I have never looked so hard for ways to recharge myself and come up short. Forget feeling recharged—I would take a day without anguish and despair.
The fabric of our country is giving way; threads pulled and seams undone. Whether we actually had a more perfect union before the 2016 election or I just saw it that way by selectively focusing on the potential around us, I’m not sure. Either way there’s no chance that I can unsee, and many of us can unsee, America’s sins and separateness.
I have found a bit of solace and relief in knitting. For days on end during the protests, I shuffled around my house, jittery and nervous not for my safety but for our country’s, and for its future. With each story of militarized assault on free speech and assembly, and with each act of solidarity and strength by protesters, my urge to knit grew stronger. The healing power of knitting—to steadily build—is akin to the power of storytelling, if only in the privacy of my hands and my home. Each day I resisted my urge to knit because I don’t usually knit in the summer—too hot in Chicago, all that wool in my lap. Then one day I relented. As the protests grew, I was moved to take out my needles and yarn.
Knitting has surged in popularity during the pandemic, with knitting sites and chatrooms growing. I want our country remade and repaired; I want people who’ve suffered for generations to be made whole; I want that line “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all” to mean those last two words. Yet I can’t stand the process that change demands, the upheaval required of uprising, when it feels and hurts like nails on a chalkboard. Uncertainty to me feels like nails on 10 chalkboards. But I know the sound is of something better to come, that we have to take apart what’s loose and weak to make it tighter and stronger. And start again.
I began the Muhuroosa Blanket pattern a year and a half ago—a year and a half ago!—giddy to create something beautiful and useful. I restarted 10 times—180 stitches, 90 knits, and 90 purls, multiplied by 10. I guess I didn’t have to start fresh, but the blanket would’ve been f’ed if I hadn’t. Even with a good foundation of knits and purls, it’s bound to be a mess. I’m one-third of the way through.
One stitch after another, back and forth, fixing some mistakes but not all, reminds me that change and creation are slow but possible—and then fast. Seams can be reinforced and threads placed in the right way. But we’ll have to pay vigilant attention as it goes, or we’ll have to start again.
Venu Gupta is Mother Jones’ Midwest regional development director. Share your stories with her at email@example.com.