Work of our Hearts
Written by: Linda Maendel on Tuesday, June 9th, 2020
When our eyes see our hands doing the work of our hearts, the circle of creation is completed inside us, the doors of our souls fly open and love steps forth to heal everything in sight.” — Michael Bridge
With COVID 19 hanging over the entire world like a depressing grey cloud, I am quite content to stay home in order to help ‘flatten the curve’, since I have a few tasks begging to be finished. There is bedding sitting on my sewing machine, stories on my computer and a new venture waiting for me in the attic. The new venture won first place. I decide to crochet a rug for our back door, where its rich hues and homemade warmth will welcome all who enter. I’ve crocheted doilies, afghans, potholders and other small items, but never a rug. The idea of working with a cumbersome rug draped over my lap, never appealed to me. Until now.
An ample amount of yarn, tucked away in the attic of my new home, kept calling me to do something with it: one never knows where the next nudge to create will originate. A loving mother had unraveled sweaters and meticulously sorted and stored this yarn, likely dreaming of creating lovely rugs. However, God saw fit to take her home. I didn’t know Sara well, having met her only once. From all accounts, she was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother – whose beautiful family I adopted by marrying Michael. I am humbled, that in God’s divine plan, I am now part of her family, blessed by the work of her capable hands and loving heart.
Kneeling beside barrels and boxes brimming with beautiful yarn, in a variety of hues, felt strange at first – like I was going through someone else’s belongings. As my eyes scanned the multi-coloured skeins, I wondered which ones Sara would have chosen to make a rug. I held up a green and a black ball towards the light. Would she have liked this combination? Or perhaps she would rather have gone for something bright, like blues and yellows? I finally settled on a mixture of red and white contrasted by shades of grey. I put my selections into two tuckers, dragged them downstairs and started mixing and winding a number of thin strands to form one thick one. A few hours later I had two large balls of yarn ready for my project. I was excited about trying this traditional Hutterite skill.
Crocheted rugs have graced Hutterite homes for many decades. Years ago they were simply made, following no particular pattern, using mostly leftover balls of yarn from knitting stockings and mittens. Re-purposing yarn from unraveling sweaters was also quite common. Today, complex patterns are used to create attractive works of art, which sometimes requires new yarn. My rug leans more towards simple, as the pattern consists only of interchanging four rounds of red, and then four rounds of grey. Still, grey and red will look striking in a rug. If nothing else, it will always serve as a reminder that it was created during the Corona Virus lock-down. Grey, for the dismal veil hanging over the whole world right now, I muse, as I start crocheting, admiring the contrasting hues. Red signifies strength, hope and determination to stay positive through this pandemic.
I’ve always found my crocheting hobby relaxing and gratifying. My mind meanders, as hook in hand, timeless treasures are turned out. It’s also an ideal time to dream, reflect, plan and listen to music, pondering messages in the songs.
As I make my way through another round, I hum along with Amos Raber, playing on my phone:
If you read the paper and turn on the news,
It doesn’t take long and you’ve got the blues…
There’s better times a-coming, but they ain’t here yet…
I wonder what’s in store for us with this vicious virus. It’s mind-boggling to think that this pandemic has most of the world in the same predicament. I try to imagine what our Easter holy days will feel like. Here in my new colony, we’ve already postponed baptism and the same will be true for communion. I ponder the plagues God sent over the Egyptians, before freeing His chosen people, Joseph’s descendants, from bondage, since it’s basic to our annual communion service preparation teachings. This year, the mere mention of plagues will strike a raw chord, as one is leaving a devastating trail around the globe.
Numerous questions churn in my brain: Are we being careful enough? What colony would have the first corona case? Would we lose loved ones? What will students have lost, when school resumes? When will I see my family next? This was highlighted when I heard that my eighty-four year old mom, who doesn’t quite understand this social distancing, keeps asking, “Why does Linda no longer come to visit?”
Visions from yesteryear scroll through my mind when mom was still crocheting rugs. After every few rounds she was on the floor with her creation, patting it down, stretching it in all directions, then standing up and tramping it down, all to get it to lie flat. Sometimes she simply had to unravel it and start over. Yanking days of work apart, she stated, “Ich erger mich la anmol. I’m only perturbed once.” I can relate to all of it, as this is my first rug and I have done a fair share of my own yanking. Watching me one evening, MichaeI reassuringly, but with a hint to mirth, whispers, “I promise not to tell anyone how often you’ve unraveled it.”
I started out with no pattern, just advice from my sister, Sonia and my aunt Susie and my own crochet experiences. Apparently that is not enough. Finally I got my hands on a pattern. However, I could make no sense of it, as the abbreviations were nothing like the ones in my crochet books. It may as well have been from China.
Then one day, our minister, Eddy Vetter and his wife, Judy Basel stopped by. I told her of my dilemma and she was able to explain the pattern to me since she’s used the same one many times. The symbols indicating the various stitches are still strange, but at least I understand them now and my rug is growing again. Best of all, I don’t have to spend so much time on the floor trying to tramp and stretch a bubbly rug into submission. It’s gratifying to see my once unruly rug lie beautifully flat.
Woven into my rug are a few heartfelt prayers: asking God to protect family and friends, to give wisdom, strength and courage in dealing with this pandemic, and patience while we stay home until this plague is contained. I pray for our leaders, health care workers, truckers and businesses… all of whom strive to keep us safe, and ensure needed supplies are available. I thank God for his protection, love and omnipotence during this anxious time, the friend who lent me a stack of German novels, family and friends who call and write, the cooks who prepare delicious meals for us to take home, for my family, and the lovely Easter lily with which my husband just surprised me.
I’m reminded of a drama we did years ago, Grandma Says. In it, Grandma is always knitting. All day long, while family and friends stop to share their worries and woes. Each time, Grandma, barely looking up, calmly offers advice, but keeps on knitting, which serves to frustrate her visitors. After each one leaves, Grandma prays for them. The message is simple, yet timeless: stay busy, stay calm, trust and pray.
Hopefully in the years ahead, I’ll become more like this wise Granny – something to work towards. Nonetheless, thanks to Sara’s stash of skeins, I’m hooked on my new hobby.
And I long for the day when everything will return to something approaching normal. Until then, my ‘work of the heart’ will help fill these COVID 19 isolation weeks. I’m grateful for this skill and my supply of resources to engage in this immensely therapeutic work.
Linda Maendel, author of Hutterite Diaries
Crystal Spring Colony
(This story was first published in the Manitoba Cooperator.)