Where Prayer Has Been Valid

I’m an inveterate goal setter. I think the reason for this is that having a goal provides a vantage point; it gives me someplace to start and somewhere to go. It’s like a good story. With a goal you get a beginning, a middle, and an end, and even if the end doesn’t turn out to be what you hoped for, it’s meaningful because it was part of something bigger.

My goals have been all over the place. In high school I decided I wanted to learn to speak French well enough that I could go to France by myself and fit in. It took me several years beyond high school to make this happen, but eventually it did. One time, I decided I wanted to get strong enough to bench press my body weight. I told myself that if I could do it, I’d get a tattoo. I did, and I did.

There have been plenty of instances of failure in the goal achieving department. I have yet to knit a complete blanket, and there’s that dissertation that’s missing a few chapters. The thing about even these unrealized goals, though, is that by staking a claim in my consciousness and my day-to-day life, they’ve made possible some of the most meaningful experiences I’ve ever had.

I mention all of this for obvious reasons. I don’t usually make resolutions, but I do like to begin the year with a sense of where I want to direct my attention. This year, one of the things I’ve decided to do is participate in the #spin15aday2018challenge.

Knitting just is. It happens regardless. Sometimes, I might have a goal of tackling a particular technique or completing a special project (looking at you here, blanket), but I don’t need extra motivation to knit any more than I do to breathe.

Spinning is different, though. I enjoy it immensely, and actually knitting with my own handspun . . . Well, that was transformative. The thing is, I tend to get caught up in the particulars. I worry that my yarn isn’t consistent, that the twist of the singles isn’t right for the twist of the ply, that my prep is incomplete or downright wrong, that I’m not treating the fiber in the way it wants to be treated. I’ve vowed to let my hands take over and do it by feel. I’ve also tried measuring every possible variable. Neither approach has felt right enough to be completely satisfying. So, I spin in fits and starts.

Well, the other day I happened across the #spin15aday2018challenge. Sherrill, The 1764 Shepherdess, has been spearheading this challenge since 2015. Who knew??

About ten thousand people on instagram, apparently.

But anyway . . .

This challenge is a wonderful thing. Many, many of the instagram pics feature dazzling work. There is also quite a community that has developed around the idea. A lot of those who participate are doing the January #wemakeyarn challenge, created by @ThreeWatersFarm and @KnittingSarah. Posters respond to prompts related to their fiber lives with both photos and explanations. The insight this is offering into spinners’ minds and habits is incredible. File it under “feeding the soul,” people. Seriously, follow that hashtag! You won’t be sorry.

But I digress . . . I have committed to trying to spin for at least 15 minutes every day in 2018. It’s been five days, and I’m already a changed spinner. No kidding. This post is getting long, so I won’t go into all of the particulars, but at least this time, with this fiber, I was able to hear it tell me what it wants to be. I had it all wrong initially. Wrong spindle, wrong gauge, all of it. In fifteen minutes a day, with no goal other than spinning fiber for a short time, I learned that I haven’t been listening. I’m starting to think that with spinning, my goal should simply be to spin, at least for now, and see what happens.

These lines from T. S. Eliot’s Little Gidding keep going through my head:

You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid.

I wonder if sometimes simply showing up where good things have happened before is enough of a goal. I’ll keep you posted.


P.S. #fringeandfriendslogalong










  1. Jay

    This has been my favorite blog of yours yet. I felt like I never completed anything until I graduated from college. That was a huge accomplishment for me. Then I got my masters and PhD and both of those were huge accomplishments for me. Other than that, I leave a lot unfinished. My wood work for instance.
    As for spinning, I think I’m going to join you. I’m going to bring a wheel over here to the office and spin for 15 minutes a day. It’s meditative for me, maybe even mindful. The way it is now, I only spin if we go to a retreat somewhere. Because of that, it may take me a year to spin a bump of something. I don’t have a spinning goal but my goals for 2018 are to get a barn built and get the farm house redone. I just don’t know who’s going to live in it.

  2. Thank you for sharing your inner dialogue with us. You’re right! Just participate in the moment with no judgment coming from the mind of any kind–not about the process, the product, nothing. Just stay in the moment and spin. Slowly, imperceptibly, you are changed.

    I want to learn how to spin! I know I would love it. I am keeping my feelers out there for the opportunity because I know eventually it will present itself when the time is right. It just always works that way!

