Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Things That Go Knit in the Night

I knit in the dark. Not all the time, just when I can’t get or stay asleep or when I wake up early and want to enjoy the combination of dark, quiet and coffee, but my hands are bored. I don’t work on complicated things, just regular garter stitch, maybe stockinette with a minor, regular variation. Occasionally, I’ve dropped stitches, miscounted, or made another mistake, but, since I was, after all, knitting in the dark, it doesn’t bother me as much as if I had made the same mistake in the full light and consciousness of day. I fix it, or decide if it’s unnoticeable enough to ignore and knit on.

I taught myself to do a number of things in the dark, or with my eyes closed, when I was a child. My Mom had told me, with perhaps either a perverse sense of humor which I mistook, or, which was more likely considering her other behavior, a sense of everyday cruelty, that the ophthalmologist had said I’d be blind by the time I was 40 years old. I accepted a lot of those kinds of remarks from my Mom back then without comment and that was one such. I felt a momentary stab of advance regret, and then I made up my mind, silently, to learn to do things by feel.

I taught myself to crochet by feel, all manner of patterns, and I once stood in front of a yarn display feeling the different colors to see if I could determine color by feel. I was very young and willing to experiment, just for the sake of trying, and I wasn’t sophisticated enough to understand about fibers – I thought all yarn was cheap acrylic. I also watched “The Miracle Worker” with Patty Duke several times, trying to figure out how Helen Keller had managed to write, and tried to learn to do that, too. My resulting writing was unlovely but legible.

I counted steps around the house, to school, and all kinds of other locations I frequently went, even though I knew I’d be moving to new places, going to different schools, and would probably have a cane or a dog to help me out. I wondered about what kind of assistance dog I’d have and wondered which one would be the best.

Then I started wondering what would happen if I also lost the use of my hands. I taught myself to tie my shoes, well, at least one of them, with the toes on the other foot, a feat that still astounds my children. Velcro hadn’t been invented back then, but that would have been a real time saver. I tried sensing my way around using my elbows as feelers, and with my eyes closed, and I wound up spending a lot of time sliding along walls.

I realized as I got older that the whole threat of blindness was just another one of my mother’s cruelties and stopped believing in it as an inevitability. Nevertheless, I still have the old habit of learning to do things by feel. I have found myself learning how to do a lot of things with my eyes closed after I had learned the basics with them open. It’s just a quirky thing I do. I found it basically only takes longer with my eyes closed, and the results may be a little different.

So, I knit in the dark when I don’t feel like turning on the lights. And, it’s six steps from my side of the bed to a right-hand turn, seven steps to another right, and four into the bathroom, where I can feel my way along the vanity to the necessary, in case you were wondering. I did put in a nightlight for my husband, though.


Amber in Albuquerque said...

Granny could crochet by feel. She did it when her cataracts got really bad. She finally gave it up when her arthritis and her eyes gave out.

Yay for Velcro!

Anonymous said...

You are amazing. I think we should have you cloned and populate a large area with nothing but Joans. They'd probably take over the country and everyone would be wearing multi-striped knit caps... etc., etc. Actually rather a nice thought 'cause all the children would be smart and adventurous and, overall, better behaved.