A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Two Important Books

I am in the middle of reading two books that are seeming very important to me right now. The first one is Knitting Into the Mystery, by Rev. Susan Izard and Susan Joregensen and the second is The Last of the Donkey Pilgrims, by Kevin O'Hara.

Knitting Into the Mystery details the growing Prayer Shawl movement, which is very diverse but deeply rooted in spiritual tradition. The basic premise is that a knitter commits to making a shawl, either for someone they know, or a total stranger, who is in need of comfort. Recipients are often cancer patients, survivors of domestic violence, and the elderly, however, the shawls have also been given to help a person through a time of transition, such as the death of a loved one or divorce.

Individuals try to meditate on the recipient or circumstances throughout the process of creating the gift shawl, and the book contains an array of healing prayers from a variety of traditions. I am moved to participate in this ministry because it is so free-form. I am able to work from my own spiritual beliefs, and still be a part of a greater whole, working together to bring comfort and solace to others.

The book is not really a knitting book, but more about knitting as a source for meditation, and about how helping others can help heal oneself. Most of the knitters use a multiple of threes (a number sacred in many religions) and a K3, P3 pattern with size 13 needles and bulky yarn to make a warm, cuddly shawl. Lion Brand Homespun is often the yarn of choice because of its washability and soft hand. I was deeply moved by the stories of people coming together to share making shawls and how the process has affected their own lives.

The second book is not so much about donkeys as it is an odyssey. Kevin O'Hara decided in 1979, while on a visit to his relatives in Ireland, that he would circumnavigate the coastline of Ireland with a donkey and cart. He is considered daft, but apparently that was not an uncommon trait in the Ireland of the time, and several knowledgeable people come forward to help him commence this endeavor. He acquires Missy the donkey and a suitable cart, and even takes driving lessons, but decides it would be more egalitarian to walk with Missy and have the cart carry their food and gear. The book is wonderfully written, describing the people and land that he meets in the prose of a true storyteller. I am only about a third of the way through, but am recommending to others that they add this book to their vacation reading stash this year. I know that I have always wanted the chance to make a year-long (or even summer-long) odyssey, or pilgrimage as O'Hara dubs it. It was a life-changing event for him, and has been great reading for me.


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