    • melinda

      Thank you for taking the time to leave such a beautiful comment, Jane Ann. I will keep your words in mind as I continue to spin those fifteen minutes a day. I’m not sure where you are located, but I can’t imagine there isn’t someone nearby who would be thrilled to help you get started with spinning. The Beginning Spinning group on Ravelry (https://www.ravelry.com/groups/beginning-spinning) is fantastic. I’ll bet if you posted an appeal, you’d have a teacher at your door this afternoon! LOL

  3. Maybe having two wheels over here is a good idea, Jay. This year, I’d like to get the little-guy goats on this side of the mountain this year (or decide to let them go) and get the ‘bookstore’ turned into the fiber playground it’s meant to be, as well as the barn and some sort of conclusion to the farmhouse dilemma. It would be super cool if we could make a plan for these things together, and a budget, and actually see them through. I believe things will be more likely to happen for if we actually work toward something together in a tangible way instead of in parallel. I don’t typically set goals or resolutions because I can’t bear to fail, and lately life is full of what seems like insurmountable obstacles and failures. I call it embracing my inner-under-achiever, half-jokingly, but it stems more from hating to be a disappointment. I don’t do any of the #aday challenges like these, either because I know that inevitably I will miss a day, no matter how hard I try not to, and will hate how I feel about it. Better to not start than go to sleep feeling like I failed at one more thing, however small. I do miss spinning, and while I won’t allow myself to commit to 15 minutes a day, because it’s just not realistic for me, I do want to spin more, and have my hands in fiber more, this year. I hope both of you get your spinning grooves back, and that I can cheer you on. Hey, Melinda, maybe Jay will make enough yarn this year that he agrees to learn to knit…. 😉

    • melinda

      Oh, my Cari – I sure hope you can feel the massive hug I’m sending you. What you say about goals and resolutions makes sense. They can come to feel like tyrants in your mind, constantly challenging and berating you instead of simply opening a space for something to happen. That’s definitely no good. I’m looking at the spinning 15 minutes a day more as something I will try to do every day in 2018 rather than something I have to do every single day or it won’t count. My emphasis is on maintaining the effort rather than tallying up the days. I understand that even that can feel overwhelming, though. You do what you need to do for YOU, and I’ll be cheering you on for that. As for a knitting Jay . . . yes, please! 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for sharing more of your story. I have always wanted to learn to spin; however am too new of a knitter (three years next month!) to start indulging in more purchases. I also want to learn to dye yarn. Some day my stash will be small enough to start on both of these goals. One of my fellow knitters at my Thursday Meetup group goes to thrift stores and is so lucky to find gorgeous sweaters which she then takes apart and plies the yarn. Maybe that would be the way to go to start? Who knows…as long as we keep setting goals for ourselves, I know we will succeed at whatever we put our minds too. I look forward to seeing what you do this year 🙂

    • melinda

      Thank you for your comment, Paula! One of the fun things about spinning for me has been that it’s made me more aware of the different characteristics of yarn so I can make more informed choices about what I pick for my knitting projects. It’s wonderful how it’s all related and we can be as focused or as wide ranging as we want to, and there’s always room to go deeper or farther. Thanks for stopping by! I look forward to following along with you in 2018 as well! 🙂

  5. Learning to set goals and think in those terms is one of my new year’s resolutions. I am always working, but I realized setting goals and meeting them helps with staying focused. Love the idea of setting a goal of committing to 15 minutes a day – and it goes along with the idea of establishing a habit. 🙂

    • melinda

      I know exactly what you mean about the sense of always working and the benefit of goals for offering a way of keeping track. I think it goes along with this, but one thing I’m noticing is that every time I spin for 15 minutes, in addition to the other benefits, I end up with a wonderful sense of accomplishment–in this day full of all the things that need to be done, I at least did this one thing, thoroughly and completely. It’s such a boost.

  6. Gorgeous post, Melinda. Thanks for sharing these reflections, and how awesome to read about your spinning challenge. Isn’t there something so galvanizing and energizing about making and working towards goals? As much as I like to gripe about my long-term projects not being finished quickly enough, I honestly don’t know how I’d find myself without them. 🙂 I love the idea of spinning 15 minutes a day; it’s a very gentle and forgiving quota (and I’m a firm believer in the powers of the gentle quota). 🙂 I’m so thrilled to read about all new things that have come from listening to the spindle! Wow! <3 Looking forward to reading more.

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