I make art yarn, or as I prefer to call it, “Bob Ross yarn”—because it’s full of happy little trees that are really just covered-up mistakes. Somewhere in Alabama I’ve got about 80-100yds of ugly, greyish-brown alpaca yarn, full of thick spots, weird knot-like bobbles almost like small flower buds, and spots so thin the yarn would break if you sneezed in its direction. It’s yarn that will never be knitted up into a project, it will sit, forever, skeined up in a yarn basket, of use to absolutely no one—except me.
This yarn is a memento—a little more than just the first yarn I’d ever spun on a spinning wheel. It’s a distinct reminder of the event that led to me spinning in the first place.
On April 27, 2011 a massive tornado struck my hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. More than a mile wide, it laid waste to whole neighborhoods in seconds. Landmarks I had passed that afternoon, hours before the tornado hit, simply weren’t there the next day. Gone. Flat. As if they never had been in the first place. It was shocking. I had been at my Grandmother’s house, a mere two blocks from the tornado’s path, when it came through. I could see the devastation as soon as I left her neighborhood. I also had to drive through one of the hardest hit commercial areas on my way to work everyday for months afterward.
In retrospect, I was probably more traumatized by events than I was willing to admit at the time. In the weeks that followed, I found myself with an excess of frenetic, anxious energy that I just couldn’t expend no matter how hard I tried. I determined that I needed something that incorporated both movement and meditation. Enter spinning.
I had to start off with a drop spindle (or two) since I wasn’t able to buy a wheel until about a year after the tornado. Nevertheless, the drop spindle still helped. It required a new and different form of hand-eye coordination that could at least relieve some of my pent up energy. Once I did get a wheel, I poured every ounce of grief, frustration, and anger I had into that yarn whether I was conscious of it or not. Since that time, I tend to spin infrequently, and generally only when I’m stressed.
It may be ugly yarn, but it’s a beautiful reminder that by God’s grace I and my family survived a tragedy. By that same grace, we as a church and as a community will survive this tragedy too. What kind of memento will you make?