Welcome to our Wednesday My Place post! T.S Eliot concludes one of my favourite sections in East Coker (1940) with a suggestion of how feelings of dislocation might herald moments of self-discovery and presence:
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
I find something new in East Coker every time I read it, and, over the years, these lines have prompted many different thoughts about just what it might mean to be where one is not. It was out of similar reflections that today’s My Place design emerged, as Christina Campbell channelled her feelings about a place in which she was not into a truly beautiful design – and eventually her own renewed sense of presence. Here she is to tell you all about it.
When posed with the question “where is my place?” we often focus on the physical structure that we call home. But what if the place that brings you comfort is not where you reside, dwell, or hang your hat, but rather a distant land, in the midst of a grand forest, a simple prairie, or at the water’s edge?
When Kate announced the call for design ideas exploring the My Place theme, I felt excited to create an accessory in response. Yet, as one who finds herself more at ease as a wanderer, I struggled to find a way to create something based on where I live. Then, in March 2020, when we entered into the initial lock-down, I felt even more lost . . . the desire to wander and explore new lands was no longer a possibility. I knew that I would need to learn to accept “my place” as challenging as it seemed.
That spring, I spent hours walking through the woods watching the trees awaken from their winter slumber, the woodlands come alive with bluebells and other flora, waterways transforming from a frozen to liquid state. I thought about who walked these lands before me… and who might walk here in days to come. With each step, I was connected to the past, the present, and the future. And as I physically walked through the transition from one season to the next, my perspective on the idea of “my place” began to shift.
One’s place need not be a physical home.
One’s place is where one feels alive, thriving, comfort, and perhaps even peace.
…and to me, this is in the forest, any forest.
Among the trees.
In September 2019, I attended a conference in Oslo, Norway at the Nobel Peace Center on climate change and peace. During a break, I escaped the city and took the train to the last stop on top of the mountain overlooking Oslo. The train takes you to the forest!
As I walked away from the train station, I found myself immediately immersed in a healthy, thriving forest… tall birch trees so straight and true reaching towards the bluest of skies. The pines everywhere so thick you’d need to navigate carefully if you stepped off the path… and then, the forest floor, adorned with pine needles, leaves, mushrooms, and the brightest red berries I’d ever seen. A magical and mystical forest where one feels immediately at home.
This is my place… dancing in the forest surrounded by trees and berries. There’s a word, psithurism which means the sound of the wind in the trees and the rustling of the leaves. For me, this design captures the essence of that idea. In the forest, one listens to nature’s lullaby, a subtle shimmer of leaves and the wind dancing amongst the trees. Here, there’s the comfort of both stillness and sound.
The simple act of knitting can transport us to far-away places through the stories told in our stitches. As I walked through the old oak savannah of the Iowa prairie during the early months of the pandemic, I dreamed of walking in forests near and far. The Norwegian forest overlooking the city of Oslo provided the initial inspiration for the elongated triangular shaped shawl that I designed: the bark of the trees, the green of the leaves, pine needles, and moss dotted with the most brilliant bright red berries.
Yet though my shawl is named Norwegian Forest, it now also has strong associations with a landscape much closer to home. One year into the pandemic, I’ve walked my local woods almost daily through all 4 seasons. And while my wandering days are still uncertain, there appears to be some hope that someday, we’ll have the freedom to travel again. And so, through the seasonal turning of the year, I’ve come to find my little woods along the Skunk River tucked away from the wide-open prairie, a very special place indeed.
So whether it be the woods of a Norwegian forest, the Scottish Highlands, the Rocky Mountains, or the oak savannah of the Midwest…
This is my place… deep in the forest surrounded by the great beings we call trees.
Christina is the founder of Project Peace, an annual knit-along to promote peace around the world through knitting. You can find more of her designs on Ravelry and read more about her musings about knitting, walking, and peace on her blog, The Healthy Knitter or on Instagram (@thehealthyknitter)
Thank you, Christina, for your thoughtful and timely post, and thanks so much to Lola Campbell, Christina’s daughter, for modelling her beautiful shawl.