How are knitters like the quaking aspens?

On the way home from a knit night, I listened to a fascinating podcast, The Philosopher’s Walk with Frédéric Bouchard that for me connected knitting, biology, and philosophy. Bouchard is a philosopher of science and biology at l’Université de Montréal. He walked through a city market, like Aristotle did with his students, asking questions – what exactly is an individual? Does our consciousness make us superior to other species? Or merely different?

Bouchard posits – who are we to think that we are superior to other organisms? We are not faster; we are not stronger; we cannot fly. Look at a Monarch butterfly: the grub eats to fatten itself up, spins a cocoon, emerges as a fully formed butterfly, and flies thousands of miles before beginning the cycle again. That’s remarkable.

What can other species teach us? The natural world displays a sense of community that we are usually unaware of. Engaging our sense of wonder and non-judgemental appreciation through our consciousness, the thing that does make us unique, enables us to see interconnectedness between species and among individuals. Bouchard has interesting facts to share about squid and bees but it was Bouchard’s description of a quaking aspen forest in Utah that had me thinking about the knitting community.

The aspen forest is one organism – thousands of acres, thousands of years old  – yet one organism. It increases in size by root runners that pop to the surface and begin new trees. Something that’s unique – the forest is a single species – just aspen, no evergreens, no maples, no oaks,  just aspen, and it’s this that makes the forest  “quake.” When the wind blows, the single type of leaf, brushing against all the leaves of all the other aspen trees, makes a shushing sound that is captivating and all encompassing to witnesses.

And so I imagined knitters all over the world –

  • whose community has grown by each one teaching one
  • who have learned from their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts
  • who attend knit-a-longs, knit nights, and retreats
  • who connect on Ravelry, at knitting stores, in each others homes
  • who knit alone or in company, with a movie on, or in cars, buses, or trains
  • making shawls, baby clothes, warm sweaters, or hats and mitts.

In some way, we are knitting in unison, our needles clicking or brushing, casually or deliberately, fast or slow, all engaged in the same process, in community with one another, making sound that we can hear if we listen carefully and with consciousness.

I’m happy I heard the podcast.

It has increased my sense of connectedness and community. I feel lucky to be a part of it.


One Reply to “How are knitters like the quaking aspens?”

  1. Beautiful, Gayle! In a similar fashion, all of our purposeful activity, done with care and attention, creates a larger whole we can access and through which we grow.

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