women of a certain age are like sunflowers; they know how to turn their faces to the sun.

Monday, March 2, 2009


"To pray is to pay attention to something or someone other than oneself. Whenever a man so concentrates his attention -- on a landscape, a poem, a geometrical problem, an idol, or the True God -- that he completely forgets his own ego and desires, he is praying. The primary task of the schoolteacher is to teach children, in a secular context, the technique of prayer."

W. H. Auden

14th centuryMiddle English attencioun, from Latin attention-, attentio, from attendere

1: a condition of readiness, involving a selective narrowing or focusing of consciousness and receptivity
: consideration with a view to action
3 a
: an act of civility or courtesy especially in courtship b: sympathetic consideration of the
needs and wants of others
: a position assumed by a soldier with heels together, body erect, arms at the sides, and eyes to the front —often used as a command

-Merriam Webster

Four different usages for the word, "attention."

What do they have in common?


For an individual. A problem. A situation. A task.

If we respect someone or something, we pay attention to it.

I find it interesting that we use the words, pay attention, rather than be at attention, or hold in attention.

For there is a cost incurred. By focusing on the one, we exclude the many. That is the price we pay. No one can pay attention to everything and everyone every day. Just not possible...

So we choose.

And we don't get off by thinking we are so busy with our lives that we only respond to external stimuli.

Yes, we are often bombarded on all sides: by the omnipresent media, by the demands of our families, by the pressures of our jobs, by the calling of our church, by the raw need in our society.

We cannot disable these inputs.

But we can choose what we pay attention to.

And what we discard as unworthy of our focus

Everyone will draw different lines. But all will have deep consequences.

I believe one of the great blessings of knitting is its ability to shrink the world to the size of two sticks and a length of string.

I also believe in knitting's ability to draw attention to worthy causes, whether they be disaster relief, medical research, or simple comfort.

Attention must be paid.

I am hard of hearing since birth and have only recently discovered the "closed captions" feature on my television set. I am amazed (and appalled) at how much I have been missing. On movies I have watched ten, twenty times, or more. On reruns of past television shows.

(Last night at dinner in a fairly noisy restaurant environment, I found myself wishing my family's dinner conversation came with subtitles.)

To watch a show dense with dialogue
requires I not only listen, but also watch closely, lest I miss something.

Which is difficult when I am trying to knit a complicated design. One that requires and holds my attention, like the one pictured above.

Some patterns, like Taize, allow us to focus elsewhere, as we knit repetitively and reflexively across the rows. Some, like this one, command our notice.

ItalicThis is Mudra, hopefully released this upcoming April. A mudrā is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism. While some mudrās involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers.

The yarn is Rowan's new Lempur Linen in color: Tattoo.

It is not difficult, but you do have to put the increases and decreases in the right place on each row, in order to give the ribs their direction. Otherwise, you get a hot mess of twisted ribs to nowhere.

Attention must be paid. To the rhythm of the stitches. To the pattern of the dance. To this and to any other work that reflects our souls and earns our respect.

Our engagement with, and enjoyment of, an activity is directly related to how closely we pay attention to it.

We choose what we attend to.

And what we do not.

And we pay for that privilege.

It behooves us to think on these things and choose well...


passingdowncrazy said...

I don't even know what to say. I've never seen a pattern like that before. It's gorgeous!

Laura said...

My emails to you seem to be bouncing-- is there another email address I can use?

The Unique Sheep (laura@theuniquesheep.com)

trose said...

OH!!! This is truly beautiful. Will you have the pattern available? I will HAVE to have it :-)

Teri said...

I love this! Is it going to be a shawl?

Anonymous said...

This is so beautiful. When will it be available?

Anonymous said...

You are awesome and inspiring. Your work is full of beauty, inteligence, patience... Thank you for sharing it along with your thougths.

Pat said...

looking forward to Mudra.

Jennigma said...

How do you manage to make every design more beautiful, more enticing, more amazing than the one before? I need several more lifetimes so that I can knit all of them. How could I ever choose?

shortoldlady said...

You surpass yourself this time! Looking forward to seeing the finished product!!

GoldenTracks said...

This new pattern is gorgeous. Most unusual!

Sasha said...

I love what you've written about paying attention. I think it's important that you link attention with respect and that too many people overlook this these days. It's about respect and reverence, without which you're not really able to appreciate the things that are in front of you. Thanks for writing this.

The shawl is lovely too. Your pattern and the yarn work really nicely together. :-)

Donna S. said...

Very very pretty

crisiscarla said...

I think you must also have a monk's DNA along with those creative, gifted knitting genes. It is a blessing to us all, you share both.

Cindy said...

I love the way you post! I get theology and philosophy and linguistics and zen and knitting all in one read. Marvelous. :)

The design is gorgeous. Way to pay attention! :)

moiraeknittoo said...

Some of the lines in this remind me of various mendhi designs I've tried in years past. Regardless, it's gorgeous, and I am very much looking forward to purchasing it and working on it when it's available. Absolutely lovely, as is the backstory on the design.

baby face said...

I have just purchased your Taize
pattern. It is so beautiful. I am very ill and don't know if I
can make it, but I enjoy looking
at it and I love the way you post.
I believe in Karma and I respect
the way you write. It is so
refreshing to hear someone who
thinks like you do.

Ash said...

Thank you for reminding me to be aware. It feels good to be grounded again.