The following is a bit of an emotional reflection, sans any crochet instruction – I don’t usually share in this very personal way but I had some thoughts I needed to get down. So if you’re interested, read on <3
A month ago, I was staying at my parents’ place to dog-sit while they were gallivanting around the Grand Canyon. I had all the materials to complete the patterns I was working on – the Tree of Life dreamcatcher mandala and the Embla Vest – and a bunch of free time to do it in. Until the call came in.
I’d lost another friend. One I’d just seen not a week ago. He died overnight of asthma-related breathing complications, three weeks from his birthday.
Grief seems to have been my companion this summer. In June, a friend from high school had passed away of suicide – a friend that I hadn’t seen in years, but nonetheless occupied my memory as my closest adolescent bestie, the girl I spent countless hours laughing and crying with. The distance of time between us was no real distance at all, and I grieved for Michelle.
Later in the summer, my hometown was rocked by controversy at the weekly community Farmer’s Market. An Anti-Fascist action group released leaks from an internet hate forum called Identity Evropa, which revealed with certainty that one of the farmer’s market stalls in Bloomington was operated by Neo-Nazis. The community was in uproar and the market was shut down because the protests became too dangerous. I walked the aisles of the market myself and saw the armed skinheads waiting to pick a fight.
When the market temporarily closed, the fear was brought to my front door. My then-workplace, the local co-op grocery store, decided to host an alternative market for the two weeks the official market was shut down because of safety concerns. The turmoil in town was at its peak, and during this time several public shootings occurred across the country. Customers even pointed out to me, a produce clerk, that I should have an escape plan.
I began to fear for my safety and then something very real hit me – the notion that all over the country, other people feel like this all of the time and I, with my unasked for privilege, was only now getting a taste. I was sick with anxiety at the time and I now realize that what I was feeling was in fact grief. Grief for the death of my worldview in which my town (despite its problems) was a good, safe, open-minded place to be. Grief because I’d read the leaks from the forum, and the poisonous hate speech was unbearable. Grief because I’d never had to feel this unsafe before and yet some people grow up with this danger in their bones.
Things settled, for a while, after the markets resumed (there are still yet protests happening there) and I left that job, and life went on, and I decided to focus more on my business. That dog-sitting gig was the perfect opportunity to hammer out my new pattern, and get some pretty shots of it against the background of my parents’ deciduous autumn landscape.
Until the call came in. On a Monday morning, I found out I’d lost another friend and grief was to stay by my side. And here it’s been – for a month – saturating everything. At first I pushed through, mechanically figuring the pattern numbers as if it was the only thing in the world, the only the I wanted to do was force it to make sense. Make everything make sense.
As I wrestled with it, I was frustrated and blocked up and felt at times like I was drowning in emotions from the trauma, other times I felt nothing. I latched onto other projects, creating visions in which “everything was beautiful and nothing hurt”.
Grief is a funny thing. It’s slippery, and sometimes insidious and it latched onto old wounds, causing them to bubble up from below and before I could really grasp why, I was stricken with sadness from past abuses, guilt from ancient misdeeds, and doubt that I could ever emerge.
It’s been and continues to be difficult. But the grief I’ve been experiencing has also given me positive perspectives. My friend group, who all knew Isaac, have pulled together for each other in their strength. I’m incredibly, unbelievably lucky to be here on Earth for the time that I am, and to know those shining souls that I know, and to have this platform to spill my thoughts, to people who I’ve never met but whom I can only hope feel lucky too.
The Embla Vest was so named months before my friend died, but the name is a nugget of hope. Embla was the first woman in Viking mythology, her life begun with breath on an old, fallen tree. From the dead, twisted driftwood she emerged to start humanity. The old Norse notion of time is not linear, or even circular – it’s a spiral. So all things come to an end, as they naturally should, and all things begin once more, to spiral out as they will.
It’s a really pretty philosophy. It’s a neat little metaphor, wrapped in a hopeful package. Right now, it seems too cute to deal with the messy and unfathomable world of death and grief. Embla, emerges from the trees? And starts life over again, like your favorite track on an album?
I wish it were that easy. But then again, if you’ve ever actually been lost in trees, you may know that emergence isn’t easy at all. You trip on unseen undergrowth. You get smacked in the face by branches. Sometimes, you wander into a thicket with no way through and have to turn back. But when the world is ending, you have no choice. Driven like clockwork, Embla must emerge because emergence is what she does. Time drives the motion of the spiral and Embla emerges until the end comes for her, too.
And at the end of the world (Ragnorak), the sun gives birth to a daughter, and Ask and Embla’s children (humanity) survive, and the world starts over again like your favorite track on an album, and new humans emerge, and time spirals outward.
P.S – If you are interested in Norse mythology, I can’t recommend this book enough – it’s a copy of the myths I’ve had since I was 13. They are well researched and beautifully told in narrative format.
“The Norse Myths” by Kevin Crossley-Holland