it out in frustration 15 charted rows in that it occurs to me - maybe trying to read a chart off a 4 inch smart phone is anything but smart. Maybe there is such a thing as a time to set aside the ultra connectedness, the bright light of a screen. I'm squinting at it, trying to figure out what row I'm on because there is no way to mark my progress. So I print it off. I make check marks. Row after row, line after line, the pattern flows out from my needles perfectly.

It's something that I need to remember. The wisdom of the small and the slow isn't that, when you embrace them, life gets smaller. When you focus small and slow, life gets bigger than you could have ever imagined. Sometimes the steadiest way forward seems to be the least sophisticated. It looks common and maybe even a little bit backwards. It eschews the bright lights of bigger, more, faster - for the calm and steady simplicity of the next right thing.

From the outside, it may look a bit like settling. Plodding along in normalcy. One drop of water doesn't seem like much, but under a microscope - teeming with life. Easy to ignore in the push and rush of more, but still there. Unlocking bigger and better might be as simple as setting boundaries and taking the time to fully engage in each small step. Each check along the pattern.

When you have everything at your finger tips, you can end up dissatisfied. Your focus suffers in the face of so many options, and you can miss out on what is right in front of you.

I turn it over in my mind. The lure of the information superhighway, the instant and non stop social media - is that more and better is achievable with minimal effort. I can sit here and scroll my life away looking for the next best thing. But at the end of the day, I need to face down the raw truth that living fully and intentionally within my real world is where growth and beauty is truly, palpably, possible.

In knitting and in life, Grandma may have had it right. I'm not ready to give up my online yarn shopping or reading pattern reviews, but if I ever find myself knitting off a chart again? I'm going to pay extra close attention. And be reminded that life is lived best when you take every moment as it is - brimming with possibility, teeming with life - and abide with intention.

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