ON ORDINARY TIMES
By Lucia A. Silecchia
She was selling her wares at a rural autumn festival – the hand-knitted scarfs, sweaters, baby clothes and blankets that she made to sell to those of us gathered around her table to admire her creations.
I had purchased a few things from her last year – for myself and for loved ones. So, I was glad to see that she was back. Patience is not a strong suit of mine. Hence, my admiration for those who take so much time to make something beautiful by hand is particularly great. This year, I bought a blanket knitted with some favorite colors in a joyful design.
There was a fortunate, brief lull in the activity around the table – interrupted only by a young woman who stopped by to buy a dinosaur hat that, somehow, she managed to wear with style. The chill in the air, perhaps, prompted this otherwise unlikely fashion choice.
In that interlude, I asked how long it took to make a scarf, or a baby blanket, or, yes – a dinosaur hat. The friendly artisan gave me her best estimates. But then she told me that it could take much longer because sometimes she found herself in the midst of a project, would look at it honestly, decide it was not right, unravel it and begin again.
I suppose it should not have surprised me that someone who created such beautiful things would have a bit of the perfectionist in her. Yet, it also struck me that it must be difficult to look at something that had taken so much time and effort to make and be willing to unravel it all and start anew.
I wonder, though, if there is great wisdom in having the strength to do just that. To make a change and to unravel errors, misplaced values and mistaken priorities takes grace and strength. To start afresh without clinging to the false starts of the past is a gloriously difficult challenge.
Perhaps, as the days shorten and another year is winding down, the knitter’s wisdom may have a place. When we start to look back at the year that is drawing to a close and prepare for the excitement of a new year with its fresh starts and resolutions, it is easy to tinker around the edges of things and make some small adjustments to the patterns of everyday life.
Yet, sometimes in life, there can be an invitation to do more and to make more radical new beginnings.
I suppose that I would never have noticed if the blanket I bought had defects in it. “Pretty good” would have been good enough for me. Yet, it would not have been good enough for the talented woman who knitted it together. She knew that sometimes starting over was the best way to move beyond “pretty good.”
Maybe in this season of joyful hope and new plans, a prayer for the grace to unravel the old and begin again is a prayer worth praying.
A blanket, hat or sweater created from the unraveling of imperfect ones are beautiful things. Yet, we have also been promised that “whoever is in Christ is a new creation.” 2 Cor. 5:17. I have to think that a newly created son or daughter of God is far more beautiful.
So, with gratitude for the good example of a knitter willing to unravel the old and reweave the new, I hope she is an inspiration to do the same and remake our ordinary times.
(Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the Catholic University of America. “On Ordinary Times” is a biweekly column reflecting on the ways to find the sacred in the simple. Email her at email@example.com.)