On Creativity During Chaos

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

Let me preface by saying I am not known for my prowess in the 'domestic arts'. A somewhat outdated term for 'all things involving the keeping of a home', a not-so-subtle nod to 'women's work'. These key household tasks can include grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, canning, sewing, knitting, gardening, budgeting, raising children, and general household management.


I can grocery shop, but I loathe it. I can cook, but my partner is an excellent (no exaggeration here) cook, and we are all happier when he does it. I can clean, and actually decluttering is a strong suit, but equal to my ability to make messes. I do not know how to sew, I am an entry-level gardener, I can keep my dollars and cents reasonably well-ordered, my children are often well-behaved in public if we've checked all the 'needs' boxes ("Are you hungry? Do you have to pee? Do you need a nap?" This last question usually gets a yummy scowl from the 11 year-old). I like to think there is an equitable split in how the household is managed. In other words, I don't necessarily excel at any of these things, but I coast just fine.


I come from a long line of strong women. My mother built a profitable business with her own grit and faith, AND performed many of the domestic tasks when she returned home. Her mother was in the Women's Marines, and also was an accomplished seamstress. Her mother's mother was an anchor in her community, the one to offer solid, practical advice, who also had an interesting affinity for dachshunds. In all of them, and likely back further, was the double-duty mentality. Hard and soft, with service at the core of many, if not all, activities.


And yet, my creative skills have rarely steered toward anything close to cooking or sewing or hand crafts. I've always loved to write. In recent years I've discovered a near-obsessive love of photography. I feel I may have inherited more of my interests from the men in my family. My grandfather was a well-known writer and photographer. His father too. It's what I always want to spend time on, when I give myself the opportunity.


At this point you may be wondering why I am talking about this right now.


During the Epic Upheaval of 2020. During the Inbetween Summer, in which families spent the spring keeping their children home, there is widespread ongoing civil unrest, and many of us are facing the oncoming fall like we are standing on shore while a tsunami gathers in the distance. There is so much transition, right now, which does bring opportunity with it, but is a time of uncertainty nonetheless.


I bring this up now because of an unlikely encounter I had with a friend earlier this summer. She is the owner and creative genius behind Peggy Jane Fibers, and she recently posted a picture of the most beautiful yarn I've ever seen. It looks like spun gold, or Rapunzel's hair. It's, aptly, named Goldrush. I jokingly commented that I would buy some if *only* I knew how to knit. She not-jokingly said she'd teach me how. And I surprised myself by accepting her offer.


She patiently taught my baby hands how to do two new things. Cast On, and Garter Stitch. I tried not to make too many jokes during the lesson, but I truly felt ridiculous. Here I was, with two knitting needles in my hands, poorly tying knots. For hours. And then, suddenly, once all the jokes were out of the way, and I had voiced my resistance to the whole thing: CLICK. I swear I physically felt my neurons form new connections in my brain, it was such a strong sensation of getting it. By the end of the lesson, I had three adorable, lovely rows of stitches on my needle.

Since that lesson, I have 'dropped stitches', unraveled the whole thing in frustration, had to look up internet videos on casting on and more, but now I think I may have a good rhythm.


But what is much more interesting to me, and the reason I decided to share this, was what has begun to happen to me when I sit down and knit.


My breathing slows.


My heart rate decreases.


My thoughts freely come and go.


My mind goes into the soft space usually reserved for meditation. And not only that, but when I examine the rows of stitches, I notice that I can detect subtle differences. I can tell by how tight or loose the loops on the needles are how tense or relaxed I am.


It's somatic awareness, made tangible in the yarn. I am building into what I am creating all the things I am thinking and all the things I am feeling. In that way, curiously, the yarn is somehow alive because of my interaction with it.


And I also recognize the very valuable lesson that all that we create is beautiful, just for having created it.


I know that what I am making likely has a number of flaws and uneven stitches, and I have no idea how I'm going to get from my current ball of yarn to the next one. I'll probably hassle my teacher for another lesson when I get to that point.


But it hardly matters. The act itself, of sitting, of quietly creating, matters.


I remembered while knitting what is (probably?) going to turn into a scarf, that one of my few New Year's resolutions this year was to practice creativity without the pressure of a goal or outcome. To Create Without an Objective. And the refuge that softly, gently creating this Probably-A-Scarf actually provides is a much-needed buffer. There are many big decisions coming up, and we will need to use intentional focus and attention to make them well.


Trust me when I say I am not necessarily urging you to learn how to knit. But engaging with our creative mind, in whatever way speaks to us, opens the door for magical things to happen in other areas of our lives.


When we learn how to sit still, get quiet, and engage with our creative mind, we find the way to center.


And by finding a way to center, we return to the place where we are able to give ourselves the space from the urgency of whatever it is we are processing in order to process it with more wisdom. It is where solid decisions are made.


If you find yourself a bit unmoored by all that has transpired, and the ongoing transitions you find yourself in this year, reach out to others, to members of your community. Know that you are not alone in feeling this way. Make those connections. And if you find that you could use some tools and skills for your own way-finding, I have a number of resources and strategies for building resilience, and navigating times like these.


With Love, Hope, and Peace -


Rachel V.


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