That’s it, I guess. Just go on living, whether you feel like it or not.Anton Chekhov
My readers will not be surprised to learn that I have a life apart from hiking, though my hiking life will always be the axis around which everything else revolves. Still, the winters are long where I live. Even short walks on snow and ice are treacherous, and I look forward to that first hike in the spring with eager anticipation. Nevertheless it is a long wait, and something must fill the hours indoors, something to create meaning, to challenge me, to inspire me, to hold in my lap in the evenings by the fire.
I started knitting as a child, when my grandmother handed me a pair of Bakelite needles and some red yarn, teaching me the knit stitch first, then purl, and I was onto something. I knitted scarves for everyone in my family, all of them in simple stockinette stitch, and I do not recall whether anyone wore them. I was content with this simple rhythmic activity, the movement of my hands, the satisfying click of needles, so I resisted my grandmother’s efforts to expand my skills by teaching me new techniques. I had an endless supply of stockinette scarves. It was enough.
It was many decades later when I walked into a new yarn shop, surprised and delighted by the colors and textures that greeted me. I did not leave before I had purchased a skein of beautiful variegated merino in purples and pinks and a pair of perfectly carved wooden needles. I picked up the craft again with renewed enthusiasm, as if I had discovered something I had always known. I really like to knit. I found that I could take my projects to meetings, which somewhat lessened the boredom of sitting through tedious discussions of policy. My hands were busy at least, while my mind often drifted off.
Knitting is a lot like hiking, and my approach to it is much the same. When I pick up a new project it often feels overwhelming. If it is a large project like an afghan it will take me a long time to complete. I know this about myself. I am a slow knitter, and that is just fine. It is the satisfaction of wrapping the yarn around the needle with each stitch that matters to me, and even the fastest knitters can only knit one stitch at a time, just as the fastest hikers can only take one step at a time. Somehow we end up with a completed project or at the Canadian border, when we started out a month ago at the Columbia River. As every hiker knows, there is that feeling of supreme satisfaction upon reaching a far off destination. I did this. I hiked five hundred miles across the state of Washington, one step at a time. I did this. I completed this exquisite afghan, one stitch at a time, and there it rests on my lap, to warm me in body and soul.
As I shared with my readers last week, I am in a difficult time in my life, about to make a major transition, and I readily admit that I am feeling overwhelmed by it all. Just like starting a long hike, there is nothing to do but strap on my pack and begin hiking. Just like starting an afghan, one stitch at a time. It is not the first time I have made a transition like this, so I should be good at it. And just like knitting or hiking, the satisfaction is in the journey itself, the comforting sound of the needles as I wrap the yarn around them one stitch at a time, the feeling of the solid earth beneath my feet as I step onto the trail, knowing that the earth will support me always. Hiking has always prepared me for whatever challenges life presents. I can do this.