Wren Ross    617-924-SING

Fear of Needles

by Wren Ross- Published in Interweave Knits Notes Vol.2 Issue 2 Winter 2001

My heart sank as I heard the woman on the phone say the words I dreaded,” No knitting needles on the plane”. What to do? I plan for weeks which project will keep me company on my frequent flights between Albuquerque and Boston. It is not a short trip- about six hours in the air, plus extra hours of waiting for connections. For this particular flight I had chosen a white cotton sweater in stockinette stitch. I felt reassured by the purity of white, the cleanness of cotton and the mindless comfort of knit a row, purl a row. I was hoping this would be a mantra to calm my jangled nerves about flying since September 11. Knitting has always been the meditation that helps me feel balanced and helps me listen quietly within. It is a comforting distraction that has the great bonus of being an accomplishment. Also, I am never afraid of delays or waiting because I have my knitting with me. While everyone else is fuming and complaining, I happily have more time to knit. Now I have to fidget like everyone else.

How can knitting be threatening? Outside of Mme Defarge in Tale of Two Cities- how many knitter spies do you know? How many murders use knitting needles? Yet now, my needles are considered a weapon and potentially dangerous. But here is the really scary part: It isn’t me that is threatening with these knitting needles I have been using for twenty years, it is someone else on the plane. Someone I don’t know who wants to hurt me. Someone who wants to make us all feel afraid. It is reminiscent of the bogeyman that lived under the bed and in the closet. He was an angry, hateful amorphous and unseen force that would punish me for being alive. I can put the light on and look hard for the bogeyman, but when I shut the lights, he returns to frighten me.

I knew someone on United flight 175, the second plane that hit the World Trade Center. I worked with him on a number of TV commercials. His name was Bill and he had a twinkle in his eye and a ready laugh. I never became his friend but I always loved working with him. Now, I cannot stop seeing the image of him, his eyes filled with fear in that ill-fated airplane cabin. I would hate to think that my knitting needles would contribute to his or anyone else’s terror. We live in a different world now. A world where even knitting needle can be a weapon in the wrong hands. Where trust is fallen with those two tall buildings.

In the past, I might be lulled by the mindlessness of knitting, the calming repetition where I could be dreamily distracted and drift deep inside myself. Now we are called upon to be mindful and vigilant to be externally aware of what is going on around us. To watch and listen because our lives depend on being awake.

Of course not being able to knit on the plane is a small sacrifice compared to the huge loss of life and the enormity of the catastrophe. Not to mention, the incredible sacrifices of the firefighters and police. All those stories of heroism. However small, it is my sacrifice and it certainly affects my little world and I imagine there are many other knitters who feel the same loss. What I have noticed after this tragedy is that with all of our
collective losses and sacrifices- small or large- we are beginning to look in each other’s eyes and talk to each other. And we are not talking about the weather. We are talking about our feelings, our fears, grief, hope, needs for support. We are expressing our appreciation for being alive. We are talking about what we believe in, what we dream. We are bonding.

There was a wonderful story about an airline pilot, who, a week after
Sept. 11, told everyone on the plane to meet their neighbors- find out who they are and where they are going. Make friends with the person on each side. He said no terrorist could destroy a united community. He told the passengers that they should all throw things like pillows, shoes or books at anyone who might start to act up.

So maybe on my next flight I won’t knit and I won’t read. Maybe I will take that pilot’s advice and get to know my neighbors. Really get to know who they are and what they care about. Maybe we will discover a new kind of human fiber art- the knitting together of strangers that will create a community with a strong fabric of love, trust and spirit. That is indeed a beautiful project to take on the plane.

(Note: TSA regulations allow knitting needles on airplanes now- This piece represents feelings and thoughts prevalent immediately after September 11, 2001. )

Contact Wren Ross by phone at 617-924-SING (7464) or email: wren@wrenross.com
Copyright © 2002 Wren Ross. All rights reserved.