Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Little Shawl on the Prairie

When most people think of South Dakota, they picture Mt. Rushmore. I take nothing away from The Hills (well, okay, maybe I do. I grew up in the shadow of the Cascades, so to me, The Hills are just that- pretty hills with a few trees on them), but there is more to South Dakota than a carved mountain and a drug store that gives away free ice water.

I live in Eas Triver (SD Parlance for the half of the state that is east of the Missiouri River), the land of the 360 degree horizon, where you can watch thunderstorms building up 100 miles away (a handy thing, especially lately), where 20 mph steady winds are considered a breeze, where there truly are amber waves of grain.

I was happy to represent my part of the state as the South Dakota knitter for the Traveling Shawl ( ). I expected to take some pictures of The Shawl on the prairie (after all of its travels to big cities and the like, I thought a quiet day or two in the country would be a relief), and I knew that I would marvel at this amazing project, and at all of the knitters who have contributed to it so far. I expected to feel proud, both of the knitters, and of myself, for being part of an enterprise that is so much more than the sum of its participants. I expected to be blown away by the beauty of the design and the softness of the yarn, and I worried that my own knitting skills would not be up to that of the previous 45 knitters.

All of those things happened (my skill was likely up to standard, but I was still intimidated by the possibility of making a mistake).

What I didn't expect, and what caught me totally off guard, was the emotional wallop of seeing the shawl, this work of love and dedication, and the accompanying journal, in person.

The shawl itself is gorgeous, worked in a softly variegated dark mauve, and the yarn is incredibly soft (and even the needles are pretty- KP Harmony circulars). I oohed and aahed over it for a bit, before opening the journal to find page after page, each written by a different knitter, most dedicating their work to specific women and men, battlers, survivors, and those who lost their battle with breast cancer.

The stories described on every page of that journal were amazing, and overwhelming. So many people affected, so much love, so much courage. So much grace. I am not ashamed to say that I wept.

I talked about the emotional connection I felt to the writers, and to the men and women mentioned, whom I will never meet, to the TV and newspaper reporters yesterday (one, whose writing was a little slower due to numbness and redness in her hands, from her own chemotherapy), but I'm not sure I got the point across as well as I would have liked. I talked about how amazing it is to contribute to a single piece, crafted by so many hands, each working with love.

I talked about the women I dedicated my work to- our neighbor Paulette, who lost her battle, and my knitting and spinning friend Deb, who is still battling. I talked about the mundane things, like how to go about donating to this amazing cause. And of course, I talked about myself, because that's the way I roll.

But last night, when I was doing the actual knitting, I thought not only about Paulette and Deb, and the other men and women mentioned in the journal, but about all of the people in my life who have faced cancer. I thought about my husband's mother, and two of his brothers, all gone far too young, and his sister, whose cancer was caught early and cured. I thought about my friend Diane, whose mother, and two grandmothers all battled the Big C. And my stepmother. And Betty at the library. And Kevin. I thought about my aunt, dying of lung cancer in her 40's, and a cousin who died before reaching adolescence, and an uncle with brain cancer. And I thought about my son, whose dire prognosis eight years ago, laid me flat. He faced his ordeal with much more grace and courage than I did, and came through with only scars (visible, and non) as reminders of that dark time.

I thought about how much I whine and moan, how little time I take to appreciate just being here, and being with those I love. I knitted my six rows on the Traveling Shawl as a contribution to a cause, to a fight, that I wholeheartedly support and believe in. But The Traveling shawl gave in return- a renewed awareness of my own good fortune and happiness, and a hope that should I face this battle, that I will be even half as brave as the people in the journal, as my own friends and family have been.

I am honored, and humbled, to be a part of this project.


Karen said...

Thank you, Kathi -- I wish the shawl were travelling north of the border too, but I am so moved just thinking of its journey, and your part in it.

Geek Knitter said...