Kaleidoscope Living

kaleidoscopes

Some days, all I see is brokenness. Everywhere, in my own life and in the lives of my friends, family, community, state and country…things are broken. Marriages and dreams, health and finances, family ties and good intentions, all have some aspect of brokenness – a tearing of the fabric,  holes of emptiness, or just flat-out broken shards of a once beautiful ceramic or pane. It’s difficult to know what to do with these broken, torn, or hole-ridden bits of our lives. At first they engender shock and disbelief. They lie around our daily landscape, sometimes being swept into corners and under beds, shoved behind closet doors as we hope they might go away or at least go unnoticed.

As a child I had a fascination with and love for kaleidoscopes. Any kind, whether cardboard or metal tubed, offered hours of gazing, turning them slowly, facing the light and marveling at the beauty inside. As an adult I have a small collection of these cylinders – tubes of magic, that I pull out from time to time to remember the colorful designs, new ones at every turn, beauty from bits and baubles.

It may seem horribly simplistic, maybe even offensive, to reduce the broken bits of our lives into thoughts of a childhood toy. But it heartens me, shall I say even strengthens me, to view the brokenness in me and around me in this way.

Left in a heap or hidden from sight, the broken bits accomplish nothing except weeping and gnashing of teeth. Yet hold them together in a cylinder of Love, one might have an opportunity to witness healing and even beauty.

Yet it requires more than merely gathering our brokenness and hurt into our arms. It requires us to move from one end of looking at the heap of broken bits, to the other end, where we can view them through a new lens. We need a lens that takes the broken fragments and transforms them into wonder-filled designs.

We I need to move from gaping at the broken bits, the shrapnel as it were, and walk the narrow path to a new way of seeing. We I need to make the effort to see it all from a different perspective, an eternal one, but one which has its designs firmly rooted here, on earth, in my town, in my own heart.

Once we have this new lens through which to see, we then need to face the Light, letting it penetrate each broken shard to reveal new colors. As our eyes adjust to the brilliance and warmth, we then need to turn, slowly but deliberately, changing how we view one another, our lives, and all our broken places.

As we turn, opening our eyes and hearts to the Light, our new Lens will transform all that is broken. I need to do this each and every day. I need, every day, to re-orient my sight and thus my heart and mind. I must do this for my own health and well-being but also for my children, my friends, and my community. In a very real sense, we need to be Living Kaleidoscopes to everyone we meet, holding out a new way of seeing.

It is not so easy as simply picking up one of my childhood kaleidoscopes. It requires work on my part —

**to refuse to merely gawp and be shocked by the brokenness.

**to make the effort to view life with the Lens of Love.

**to stand fully facing the Light.

**to do the work of turning, changing my perspective, opening my heart  to others, Being the Kaleidoscope.

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

Crochet2Heal :: Ripple Blanket

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**You will need a cup of tea and a comfy chair to fully enjoy this post. Sometimes I think I need to podcast rather than blog, when I have so much to share! Just sit back and relax while you enjoy the color, stories and links here. 🙂

Several years ago, in a knitting class I was teaching, one of the ladies was crocheting a blanket and told me that she believed hand made blankets had healing properties. Her name was Nita, a lovely, vibrant and interesting woman whom I enjoyed from the moment I met her.

EverlastGobstopperInprogress Every blanket I have crocheted since then, I have thought of her. Every time I’ve put one of my crocheted blankets, over one of my children home from school sick, I have thought of her. And recently, as I crocheted a new Ripple Blanket for my recuperation from surgery, I think of her.

It has been well documented that the act of creativity is a healing endeavor. I absolutely love this short video put out by the Foundation for Art & Healing. Do take a few minutes to enjoy this!

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But I do think Nita is on to something…that the healing properties continue on long after the blanket has been made, to wrap individuals in comforting goodness, to warm them, calm them, and in so doing, to allow healing to occur.

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I began this blanket just before my surgery in early December. I had numerous colors already in my stash and I just added a few others. I chose a simple Ripple pattern, the perfect one being Lucy’s, of the wonderful Attic 24 blog. I wanted something I could easily keep in my head, making the process simple, not requiring a lot of brain power, but allowing maximum “flow”. Perfect for after-surgery days.

And perfect it has been. I really can’t believe it is finished. I almost wish it could keep on going as I am not quite at full speed yet. But now I get to enjoy it on my lap as I watch movies, knitting socks and my Hitchhiker Shawl, drawing in my sketchbook and hanging out with family in the living room.

BigEverlastGobstopper I didn’t realize how large I was making this thing. Just today I draped it over our queen size bed and it reached to the edges and all the way up, just what I wanted so it would cover a person generously!

As I crocheted, I decided to place the rich chocolate brown after every eight colors, but to let those other colors be quite random. These are all acrylic yarns in various brands, chosen purely for their color. I used a size I hook as many of the yarns were more like aran weight, slightly heftier than worsted weight.

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I know that I and my family will enjoy this blanket for years to come. I have so many memories wrapped up in this blanket: crocheting by the Christmas Tree, watching Hallmark movies, laughing with my kids, Christmas Day and New Years…so many good memories in each stitch.

EverlastGobstopperEdges Even the colors somehow say “Holiday” to me. One of the many movies we watched over the holidays was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I have now named this blanket “The Everlasting Gobstopper”, after the bright multi-colored candy by this name in the movie. I love naming my knit and crochet projects. Why is that? Perhaps it’s like naming paintings. Indeed, each yarn project is like a painting itself…colors woven to create an overall image…just one that you wear or use to keep warm. I like that, don’t you?

