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  • Knitting and the Outdoors by Anna Brones


    The outdoors is where I go to disconnect, to remove myself from the world of obligations and to-do lists. More importantly, there’s rarely cell service. Amongst the trees, in the mountains, along the coastline, there are no inner voices calling out to me telling me what I should and should not be doing. Instead, it is quiet, peaceful.


    Knitting is the same. The rhythm of the movement of my hands is calming, meditative. Being occupied, they also can’t pick up the phone to check the latest message or news item. It’s an activity that pushes me straight into the present moment and keeps me there. Distractions fall away, time passes without me noticing.


    Knitting outside means breaking everything down to the simplest moment. It is you, your work and the sound of the wilderness, the smell of a campfire. Perhaps there’s a mug of tea or cup of coffee next to you, maybe even a nightcap of whiskey as you knit through dusk.


    Knitting and camping; I find that the two go quite well together. Knitting is after all activity that’s both simple and complex. The end result - be it a hat, a sweater, a pair of socks - is a combination of small actions, all based on those two basic elements: knit, purl, knit, purl. While the end product might be a source of excitement - a new sweater! - it is the act of making, the entire process that gets us to that sweater, that is the most important, much like the end destination of a day on the trail might be a lake or a summit, but it is the journey created by every step along the way that brings that destination its true meaning.


    Sitting outside with a knitting project in hand, life feels like it scales back, reduced to the bare, essential elements. Ingredient lists for meals are shorter, but even the easiest of culinary combinations are the tastiest. A piece of grilled bread slathered in goat cheese and drizzled with honey. A morning cup of coffee. A bowl of oatmeal with freshly foraged blackberries strewn on top.


    I am reminded of a Terry Tempest Williams quote. “To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”


    In the midst of a maddening world, I crave that connection; we all do. We need more wild. So here I am knitting a sweater with no real pattern, using up lovingly handspun wool gifted to me by my mother. I think of how it too was once wild, in the form of an animal. There’s still a hint of lanolin, to remind me that it came from a living thing, not a product extracted from the ground. The morning sunshine rises above the treeline, hitting my face. It’s quiet now that the campground elk have gone on their way. There’s no real goal to this project, or even the day, just being present in this time, the now.


    Here I am, whole, connected to the place around me and to the fibers that I hold in my hand.


    Anna Brones is an artist and writer and the author of several books including the forthcoming Best Served Wild: Real Food for Real Adventures.

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