I’ve always needed something in my hands . . .
a doll, a Teddy bear, kitten, puppy, infant,
new-born lamb, bread dough, yarn and knitting needles,
a teacup, pen and paper, book, steering wheel, handkerchief,
a piece of quartz, an oak leaf, acorn, chestnut,
bouquet of daisies, dried hydrangeas . . .
I’ve always needed something in my hands, and will
until You pry my fingers loose and lead me, empty handed,
© Margaret Longenecker Been
Everyone knows I love words. I never bothered to talk as a toddler, and until I turned two years old my parents were afraid I’d never talk. Then I turned two, and my parents were suddenly afraid that I’d never stop. I recall my mother telling someone: “Margaret can talk a bird down out of a tree”!
Shades of loquacity notwithstanding, what may be an even stronger trait exists in my DNA—the tactile gene. This gene is an actual hunger at all times of the year. Indeed over the winter holidays, when much of our time is occupied with pleasant social gatherings, the hunger intensifies to a point where I realize I HAVE to take my knitting along to group occasions in order to maintain soul balance—and also that I will not eat all the available goodies. I must have something in my hands.
The hunger continues, rampantly noticeable, throughout the rest of the winter as I dream of the gardening season ahead—when bare hands in earth will be satisfied and filled with rejoicing. Meanwhile, I repot houseplants—taking special care to get some of the soil under my fingernails while indulging my sense of smell in the heady fragrance of green roots in wet earth. I paint with a paintbrush, but relish the traces of alizaron crimson and French ultramarine on my fingers. I stroke my doggie’s back and pat his head, while revelling in the softness of his fur and the smoothness of his velvety ears.
And I knit! Yarn has special appeal as each variety has its own texture. Without looking I can differentiate between silk yarns, factory spun acrylic blends, and those precious yarns which I’ve spun from my own (long ago) sheep. There is a distinct difference in sheep wools: I still have a soft Shetland batt, and some Border Leicester wool which is lustrous and coarse—fine for my sun weathered skin, but frowned upon by many folks who can’t handle a bit of the scratch on their delicate bodies.
The first full blown realization of my abject need for tactile experience came to me over a couple of decades when I frequently attended workshops and conferences. Many of these were focused on writing, and no matter how helpful and informative they were I would come home drained and stressed—wanting to scream but not knowing exactly why. I may have been inspired and challenged, but I also felt kind of “ill”. I was sick of words—and weary of the competition and drivenness commonly exhibited at conventions of writers!
Also in those years, I attended woollie gatherings—spinners’ conventions and knitters’ gatherings. I came home from these occasions with an overflowing cup of contentment and well being! The diverse textures of the subject matter were accompanied by the glorious scent of wool and high stimulation of COLOR—all set against a background of pleasant conversation. To this day I feel healthy and strong in the wake of a spinners’ or knitters’ gathering—where all levels of “art” are welcome and respected, and participants are bonded in their shared love of a hands-on project.
Oddly enough, I can read a fine quality 600 or 700 page book (and often do) without that burnt out feeling that I get from a writers’ gathering. Somehow, the aptly written word fulfills, challenges, soothes, and satisfies while building rather than depleting my soul. So can words spoken by a teacher, preacher, or friend. Quiet, one-on-one conversation with a friend or family member refreshes me. And I can write volumes, with impunity.
It is the cacophony of many competitive people talking that jars me to the core—along with the above mentioned drivenness that motivates (and sadly afflicts!) many writers in a group of their peers. I’m settled and fulfilled whenever I have something in my hands!
Margaret L. Been, ©2012