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Where my eyes are drawn

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
6 min read
Where my eyes are drawn
Dune grass at Long Beach Peninsula, WA.
Dune grass. Long Beach Pensinsula, WA.

I am in my happy place, this morning.  The sun rose in sherbet colors this morning, the loveliest of pastels reflecting off the dunes and the grey-blue of the Pacific Ocean not two blocks from my windows.  It’s still early, so half the world is backlit (which I love) and the other half illuminated by dappled sun streaming through the trees behind the house, the sky a gradient of bluebird while the city’s socked in fog.  It’s rarely a mistake to plan a day off: today’s shaping up to have been an especially good idea.

I spent years going to the mountains with all of my free time.  Mostly because of the irresistible lure of climbing, but also when I wasn’t climbing … the pull of jagged peaks and alpine air and simple nights spent sitting around a campfire eating out of a camp stove was like gravity.  I didn’t really question it, I just went.  And now, I don’t really question the gravity having shifted ocean-ward.  I really love it out here.  And while the campfire has been replaced with a fireplace and the camp stove with a fully equipped kitchen, my boyfriend’s wonderful family as company instead of climbing partners, there’s a similar feeling here.  Of having what I need, and being surrounded by beautiful views.

Days at the ocean involve watching Gibson play — on the beach, and around the house, since she has a little friend here for company.  Nights are usually home-cooked meals, delayed until way past dinnertime by good conversation, or board games, or other distractions.  I haven’t done much writing out here, but I have done a lot of picture-taking, and I rarely come to visit without a couple skeins of yarn and a knitting project.  Ryan’s mom is a phenomenal quilter, and the women in his family are crafty — something our two families have in common.

I’m still getting conditioned to knitting again — when I was a kid, I once knit five or six sweaters in a year … but as I was a kid, I didn’t understand the quality vs. quantity distinction.  As my joint pain got worse in high school and beyond, knitting was one of those things I just couldn’t make progress at any more, so at some point I just stopped doing it.  I’d still make a pair of Christmas socks or gloves here or there, but the projects had to be small, so that I’d be able to complete them without growing bored if I could only knit a row or two at a time.

Thanks to the marvels of modern medicine, after changing to a new med awhile back, two things have happened.  One: my formerly naturally-wavy hair, turned curly by the last ineffective treatment I was on for a couple of years has turned stick straight… a sign that that toxic prescription has finally left my system for good.  While I miss my curls, I do not miss that med.  And two:  my arthritis is under control, and I’ve been able to ease back in to some of the things on the “off limits” list.

Before Christmas I went shopping for sweaters and found myself examining the yarns, and the patterns and construction and thinking, I could do better.  I came home empty handed, with plans for a date with the local yarn shop.  That date was fruitful — Ryan found a couple of irresistible pattern books and when I saw a heathered green cotton with flecks of darker green that happened to be the yarn one of the cutest patterns was written for … let’s just say my return to knitting had begun.  Never mind that it’s a relatively fine gague yarn knit on needles so small I’d only used them to make socks before… never mind that I didn’t know if my hands would hold up… the familiar rhythm of cast on, knit purl, just two more rows, okay, just two more rows, okay, I’m really going to stop now, after this row… kicked in.  And thanks to a couple of relatively unscheduled weekends at the ocean I finished the sweater back yesterday (and I love it) and have the ribbing done on the sweater front.  It’ll be done in time for spring, at this rate.

I rarely get inspired to take selfies, but I am finding myself drawn to my own hands as subjects.
I rarely get inspired to take selfies, but I am finding myself drawn to my own hands as subjects.

As I knit I watch my fingers and just marvel at their capacity for making.  I don’t take them for granted.  As a part of my photo-a-day project, I’ve seen lots of people working on a self-portrait exercise, and I’ve had no inspiration for it myself except for a desire to shoot photos of my hands, doing what they do.  Holding a camera.  Braiding hair.  Knitting.

They turn yarn into textile, with only the occasional interruption from my brain to accommodate a change in the rhythmic repetition of the pattern.  And this morning, with the sun streaming in through the windows to the east, my yarn moving rhythmically through my fingers, my thoughts turned to my mom.  I learned to knit by watching her and a friend, and I taught myself a kind of backwards way that manages to work but isn’t what you’d see in any “learn how to knit” book.  But it works.  I hadn’t thought about it until this morning, but my mom taught herself how to knit twice.  Once, when I was little.  Again, recently, after losing her left index finger a couple of years ago to an infection that could have taken so much more from all of us.  When my sister got pregnant my mom picked up her knitting needles again, and I didn’t give it a second thought.  Sitting here this morning, watching my own hands move without thought across the needles and yarn, and now — typing on my laptop keyboard — I’m a little in awe of my mom’s recovery and how much she’s had to retrain herself to do.  It’s a nice thing to sit down and take a minute to be just profoundly grateful for exactly where we all are, right now, today.

I’ve looked at this photo probably sixty times, and never noticed anything missing.

She doesn’t know this, but during one of my parents’ visits last year I snuck a portrait of their hands.  They were sitting on the white sofa in our living room that has such beautiful light, and mom and dad were casually holding hands and I had the guise of a school assignment as cover for my picture-taking, and I took a few portraits of them, and then got in close on their hands.  I’ve looked at the negative and I love the picture; I haven’t yet scanned it, so I don’t have it here to share.  And that picture stands out in my memory because I was focusing on what’s changed, on what’s “missing.”  And as I flip through my photo album I realize that I’ve taken who knows how many pictures of my mom’s changed hand without even noticing it — because what my eye is drawn to is the smile on her entire face as she holds my nephew, giggling in his reindeer onesie from his first Christmas morning.  There are so many ways to heal, I’m reminded.  So many different ways to see things.

Time for me to start a new skein of yarn, then stock a little Vitamin D in the bright sunlight out here before we head back to the city this afternoon.  I’m curious to hear from you… what are YOU choosing to see differently this new year?



Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.