Knitting a Scarf for the End of the World

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Last night we had some friends over for pizza and drinks on the back porch. Each time we do it feels a little more normal, a little less fraught. We’re all as vaxxed as can be (other than the girl, who hasn’t had her booster yet) and relatively cautious about exposure to other people.

It’s easy to want to forget that there’s still a pandemic out there. As pretty much all mask mandates ended in the last week or so, Arkansas also had its second-highest number of daily deaths in more than a year. We don’t have any idea what the real number of cases are with people testing at home and not reporting, or chalking up their symptoms to allergies or “that bug going around” and never testing.

And then there’s Ukraine.

I kept thinking about that poem I’ve been seeing on social media about washing your face while another country is on fire.

It was written by Mari Andrew in early 2020, when another country was literally on fire (Australia, if you’ve forgotten), but it’s a fitting feeling for right now, too. The whole thing is published on the blog Self Practice, but the part I’ve been seeing online goes like this:

I am washing my face before bed while a country is on fire. It feels dumb to wash my face, and dumb not to. It has never been this way, and it has always been this way.

Someone has always clinked a cocktail glass in one hemisphere as someone loses a home in another while someone falls in love in the same apartment building where someone grieves. The fact that suffering, mundanity and beauty coincide is unbearable and remarkable.

— Mari Andrew, “Notes from the First Few Days of 2020”

We were literally clinking wine glasses while families in Ukraine fled for shelter, for their very lives, not knowing if or when they can ever go home or what home would even look like if and when they did. While others stood and fought.

The Ukrainian flag in felt.

We talked about whether this was the start of World War III, if our area might be a target of nuclear weapons, whether it’s time to turn into doomsday preppers or try to be the eye of the hurricane, the calm place when all the world around us gives into fear.

(As the only mom in the group, trying to be the eye has been a constant for the past two years. Some days that’s easier than others.)

Everyone agreed I have a solid place on Team End Times because I can make clothes. Never has that joke about knitting being a post-apocalyptic life skill felt less funny.

But then again, it’s what we makers do. We make for our own comfort and for that of those around us who we share the work of our hands with. (That’s why I wrote a post in early 2020 about starting a hobby when you’re stressed out about the state of the world.)

Making isn’t just a skill, it’s stress relief, self expression, a reminder there is beauty in the world when times are bleak.

It’s a way to stay in the eye of the hurricane, or a way to get back there.

I’ve joked about the fact that I’m doing a lot of stress crafting lately, but there are definitely worse ways to deal with the current timeline.

To riff on Mari Andrew, I’m making sweaters while another country is on fire. It feels silly to, and also like the only thing I can do. To bring that comfort to myself, and to share that skill and that care with the people around me, even if it’s not the end of the world.

Maybe a knit scarf can be the lifeline to pull someone else out of the storm of fear and into the calm.

Or maybe it’s just a scarf. Either way the world’s a little warmer.

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