Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Alix's Prayer Shawl
Alix's Prayer Shawl

Where does a story begin?  Take this shawl, for example.  Does the story of the shawl I'm making for my mother begin with her request that I make it?  Or does it start with the book that Debbie Macomber wrote, Back on Blossom Street, that my mother loved and seems to make her realize something new about knitting.  Or does it start with the designer, Myrna A. I.Stahman, who created a beautiful piece with clear instructions that even I could understand.  Or does it start with the yarn, chosen and purchased awhile back from Mosaic in Blacksburg, with the careful help of Gina and the other girls?

I've been thinking a lot about story lately.  Or, rather, perhaps I've always thought about story.  In the mountain communities where I've lived most of my life, story is important.  When you meet someone here you quickly figure out where they belong in the story of the community...who their parents and grandparents are or were and where they lived.  Who they are is much more important than what they do or what their economic bracket might be.  As soon as you hear that "Oh, Mama was born down in the Bent and her mama was a Bowman" you know exactly where that person fits into the scheme of the community.  I'm sure it's funny to hear us angling for information when someone unknown crosses our path.  

And with the information there often comes a story.  How Daddy and Mama moved to Draper back when the textile mills opened, or that funny story about great-grandpa and the possum that was passed down through the generations.  Along with the stories of the people come stories about the places.  Old houses, stores, names for creeks and mountains...all of them have a story of some sort attached to them.  I once went with a native of the Buffalo section on a ride through the area....he had a story to tell about every curve, tree and bank.  The odd thing about mountain people and story is that they aren't just stories that we experienced ourselves.  I know family stories that have been passed down since before the Civil War, thanks to family members that preserved and told them.  

 This prayer shawl project will be a story.  How my mother read the book and saw the pattern, how she asked me to knit it.  And part of the story will be my determination to make this shawl....despite the fact that this is the first time I've attempted anything so complex.  The story will include the softness and fineness of the yarn and the dainty elegance of the stitches.  Part of the story will be the warmth of the Springer Spaniel at my feet as I knit the pattern, and the curiousity of the Labrador as he watches my concentration.  The tidy black paw of a playful cat will be a chapter in which the knitting bag is overturned.  It won't be an exciting story but it will be a comfortable one...and comforting, as a prayer shawl should be.

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