Knitty Nellie

I know.  It isn’t the most gripping of titles and – for me – not the most usual of subjects, but hear me out.

Little know fact: I love knitting.  I’m not very good at it (left hander who learned right handed) or very fast, but there is something gloriously zen-like in the way a couple of sticks and a long length of yarn can, tiny stitch by tiny stitch, create flowing garments, huggable toys and much warmth and comfort.

In a moment of whimsy, my mind went back to an odd little animation series my children used to watch in the 70s and 80s.  Something about an eccentric couple called Noah and Nellie who sailed (or flew maybe, my memory of the details is sketchy) in an ark full of animals, encountering various characters who had intractable problems to solve.  Every episode Nellie would listen to the problem, begin knitting and produce something wonderful which provided the ideal solution.

Ah, if only it were that easy…

Well as I said, I love knitting, so whenever I’ve found myself without a project to work on, I’ve used my oddments to make scarves and hats which were then handed out to the homeless and others going through hard times in the local community.

This year though, another thought came to me.  Here in the UK, our gas supplies come in pipes from and through countries far to the East.  For various reasons, the price has soared this year and heating costs have risen massively.  Add to that the need to lower our energy consumption in order to cut  CO2 emissions and we have two very good reasons to turn down the central heating by a few degrees.

The downside is that our homes will be colder this year and that – particularly for older people who are less active and staying at home all day – is a challenge.

In true Nellie style, I wondered how I could knit my way out of the problem.  It didn’t take long to invent Kneckers – kind of muffler/ cowl/ neck warmers things that are very easy and quick to knit and (I’m wearing mine as I write this) really warm and cosy to wear around the house or under a coat collar when going out.

I asked our local community volunteer coordinator to put the word out for volunteer knitters, persuaded the owner of the lovely needlecrafts store in town to hand out free patterns and collect finished garments to be distributed to those who would benefit, and started knitting in earnest.

Happy to say we’ve now done several drops to local churches and volunteer groups who are able to reach those who need a bit of extra warmth this year.  People are busy making fingerless gloves, hats, scarves and, of course, kneckers all over town and I’m super happy!

If you’d like to knit some for yourself and anyone who needs warming up in your local community, here’s a link to the pattern: Kneckers Pattern .

All I ask is that if you download and print it, you either make at least one to give away to someone who needs help keeping warm this winter, or you turn your own central heating down by half a degree to help care for the planet (or both!).

Where Was I Last Night?

I’m fairly sure, now, I know where I was.  Things had been building up to it, if you know what I mean.

When I say ‘last night’, I’m talking in temporal terms, obviously.  The experience I had took place sometime between around 2am and 7:30am this morning.  Since my mind was dreaming, though, the timescale for the events didn’t belong in that time at all.  It was, like all dreams, non-local.

What I recall most clearly is the excitement, the enthusiasm, the anticipation my fellow protagonist and I were experiencing.  We were family, although he had no obvious counterpart in my current life.  I’d describe him as a sort of brother, maybe even a twin.  All of our attention was focused on the task before us.  Each of us was choosing a new adventure.

I can only describe what we were examining in terms of geometry.  There were tubes – dark flexible cylinders or wormholes perhaps – overlaid with uneven grids and lines of bright, greenish light which intersected in interesting ways.  Each was a different ‘adventure’.  The tubes were the destinations, while the patterns showed different timeframes.   We poured over every detail with intense concentration and excitement.  The more complex the slashes of lines and the patterns they created, the more enthusiastic we became.

“Oh, this one looks interesting!” he would exclaim, pointing to a place where a diagonal crossed a group of parallel lines then veered away in a dynamic tick shape.

“Yeah,” I would laugh, “You might need a bit of help with that one!  I could probably lend a hand there.”

Ever had your palm read, or an astrology reading?  They are the nearest analogies I can think of.  Every line and every crossing had huge significance.  They represented the challenges, the exciting parts, the fun of this unique adventure.

Each of us was searching for a location and a timeframe within it that would give us a thrilling rollercoaster of an experience.  There was no fear or trepidation, no hunting for the easy bits.  We both wanted a full-on white-knuckle ride with plenty of problems to solve and puzzles to overcome.

Despite our emotional closeness, we were aiming for quite different adventures.  There was no regret that we would be separated, but there seemed to be an underlying acceptance that we could, at any point, call on one another – and on a rather nebulous ‘back-up team’ who seemed to be lurking nearby – if we needed support at any point.

