Character Connection 47
Hosted @ The Introverted Reader
Do you have any idea how hard it is to blog and to knit at the same time??? If you do, then I don't really have to explain why posts take a longer time to get published. LOL!
A more positive way that my knitting will affect my blogging is through a little rereading challenge I've given myself, to hunt down vaguely remembered passages about knitting in my old books. I'm not sure why I had such a good memory for them back then. Maybe my inner knitter was already asserting herself. =P Anyway, I revisited another knitter character a few nights ago that I'd like to tell you about today.
My Sweet Folly
by Laura Kinsale
. . . "What are you making?" he asked at last.
"I don't know," she said. "Sometimes I just knits and see what comes of it. Often enough, I pull it all apart again. But now and then, ah, my hands just seem to know what they want to do . . . I love the best what I make that way . . . 'Just make me a scarf,' me husband, he'd say. 'Just make me a waistcoat, can't you? How hard can it be?' But even if I tried, it would come out ugly. And I took it apart. Don't know why. It was because my hands wanted to make something else."
He thought of [his dead wife]. Can't you just put your mind to something useful. You've wits enough. How hard can it be?
"Makes no sense, I know," the landlady said.
Robert stared into the flames. "Yes, it does," he said quietly.
In one of the State of Fear readalong posts, I wrote about what I call "middle eight" sections in novels--parts that "[don't] move the plot along or contribute much to character development, but [provide] a place for reflection." I was referring to the big moment with Professor Norman Hoffman, but I was also thinking of a lovely scene with an unnamed character in Laura Kinsale's My Sweet Folly.
When a lost and disorientated Robert Cambourne wanders into the rundown "Highflyer" inn just outside of London, he doesn't expect to find a landlady who can cook the sort of food that his soul has missed since he left India . . . and who can offer him the consolation he never thought he'd find after his verbally abusive wife left him with symptoms that we now associate with strong post-traumatic stress disorder. The landlady never shows up again in the story, and his meeting with her doesn't directly contribute to the actions he takes to turn his life around, but I guess it's enough that he was able to say, for just one evening, to just one person, C.S. Lewis's "What? You too? I thought I was the only one . . ."
It was Mrs. Darwin who reminded me of Lewis's definition of friendship in the first discussion of our current readalong novel, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I'm more into G.K. Chesterton's description of "comradeship and comfort" in The Man Who Was Thursday, which, inasmuch as My Sweet Folly is also a Thriller, can be applied exactly to what Cambourne finds with the crafty landlady: "Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one." (To be fair, Lewis refers to the same idea when he adds that new friends feel that they "stand together in an immense solitude." He just lacks Chesterton's excellent sense of horror.) So what does the landlady do to reveal herself as one comrade that Cambourne can count on? She simply tells him about the odd way she knits and how her crafts all manage to turn out beautifully.
She lifted yarn over her forefinger deftly. "They don't always do the handiest things for me. Times I would have liked a soft little cap for me grandbaby, and I got a shawl fit for a fine lady. But afterward I seen that the wool weren't soft enough, and the ribbons I bought to weave in were too stiff for a baby. But the hands knew it y'see, before I did." She chuckled. "So I give it to me daughter-in-law and never said naught o' the cap at all. And she's a happy mother, full o' love. Maybe it's that shawl, for she was main pleased by it."
Cambourne knows exactly what it's like to be guided by his own hands--to find, at the end of a letter, that he has written himself into some place where he never intended to go, but which is more wonderful than a planned destination would have been. His whole life has been like that sort of wandering, but only his letters--his love letters--have not been used against him by those unable to understand why he couldn't just make a plan and stick to it.
I think that anyone who has ever taken pleasure in creative writing knows the magic of leaving established paths and seeing where the will-o-the-wisps lead--which is why I've always suspected that the landlady is a "cameo" of Kinsale herself! Perhaps there are also crafters who knit as if they're writing, though according to this charming Twitter conversation, Kinsale is not also one of them. And well, neither am I! =P Knitting has made me the most methodical and systematic that I've ever been, and yet it still manages to fit my wandering template in a way that I'll tell you about someday . . . if I ever write myself into a post that is the right fit for it!
Image Source: My Sweet Folly by Laura Kinsale