Where to begin, by Barbara Kingsolver

Where to begin, by Barbara Kingsolver

The writer looks at all the ways it begins...

It all starts with the weather. Comes a day when summer finally gives in to the faintest freshet of chill and a slim new light and just like that, you're gone. Wild in love with the autumn proviso. You can see that the standing trees are all busy lighting themslves up ember-orange around the hemline, starting their ritual drama of slow self-immolation, oh well, you see it all. The honkling chain-gang of boastful geese overhead that are fleeing warmward-ho, chuckling over their big escape. But not you. One more time, here for the duration you will stick it out.

Through the famously appley wood-smoked season that opens all heart's doors into kitchen industry and soup on the stove, the signs wink at you from everywhere: sticks of kindling in the fire, long white brushstrokes of snow on the branches, this is the whole world calling you t otake up your paired swords against the brace of the oncoming freeze.

The two-plied strands of your chromosomes have been spun by all thin-skinned creatures for all of time, and now they offer you no more bottomless thrill than the point-nosed plow of preparedness. It begins on the morning you see your children's bare feet swinging under the table while they eat their cereal cold and you shudder from stem to stern like a dog hauling up from the lake, but you can't throw off the clammy pall of those little pink-palmy feet. You will swaddle your children in wool, in spite of themselves.

It starts with a craving to fill the long evening downslant. There will be whole wide days of watching winter drag her skirts across the mud-yard from east to west, going nowehere. You will want to nail down all these wadded handfuls of time, to stick-pin them to the blocking board, frame them on a 24-stitch gauge. Ten to the ten, ten rows to the hour, straggling trellises of days held fast in the acreage of a shawl. Time by this means will be domesticated and cannot run away.

You pick up sticks because time is just asking for it, already lost before it arrives, scattering trails of leavings. The frightful movie your family has chosen for Friday night, just for instance. They insist it will be watched, and so with just the one lamp turned on at the end of the sofa you can be there too, keeping your hands busy and your eyeshades half drawn, yes people will be murdered, cars will be wrecked, and you will come through in one piece, plus a pair of mittens.

It's all the same wherever you go, the river is rife with doldrums and eddies, the waiting room, the plane, the train, the learned lecture, the meeting. Oh sweet mother of Christ, the meeting. The PTA the town council the school board the bored-board, the interminably haggled items of the agenda. Your feet want to run for their lives but your fingers know to dig in the bag and unsheathe their handy stays against impatience, the smooth paired oars, the sturdy lifeboat of yarn.

This giant unwieldy meeting may boot-drag and list on its keel, stranded in the Sargasso Sea of Agenda, but you alone will sail away on your thrifty raft of unwasted time. You alone are swaddling the world in wool...

Where to Begin by Barbara Kingsolver is taken from Knitting Yarns published by W. W. Norton


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