The Violence to Healing

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I have been, for the last two days or so, feeling so so much better! Not only better from the intense pain I came home from surgery with, but better than I felt PRIOR to surgery! It has made me think about how I got to this.

I hold knitting needles in my hands. And it’s the same with my crochet hook. Knitting and crocheting seem all so fuzzy and fluffy and comforting and relaxing. But I realize there’s violence afoot as I watch the needles, the hook, jab-poke-pierce, over and over again, in and through the soft colorful wool. A beautiful scarf, sweater, or blanket does not happen unless there’s piercing, numerous…no countless…times!

The human body/mind has an incredible capacity for adapting. Prior to this 3rd cutting-open-to-fix-what’s-not-right-inside, I had begun to “adapt” to how my body dealt with the problems. Even as I myself asked for this 3rd surgery to rectify what was ailing me, I was also thinking–“Surely I could just live like this? Surely I can just spend my evenings homebound with a bathroom close by. Surely I can get used to the ongoing pain and lack of sleep? After all, my mornings and early afternoons are OK! I could just live life in the daytime and not go anywhere or do anything in the evenings. Right?”

Somehow I knew that I could not settle for half a life. As much as I love to blog, draw, knit and crochet, I know that was not all I wanted to be doing in the evenings. I wanted to teach knit & crochet classes at night without landing in a bathroom numerous times. I wanted to be able to go to my daughter’s choral concerts, my son’s swim meets, and visit my family out of town. There was SO much I didn’t want to miss out on in life…and I knew, in order to do that, I had to choose the cutting open and being stitched back together once more!

I didn’t plan it this way, but with each surgery, I’ve had a knitting or crochet project going on. I wanted to be making something while I healed. Each project is a beautiful representation of the healing I’ve received, albeit at the price of many piercings, cuttings, and stitchings. Each one was begun just prior to surgery and completed during the days and weeks following.

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The first one I called Resurrection Shawl. You can read more about it here if you like.

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The second one, I called Adventure Shawl.

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And for this third surgery, I began a crochet Ripple blanket made by Lucy’s instructions.

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But since I couldn’t very well haul all the yarn to hospital, I also chose the Hitchhiker Shawl to knit using a gorgeous hand-dyed yarn by AndreSueKnits. Her blog and Etsy shop are a delight!

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My Crochet2Heal blanket now covers my belly and legs as I sit crocheting with the rich saturated colors by the Christmas tree, healing with every stitch.

I can honestly say that I’m glad I’ve gone through the “violence” once again.  I’m hopeful that this time will be the last for this chapter of my life. I already, 11 days out from major surgery, feel relief from everything that was ailing me prior to the surgery. I am SO grateful! I realize that not everyone who endures surgery receives the relief they were seeking. But I knew that to even have a chance of being able to live my life fully again, I had to endure this violence.

It was the only way. It was and is a miracle.  Each shawl and blanket is a testament to that miracle.

Now, if the stitching on my belly could be just as lovely as the stitching of these yarn items….that would be great…Ha!

Healing and Knitting

Stripes&Ribbons

An alternate title to this post could be:

What I Forgot That I Knew

Sometimes that’s the way of it…I forget things that I’ve known so well. Knitting reminds me that things take time. And this week in particular, I’ve been reminded that healing takes time. Healing of any kind takes lots of time. Major surgery is no exception.

Yet, I’ve been impatient. Each day I’m looking for huge strides in my recuperation process. I’m wanting my pain levels to drop way down. I’m wanting to be able to move around as gingerly as I did before surgery. I’m wanting to be able to walk in my neighborhood as far as I used to do. I, at least, wanted to be significantly “better” when my family returns from the beach tonight. Though there are certainly small improvements that show I’m headed in the right direction, I’m not as healed up as I had hoped.

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I’m not an especially fast knitter, compared to some I’ve seen, especially those who continental knit. I was taught the good ole American way, throwing the yarn over each time. I do know how to continental knit and I use it for two stranded knitting and at other times when I have the itch. But I love the way I learned. Perhaps it’s like a Southern Drawl. That lilting, slow way of speech that is so enchanting…knitting by throwing your yarn, allows me to enjoy the process, even if it may be a tad slow.

I’m trying to relax into the process of healing. That sounds like an oxymoron: “trying” (applying effort) to “relax” into the pain and discomfort. Golly, it’s hard work. But knitting and drawing keep me sane. So do friends and family who have come to visit with me this week. They have been a delightful distraction from the discomfort of healing.

The above drawing is of a new shawl on my needles. I am inspired by Paula Emmons-Fuessle’s Magic Cake Ruffle Shawl and I’m setting about to create as many versions of it as I can envision. I’m really taking this pattern into whole different directions, but the basic “canvas” of her recipe is there. This one is striping two balls of yarn, one solid, one variegated and then knitting only with the variegated for a while. In this section of the shawl I’m adding eyelet rows in which I’ll weave ribbons. Then I’ll finish it off with a ruffle of some kind and a bit of the solid color I’ve reserved for the end.

My mind wants to think: Maybe by the end of this shawl I’ll be significantly better! But I’ll not do that to myself…I must allow my healing to take its own course, no matter how many shawls may need to be knitted in the course of it all!

***Note on Book in above photo: How Georgia Became O’Keefe by Karen Karbo is a gift from a friend. Though I am only on chapter 3, it is proving to be a wonderful read! Fascinating insight into this artist’s life and work. The way Karbo writes makes me want to read ALL the other books she has written on famous women: Katherine Hepburn, Coco Chanel, and Julia Child.