A Square-Peg People Book Review
Knitting Heaven And Earth
by Susan Gordon Lydon
This is not a "normal" knitting book. Author Susan Gordon Lydon (who helped found Rolling Stone magazine) does not teach technique or offer patterns here. Though she does talk about different patterns and yarns she loves.
What she offers us - through her stories - is a view of what she's learned:
" ...I discovered the enormous power handcrafts possess to heal and integrate us as we confront the major calamities of life. The simple practices of handknitting and needlepoint have enabled me to journey within myself, to explore the mysteries of my own heart and my connections with others, to find relationship with my true self that empowers me to live from my core."
And, without preaching, the invitation into her life - with it's pain, addictions and loss - shows us how we can grow through adversity.
Susan knits us through her father's death, a yo-yo relationship and eventual breakup with a man still active in addiction, suicide of a close friend, her own breast cancer and eventual stage four metastisized cancer.
I sense a kindred spirit in Susan. In our common need for quiet time alone -
"By nature, I am reclusive. I probably see more people than the average hermit does, but all outside my house. I like to have long hours of quiet and inactivity to dive down into my deepest thoughts, into the source of my writing."
- our common passion for color and texture. A willingness to be part of the process of dying - what I would call midwifing death -
"It has occurred to me that I am helping to knit my father out of this world... The quiet motions of my swishing needles and slipping yarn help me sit still and attend this momentous event. It feels as though the thread connects my inner life to the reality now unfolding, which after all is as spiritual as it gets. There is no bigger mystery than life and death."
This is a book about love - about a bottom-line philosophy of life:
"Cancer reduced my life to stark simplicity. What was left after everything else was swept away was my love for the people with a claim on my heart, my respect for nature, and the healing power of craft: writing, knitting, needlepoint."
"...the love that has ultimately saved me. Love of self. An ability to cultivate and obey your own deepest instincts. A fierce protection of your own time and desires."
You don't need to love knitting or yarn to love this book. But it adds to your enjoyment if you do.
By the middle of the book I was craving yarn. I spent one morning on-line looking up patterns and yarns Susan mentioned in her book, some of which I'd never heard of.
Hours went by as I delighted in looking at colors and designs...
Then I spent an afternoon in wonder at a local yarn shop. I spent $ - um, nevermind, I won't even tell you how much I spent - one of this, two of that, four of something else... WOW! The colors and textures were so rapturous that I nearly rolled in the aisles.
I knew that this book pulled me back to my love of knitting - reminded me that I love the feeling of yarn - the love-made-tangible of knitting. What I was surprised to realize was how much Susan had touched me personally. After reading the book I read an article about Susan that mentioned her death in 2005 - I noticed tears in my eyes.
In Knitting Heaven and Earth, Susan quotes
"...Lakota medicine man Frank Fools Crow...'Not everyone can be cured, but everyone can be healed.' "
Susan talks about healing in this book. And while she was not, ultimately, cured - I believe she found healing. And she offers us a glimpse of her life and heart so that we might find healing in some of the ways that she did.
"That has become my sustenance: the quietness in the ordinary."
Like good books on gardening or cooking - those that ties us to Earth, to the moment, to the ordinary, the real - this one reminds us what anchors us when our sea is tossed by storms. It's scope is much bigger than the craft of knitting - it shows us a way to live.
The last words in this book are:
"This moment is all there is. And it's enough."
Thank you, Susan.
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