At the Still Point of the Turning World
Residency is over, NOW what? (While I'm waiting for the answer, I'll get some spinning done....)

Wednesday, September 11, 2002


There’s been a lot of discussion about unifnished objects lately, ever since Claudia challenged us to review the piles of unseamed sweaters, half-filled bobbins, footless socks, uncombed fiber and other abandoned objects that have fallen victim to the limited time, unforseen difficulties and other threats faced by every fiber artist. I have yet to list my unfinished projects--I haven’t even located half of them--but I find it interesting to reflect upon my attitudes toward these lonely objects.

The dominant attitude is guilt; I feel badly for wasting the tools, fiber, effort and time I initially invested when I started the project. I also feel a certain sense of failure at having set aside a promising project, especially if I gave up on a new and challenging technique. Sometimes I succumb to insecurity and envy at everyone else’s productivity, compared to my own meager ouput. I always feel resentful towards the other demands of my life that leave so little time for realizing my fiber activities. So, although I enjoy having several projects going on at one time, I subject myself to untold suffering whenever I fail to finish them. (Notice how I use the verb failure here, as though the heaped-up lumps of half-finished sweaters and socks were accusing me of letting them down.)

Recent events at work have made me rethink these attitudes. A few days ago I wrote about the unexpected birth of a baby with a neural tube defect related to spina bifida. It’s hard to put into words the helplessness and grief that I’ve been living with since then. At moments I can barely draw a breath, the heart-heaviness is so near. The worst part for me is that I no longer have a role in the care of this mother-infant pair. The surgeon who did the C-section has been looking after the mother, and neonatal neurosurgeons are caring for the little girl. All that has been left for me to do is to drop by mom’s room every day to say hi, which seems like such a small thing compared to everything else that’s going on.

Last night, I was digging through the baskets of yarn and fiber I have all over my apartment and I found this baby blanket:

I started knitting the blanket months ago, for a baby who arrived a couple of weeks early and received a store-bought gift instead of this handmade item. Since then I’ve picked it up from time to time to knit a few rows, but never felt committed to finishing it until last night, when I was seized by the urge to knit the last few rows and offer it as a gift for this latest baby, born so troubled and now far away from home.

The baby underwent surgery yesterday, and her mother is looking forward to leaving our hospital so she can go to San Francisco to see her daughter. I like to think of my blanket traveling with her on this hopeful journey, as though its presence could extend the limit of my reach.

Tonight I’m thinking about the little girl and her uncertain future. If the unfinished blanket hadn’t been waiting for me in a basket last night, I could not have offered it to her today as a gift of the heart. Perhaps there are other UFOs among my collection that will find the right time to be finished, when the identity of the recipient becomes known to me and their need for it--or my need to make it--becomes undeniable. Out of my modest excesses, it seems, comes an unexpected source of abundance.