I was beginning to wake up – to return to the physical world.  I didn’t want to!  This was fun.  There was another pattern on another tube I was desperate to explore.  My companion, too, was still busily engaged in the activity.  I managed to climb back into the dream state and spend a little more time there, but the physical body was becoming restless and finally shook itself free of that other existence, bringing my mind back to its daytime residence.

Now it was time to consider what I’d seen from a human perspective.  Surely that happy, excited, fearless aspect of me had been wherever-it-is we go between lives.  My companion and I had been selecting our next incarnation.  Everything pointed to that conclusion.

As I said, things had been building up to it.  Recent conversations, news items, personal experiences, channeled messages from others I follow on social media… even a friend who just yesterday re-read and commented on a post I had written several years ago.  The message had been the same:  We chose this location and this time in which to live this life.  We chose it – warts and all – in order to give it our best shot and see what we could change, what we could figure out, what we could take on and deal with.  Moaning, protesting, trolling or grumbling just won’t do any more.  We judge and complain about our fellow humans but write them glowing eulogies and obituaries when they pass.  We beg and insist that gods, spirit, world leaders, politicians and anyone other than us must change our lives for the better.  No wonder so many channeled beings are metaphorically throwing their hands in the air and reminding us that we chose it, and we intended it to be fun.

So yes, I woke up to an overcast drizzly day in October and a world beset with challenges and problems galore.  I’m off now to try to reconnect with the cheery, excited and optimistic aspect of myself I experienced last night and to bring as much of her hope and enthusiasm as I can into this amazing timeline and space I opted for this time around.

On ‘being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts…’

It isn’t, to the Western mind – schooled as it is in science and reason – a comfortable place to be.  It feels risky, subversive almost. There are times when even the most hardened venturers into this zone yearn for more solid ground.  Many have teetered on the edge and scurried back to the reassurance of what, in their world, is believed to be real and provable.

The poet Keats coined the term Negative Capability to describe this other state.  He defined it thus:

Capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.

I found that quote in the second of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books – The Subtle Knife.  His character Mary sees it as the frame of mind one needs to access in order to open to communication from a level of consciousness normally concealed behind the current world view.  Lyra, his young heroine, immediately recognises it as the state she enters to read the alethiometer – her divination machine.

Fractal, Abstract, Yellow, Design, LightIf you are reading this, you have almost certainly experienced that state.  It has overtaken you as you painted, wrote, sang, created or became so absorbed in any task that you moved beyond time and rationality, lost yourself in something wider, stronger and vaster and briefly allowed it to override your thoughts and rationally derived aims.  What you created during that period of Negative Capability will have been sublime.  If it is a work of art or craft, you may have wondered where the inspiration came from and why it surpasses what you produce while striving to impose order and perfection in the accepted way.  You will be aware – and perhaps alarmed – that time has passed of which you have little or no memory.

A musician friend tells of how she would enter the space during an operatic performance and ‘come to’ afterwards in a panic, wondering whether her singing had kept pace with the accompanists.  Poets and writers are, of course, able to review the words which arrived from their sojourn in this otherworld, but are still left wondering where the inspiration came from.  I’ve often been aware that certain passages in my books ‘wrote themselves’.  They are easily the best passages – far superior to those where I’ve wrestled with syntax and thesaurus to capture the right mood.

As should be obvious, though, the ‘irritable reaching’ towards the rational and familiar is difficult to resist.  It’s like trying to remain in a dream once you have realised that you are dreaming.  There is no proof, and proof for us has become the touchstone of all that is rational and acceptable.  Whenever we stray there, despite the inspirations and gifts we receive, we must tolerate as our companions Uncertainty and Doubt.

What a choice!

Girl, Space, Mystic, Brain, MysticalFor poets and artists it’s one thing; for those who venture into the world of the seer, the channel, the diviner or the clairvoyant, the experience is harder yet.  This extract, for example, written by my friend and erstwhile collaborator William, hints at the complex balancing act involved in remote viewing:

It is necessary to be able to correctly focus at the correct time while ensuring the knowledge held is sufficiently minimalistic to avoid involuntary logical assumptions clouding the receipt of information through remote viewing, but sufficient to ensure the information received can be interpreted correctly.

So the person who strays into the realms of Negative Capability must be willing to retain only a modicum of what we commonly know as logic and fact while being prepared to accept a quite different and infinitely more nebulous source of psychological information.

The rewards can be astounding but the path takes courage and a willingness to embrace, or at least make close contact with, what Keats calls, “sensations rather than thoughts”.