Monday, September 8, 2008
The Talisman Scarf
This little scarf has more memories knitted into every stitch than any other project that I've ever done. It's made from a lovely pale gray baby alpaca yarn that's soft as a kitten. It's by far the single most petable thing that I've ever knit. The scarf started it's life on an epic road trip that Adrian and I took in May 2007. I selected the scarf for a travel project because the yarn was yummy, the project was small and the cables were complex enough that I wouldn't finish the project in one day.
My friend Cyndy was living in Ketchikan, Alaska at the time and she needed someone to drive her new truck from Minnesota to Alaska. Adrian and I thought it sounded like fun so we volunteered. We'd road tripped west many times and the thought of another trip across Montana didn't appeal to us so we decided to drive across North Dakota and up into Canada. We love camping so we decided to pack our tent and camp along the way. The journey was pure magic from start to finish. We traveled across some of the flattest country I've ever seen, drove up through the Canadian Rockies and into British Columbia, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We took a ferry from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan, hung out with Cyndy for a few days and then began our journey home. We rode the ferry from Ketchikan to Bellingham WA, a two and a half day trip. At night we slept out on the deck of a nearly empty ferry and had lovely sunny weather during the days. We spent an afternoon in Seattle running around playing tourist and then hopped on the Amtrak train in time to watch the sunset that evening. We arrived in Saint Paul 36 hours later, looking kind of grubby and a bit tired but really happy from our adventure. Through out the trip I knit on my scarf. I knit in the truck, while we were camping snowbound in the Rockies, during a rainy day in Ketchikan, outside on the deck of ferry and on the train across the country. When I touch my scarf I can remember parts of the road trip as vividly as looking at a snapshot. I didn't quite finish the scarf during the trip so I unpacked it and set it in my knitting basket where it sat for a couple of weeks.
In early June I took a terrible fall and wound up with a broken neck. I am incredibly lucky that I wasn't paralyzed or worse. Thanks to my clever neurosurgeon Dr. Kim, I have two titanium rods bolted to my spine and a wicked Frankenstein scar running up the back of my neck. I spent some time in the hospital and then headed home for a summer of painful recuperation. The first few weeks of my recovery were really awful because I was physically helpless and in a lot of pain. I remember the day that I picked up the scarf to try knitting on it. I was home from the hospital maybe a week or so and able to sit up for short periods of time. My life had become so scary and complicated and I cried all the time. I desperately wanted to do something that would make me feel normal again. I had to hold my knitting needles up high in order for me to see the stitches over my neck brace. I think I knit about five stitches that day, but it had a huge emotional impact on me. It gave me hope that things would be better in time and that I'd eventually get my life back.
From that day forward, the scarf that already had so many wonderful memories knit into it, became a healing project. I taught myself to knit the cables without a cable needle because it was easier for me to handle and considerably less fussy. Sometimes I'd knit just a few stitches, other times I'd be able to knit a few rows. I worked on the scarf all summer long. I healed and became stronger with every cable that I knit and the scarf grew longer until I ran out of yarn. I completed the scarf in time to take it on our first camping trip after the accident. It was early October and we camped on the shore of Lake Superior. It was an extremely careful camping trip, with slow, gentle hiking and long afternoon naps in the tent. I wore the scarf snuggled around my neck on the chilly nights in front of the campfire. The scarf was no longer a road trip project or a healing project, it became my talisman, a knitted memento of both the happy and sad moments over the past five months. My soft, gray talisman scarf was knit with absolute joy, confused pain, determination and bittersweet acceptance of the unexpected challenges of life.