Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Muscle Memory


Our two daughters were here this weekend. Emily hit the front door announcing that she intended to learn how to knit.

After about five minutes with an instruction book she decided I should show her. Mind you, my girls never saw me knit anything when they were kids. I don’t know where she got the idea that I knew how to knit, but a little know fact about me is that I actually do know one stitch and did indeed once produce something tangible through the knitting process.

When I was in the 7th grade I guess it was a fad or something. I’m not sure why I learned to knit, but what I am sure of is that I would never in any lifetime have had the idea of knitting on my own. I’m not the knitting type. It had to have been peer pressure or something.

And before you get the idea that I’m Craft Queen, you might need to see the one and only thing I have ever knitted in my life. It was a muffler for my father. Halfway through the project my mother took over for me. For a long time I could easily tell which half of the muffler was hers because it looked so much better than my pathetic half. Now, fifty years later, (aren’t you amazed that after 50 years I not only still have this muffler but can FIND it?) the yarn has broken in spots resulting in a few holes so that Mother’s half is now equally pathetic as mine. About the only way you can tell two different people worked on it is that somewhere about the middle of the scarf we either picked up five stitches or dropped five stitches. That part is highly noticeable.

So Emily was startled when I picked up the needles and started knitting my little head off. I’m not sure who was more amazed, Emily or myself. Because--and this is the astounding thing: it all came back to me. Something I did briefly almost 50 years ago was literally right there at my fingertips. Emily turned to her sister in a reverential and awe-struck voice, “Elizabeth, you’ve got to come here and see this. Mom knows how to knit!” You would have thought I had just performed brain surgery on our kitchen table.

It’s called muscle memory, I think. My brain had long forgotten how to knit but my muscles remembered. When I tried to tell Emily what I was doing, I couldn’t put it into words. And if I slowed down and watched myself, I couldn’t follow what my hands were doing. In other words, my brain wasn’t in charge, my muscles were.

It was one of those times where your brain gets to go on vacation and other body parts step in to take over. I love it. The brain is highly overrated anyway.

This same weekend, Elizabeth wanted to plan a trip to Europe and we decided to go with her. One of the things we did after my knitting demonstration (which, by the way, lasted about 20 minutes. We’re pretty short on attention span between Emily and myself), was to leaf through about a zillion travel books on Europe.

One of the places Elizabeth wants to go on the trip is Scotland. I couldn’t build up much enthusiasm for the place. Out of the zillion books there wasn’t much said about visiting the country. But, after everybody left, Beaven checked the internet. He found a tour guide in Scotland that will take you to see Loch Ness. I yawned inside. Even the idea of seeing the Loch Ness Monster didn't do it for me. But when he mentioned visiting Pre-historic Stones in Scotland I snapped to attention. Yes, snapped. Muscle Memory took over and I went straight to the bookcase in the living room and my hand immediately pulled out one of my favorite books: “In Search of Stones” by M. Scott Peck. This had to have been muscle memory because we have about four bookcases, each crammed with such a variety of books that it’s laughable to think anyone could find a specific book in our house wth less than a week's time and a map.

I read this book around ten years ago. Then re-read it. And re-re-read it. There are many themes in it. The author is one of the self-help gurus of the 80's so there's a little head shrinking in the book that's unavoidable. But it spends a lot of time talking about the Pre-historic, Neolithic Stones of the Celts. Stonehenge is only one example of them.

Something in this book draws me to it. When I was trying to figure it out I thought back to the times I’ve visited the Mayan ruins in Guatemala at Tikal and Quirigua and also at Copan, Honduras. I was part of a whole group of people who wanted to visit the ruins so it wasn't like I sought out the ruins. Like knitting, archeology isn't something I came up with on my own. But while the rest of my group was climbing around the stones talking about jaguar and turtle gods, I chose to sit and stay quiet. Eventually, I ended up laying down on them, waiting, listening.

I’ve found more peace in the stones of Mayan ruins than anywhere else on earth. I spent an hour in Quirigua watching a butterfly. I had a strong feeling that if I sat still long enough my soul would hear something important. Something in those stones drew me to them and I wonder if it’s a variety of muscle memory. My very bones felt a connection with the stones. There was something there.

I intend to read “In Search of Stones” yet another time before we make the trip to Scotland. Whatever waits for me there I want to be ready to listen. Maybe, as they did in Guatemala and in Honduras, the stones might sing a song to my soul.

1 comment:

Emily said...

MOM! Enough with the pictures!!!!!!