Friday, March 26, 2010

A couple of Lenten gifts

During my Lenten journey I discovered a podcast and read a book that were Lenten treasures. They are too good not to share.

For the past several years, I've gone to Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana on retreats. My next trip will be Easter Tuesday. One of my favorite moments after arriving is the first time I walk into the chapel for the daily office. When I join the voices of the dear sisters singing the invitatory and the psalms, my spirit melts.

I discovered a podcast of another Benedictine Monastery that posts the offices of Lauds (early morning) and Vespers (evening) daily. Though they pray a little faster and have less silence than the sisters of OLOG during worship, the sound of these sisters singing takes me back home to the monastery. It's been a great Lenten companion.

I love finding books and music that have a spiritual twist, especially when they are firmly rooted in the non-religious market. My favorite non-traditional Lenten book is Lambs of God by Marele Day. It's a book about knitters in a monastery. The knitting sisters are a closed order on an isolated island that are unexpectedly visited by a priest who wants to close the monastery and make the island into a getaway for the rich. What I love most, besides those knitting sisters and their sheep, is the way that these women keep the liturgy of the hours and the holy seasons without watches or clocks but simply by following the growing and waning light. The story is neatly tied together with a few twists and a satisfying ending.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A lenten hat

A few years ago I went to Nova Scotia with my best friend. While poking around a knitting shop in Baddeck, she spotted some yarn that she thought would make a cute hat. Though I'd only knit one other hat (for a baby and with my knitting friend Kathryn's help), of course I was delighted to be able to do something nice for this dear friend. How hard could knitting a hat be? I tend to overbuy yarn, but the knitting store helper in Baddeck assured me that the skein of yarn was what it had taken for the "model" hat.

The two year hat saga began. Experienced knitters can predict each twist in the plot.

It was thinner yarn (actually sock yarn) than I usually used so I was knitting on what, for me, were tiny needles (give me chunky yarn and size 12 needles!). The yarn also liked to unravel a bit so I had to be careful not to split stitches. After a year of knitting off and on, with the minor trauma of that final web of double pointed needles, I proudly delivered the one skein hat to my friend. She was ever so grateful.

No surprise, of course, the hat was more like a beany than a hat that would actually keep my friend's head warm. Of course she was gracious about the size, but it was too small to really be useful.

We were going back to Baddeck in the fall, so I took the hat back to the shop to see if they had a second skein. Of course they didn't, and of course the yarn could not be found elsewhere. I finally decided to rip out and add additional inches with some some solid yarn that complimented the stripes of the hat.

Unknitting and knitting I was near the end once again when I made a mistake on the double pointed needle part and just put the hat away until I could face it once again. From time to time my friend would kindly ask after the hat, watching me knit through other projects.

When I decided to start a major poncho project for my daughter, and then with the happy future opportunity of a blanket for the grandbaby due in July, I knew that I needed to get the hat finished first.

And so I carefully ripped out once again. I carefully knit and unknit and finally finished the hat. It was pretty cute. As I careful wove in spare threads and trimmed them, I was aghast when I accidentally cut the thread too close and made a cut into the hat itself. The best I could do was applique a small design over the hole ("Is this your logo?" asked my friend) and finally send it on.

She says she love her hat and that it looks adorable. But the twists and turns of knitting and unknitting and knitting and repairing the hat is a pretty fine metaphor for my own spiritual journey: trying something just a bit beyond my comfort level--then making my share of mistakes and do-overs, and in the end--something new and stunning.

Not a bad place to be traveling during Lent.