birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

A Bagful of Skeins and Half a Sweater

I believe the yarn was from a yarn shop in Vermont, a lovely lightweight grey wool. And the pattern was probably from there, too -- printed in brown ink on beige paper, a repeating four-hole eyelet design that suggested a cardigan that would be soft and delicate to wear. I had picked out some beautiful metal buttons for it.

At the time I knitted on airplanes, on buses, in train stations. I was somehow waiting all the time and I knitted while I waited. It was soothing -- it was a great discovery for me that having something to do with my hands would settle my mind. I was never more than an itinerant smoker, but I think I knitted the way some people smoked -- to give a shape to time, to never be a bereft and unoccupied person.

That partial sweater, that thing trying so hard to be, lived limply on a circular needle in a plastic bag with the NASA logo on it that I don't know why I had. It moved with me from Connecticut to Birmingham, and from one Birmingham apartment to another, and then to Athens, Georgia. At some point I realized I wasn't knitting at all, I hadn't knit for years, but I hated the thought of all these skeins of yarn going to waste, this half-finished fully-imagined garment being toted around so many miles to no purpose.

I resolved that I was really going to put my mind to it, I was going to finish it. But my fingers couldn't regain the knowledge they had once had -- I had the evidence of the sweater in front of me, I had made this pattern over and over, but I could not make the little eyelets again. I would try, and rip them out, and try again, and they would be lopsided or just off alignment or just not look like the ones my past self had stitched. At last I conceded, and put the almost-sweater away in its NASA bag. And when I moved away from Athens, I abandoned it by dead of night on the porch of a knitting store, hoping that someone who hadn't forgotten would finish it for me, or unravel all the yarn and start over.


My Second Husband