On my mind these days: mothering.
Yesterday, I was given links to two videos, and I share them here because I can’t stop thinking about them. The mothering going on in these videos is epic, inspiring, and at the same time so simple, so unadorned and humble.
Video Number One
A live webcam streaming from Savannah, Georgia. It’s a great horned owl in her nest, tending to her week-old owlets.
The dad brings a rat every now and again, while she sits for hour upon hour on her babies, providing a down blanket for them, basically. One eye open, snoozing, then alert and dangling rat savories for the babies.
Video Number Two
A four-minute documentary about two women who decided to teach inmates how to knit at a prison in Maryland. When my friend Betsy told me about this program, I instantly assumed that the inmates were women. I was wrong.
Lynn Zwerling spent five years—five years—persuading prison officials that a knitting program for inmates was a good idea. What nurturing and care, what patience and persistence, and maybe a little stubbornness. She was in car sales before she retired and began this program, Knitting Behind Bars.
Worlds apart. The owls, high in a tree near a swamp, are as free as the wind. The inmates knit in a windowless room, under the most constrained circumstances imaginable. Yarn, needles, and scissors are counted at the end of a session. Nobody knits except in that room, with these women present.
But instinct is at play in both the great horned owl and the retired car saleswoman. The owl knows what to do. Lynn Zwerling did too, knew deep in her heart that this project was worth fighting for. In a Washington Post article, Lynn said, “We come from a generation that believes the individual has the potential to impact society.” She acted on that instinct, and now, more than 400 inmates are knitting.
These videos are about the same thing. There’s slowness in each, a patience and a recognition that life is exactly this. You work with what you have. You have constraints. But you keep at it.
PS Knitting Behind Bars works under severe prison constraints on materials, but they can accept donations of certain specific yarns and needles. The Knitting Behind Bars website has details here. And you can make a financial donation via that website as well. If you’ve ever wondered if a program like this can affect people’s moods and attitude, Lynn writes: “For fear of sounding like an evangelist, I must say the transformation is impressive. Imagine the three of us—Sheila, Lea and me—sitting in the midst of 22 content, happy inmate knitters, who are companionable just like any knitting group, sharing family stories, and yes, even recipes.”
PSS I’m so thrilled to have just received a comment from Lynn herself. It’s like she’s stepped out of the video! HELLO LYNN! She writes: “You lovely ladies made my day by featuring us and Knitting Behind Bars in your blog this morning. Our program is indeed alive and well with in excess of 600 knitters coming though our Thursday nights in the past 8 years. And guess what, some of our behind the wall knitters have been released and are still happily knitting. When released we provide a knitting kit to those men who seem the most motivated to help them in their re-introduction process. Picture one of our guys, sitting on his front porch in Baltimore knitting away, happy, making hats for his babies, while wearing a home monitoring anklet. That visual warms my heart. If your readers feel compelled to send yarn, hold off, yarn is such a problem, but we could use some more metal #8 circular needles in the 16″ length. And of course, a small monetary donation would be appreciated to fund those going home kits, in particular.
“Again, thanks for the recognition. Coming from the Mason-Dixon girls makes it even more special.”
Knit and Be Happy,