Yarn Along (the 37th birthday edition – by Bethany)

yarn along 73

WHOOPS! Let’s try that again:

yarn along 37

Whew. Much better.

I just couldn’t show you another picture of the green sweater. I haven’t been knitting much lately (although I do keep my weekly date with Downton Abbey on Sunday nights, which tends to be a knitting date unless I’m really exhausted), so I don’t have a lot of progress to show off. The green sweater is slightly larger than it was last time you saw it, and it looks nice, although my new worry is that I will run out of yarn. That sweater seems to carry a curse like something out of mythology – part Odysseus’ 20-year journey home, part Sisyphus, and part (of course) the Fates.

So what I did instead was cast on a new project – something predictable, something familiar, something that in a different mood I might consider boring, but that today feels comforting and warm, and I am 99% sure that I will be happy with the end result. Happiness with the end result has not been a huge part of my life lately, and every so often we need some of that. What I cast on is the Yankee Knitter rollneck sweater pattern, in the smallest size on the pattern, which is supposedly for a one year-old, but with my gauge it will turn out to fit a two or three year-old child. I’m making it in a color-block design: navy on the back, red on the front, with yellow and green sleeves. In the past I’ve been known to mass-produce these, casting on four or five at once and churning them out over a few weeks while watching an entire series on DVD: first Lost a couple of years ago, then Big Love, then Mad Men. I don’t think this one will progress quite so quickly, as I haven’t been a very productive knitter lately, but we’ll see.

I like birthdays, but not in a public, social, barhopping kind of way. My birthdays tend to make me contemplative and thoughtful, sometimes in ways that make people think I’m depressed about getting older, but that really isn’t the case. I actually like getting older. I like the Responsibility of being an adult. Not the (plural, lower-case-r) responsibilities   insurance and taking out the trash and enduring the various cancer-preventing indignities that happen at the doctor’s office – but the singular, capital-R Responsibility, the way each year that I’m alive I get a little more adept at seeing the way the patterns repeat in the world, the way we argue about the same things over and over, the way poems get written and stories get written and novels get written and they’re all saying the same thing, really. Last year I spent my birthday reading Toni Morrison’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech over and over again. I was obsessed with it. This is my favorite part:

“You are an adult. The old one, the wise one. Stop thinking about saving your face. Think of our lives and tell us your particularized world. Make up a story. Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created. We will not blame you if your reach exceeds your grasp; if love so ignites your words they go down in flames and nothing is left but their scald. Or if, with the reticence of a surgeon’s hands, your words suture only the places where blood might flow. We know you can never do it properly – once and for all. Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul. You, old woman, blessed with blindness, can speak the language that tells us what only language can: how to see without pictures. Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names.”

If you haven’t read the whole speech, you can find it here. I recommend it.

This year I can’t imagine any companion for my birthday except Philip Larkin. I thought of him on my way home yesterday and couldn’t wait until I was sprawled out on the couch with “High Windows” and “Church Going” and “Aubade.” I think Larkin is probably my favorite poet, having surpassed Richard Hugo for that title sometime in the last three or four years. Sometime soon I want to write about his poetry here on this site – and I will. But for now let’s just say that Philip Larkin is the patron saint of All Things Thirty-Seven. A 37th birthday without Larkin is like a fourth birthday without Batman, a twelfth birthday without staying up all night and putting on makeup and having a seance. It would just feel wrong somehow.

But, for now, Yarn Along. Yarn Along, Philip Larkin, coffee, and maybe some chocolate too. Have a good day, everyone.

(Yarn Along is hosted by Ginny at her blog Small Things.)

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