A Knotty Dilemma

ONCE UPON A TIME

at Burning Man

a nearby burner helped me erect my shade structure. As we worked at undoing the knots in the guy wires, I told him the story of the mother who had her own foolproof method of judging her son’s three prospective brides. She gave them each a knotted skein of yarn and asked their help in untangling it. The first yanked here and there impatiently and finally threw the yarn on the floor in disgust. The second concentrated for a few moments and abruptly concluded she couldn’t do it, and the third loosened and followed one thread all the way through until the mass fell easily apart and she smiled as she handed it back to the mother. “That, my son,” she said, is the wife for you.”

I love that story!

I think of it when a knotty dilemma comes up. Is there some way to break through to the heart of this matter and have the problem fall apart like a relieved sigh?

My mother might find a thin gold chain at the back of a drawer, wadded into an impossibly tight knot, and give it to me to untangle. It would have a shiny, sweaty smell, and excite me: Gold chains linked you to the great fairy tales and myths, to Arabia, and India; to the great weight of the world, but lighter than a feather. – Anne Lamott

In packing to travel to the next phase of my life, I encountered the very skein of yarn that might have challenged the three bridal contenders. Now and then I decide I’m going to get good enough at knitting to wear something I made without embarrassment, or become an expert crocheter like my mother. But I have a hard time holding my own attention at things I need to improve at. I tend to spend more time on and apply more energy to things I’m already good at. Part of it is my tendency to “crash,” i.e., drop whatever I’m doing and blink at the darkness while remembering how to breathe.

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For instance,

I bought myself a ukelele for my 60th birthday; it was a “60 after 60” thing I thought I’d pick up on as part of later-in-life new horizons. But when I discovered how hard it was (for me) to change chords, I, knowing myself, sold it to pay my electric bill. I knew I wasn’t interested enough to put in the time required to get good at it. Same with pottery. My instructor told me, “You’ll make 1000 bowls before you’re satisfied with one.” No, deary, I won’t.

Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie. – Jean Cocteau

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If a sailor expert at every extant knot

had made a career of tangling this yarn it could not have been more convoluted. If all three of my cats had pounced on this, wrestled each other and united their 12 paws of claws to confound me, it might have been easier to unravel. Some interloper, rogue element, banshee or succubus entered my lair and fucked with me.

Even though I knew

it was pointless, that I could have cut the mess apart, that I could have recrocheted the piece in less time, that I didn’t even want to continue the piece, that there were any number of better uses of time, I had to unravel this yarn, I just had to. It took me several evenings of dogged Netflix-binging obsession to work it out, and I did, but there was no great satisfaction in it. I just had to prove to myself that I am that patient, thorough, determined, marriageable, heart-of-gold gal that won’t give up. (That was a joke on myself. The very last thing I am is marriageable.)

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Not that that has ever mattered to me. After growing up with front row seats to my parents’ marriage, I never once imagined my own wedding day. ~shudder~ But I do believe many problems can be deconstructed by looking at the individual elements, how they interrelate, and finding a path to resolution. They may be less convoluted than you think.

Now if I could just untangle my brain the same way…

 

♥ ♣ ♠ ♦

Keith Haring, as seen at The Political Line, De Young Museum 1/15, San Francisco c. Keith Haring Estate
Keith Haring, as seen at The Political Line, De Young Museum, San Francisco, January 2015, © Keith Haring Estate
When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

4 thoughts on “A Knotty Dilemma”

  1. Well done, Alexandra. Your writing is getting better than ever. I’m glad it’s in my inbox so I see them.

    Love you, how’s your mom?

    Carol

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence! I was getting pretty rusty while snapping pix. Guess I had enough of a break from words. Mom’s OK, thanks for asking. She is recovering well from vascular surgery and getting her color back. Hi to Hawaii.

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