From all over the country people had been calling and emailing.
Friends, relatives, colleagues, fellow children's book writers, old
neighbors, and kindergarten classmates. They had been watching the news
of the flood in Iowa and were worried about us. We were worried, too.
Our house was
safe, far from the flood waters, but what about our friends, our
neighbors, our community? What if we were to loose water and power?
We stocked up on water. Filled our coolers and pitchers, just in
checked the flashlights, replaced batteries. Bought more candles. We
caught up on the laundry. I shopped for less perishable vegetables and
fruits: carrots and apples, onions and celery. We hard-boiled eggs and
roasted a chicken. In case. We were prepared.
For a few evenings before the flood waters crested, my husband, my
middle daughter and I sandbagged in front of the University of Iowa
Student Union down by the Iowa River. Participating in this huge,
remarkably valiant and civil effort was a full spectrum of folks; young
and old, town and gown. All along the river's edges, in at-risk areas,
the same actions were repeated. One person shoveling the sand, another
holding the bag open. Three shovels full and then the bag was put
aside. The shoveler pausing while a new bag was opened to repeat the
process. The full bags were grabbed by the "sealers" who scurried
around with pieces of wires that had an open "eye" on each end. Using a
special tool that threaded through the eye, they turned and twisted
until the bag was shut. Knitting socks is easy. Sealing sand bags is an
art in itself.
A kind of bucket brigade of the hardiest souls hefted
the sealed sandbags from one to another, the lines shifting as areas of
the defense were completed. Forklifts puttered about picking up bags
and delivering them to other places of need. Trucks were grunting all
around, dumping yet more sand. With a loud metallic clang. Like a
bullet or gun being fired. And all the while snatches of neighborly
conversations were being struck between those assembled, united in
hopes of helping fight the water. Holding it back somehow.
our car the first evening, tired and dirty, sore, leaving behind us a
group of stronger and in most cases younger workers, I stopped to watch
the river. It had already spilled onto the grassy banks where in my
poor graduate student days, I would lunch on eat my standard peanut-butter and
raisin sandwich and drink home-brewed coffee from my thermos. Then the
river always seemed calm. A peaceful place to take a rest between my
job and classes.
The weather here on the prairie makes one humble.
Storms, winds and tornados are a theatre of their own. Plays of
biblical proportions. To be both feared and respected. The power of
weather to take over the path of one's daily life is forgotten and
remembered, over and over again. Waiting for me at home was a basket of
hand-dyed yarns, artifacts from our long, harsh winter: my attempt
bring some color into my life.
I had planned on a shawl, one that
celebrated spring. This winter, spring was what we were all hoping for;
the sunshine, greenness and warmth. Flowers. But after the snow melted,
it seemed to rain incessantly. And now, here in southeastern Iowa, the
flood has shaken our faith in spring to heal our wintry spirits. Maybe
What kind of shawl could I knit now?
Could I create a pattern that was forceful, like the weather, like
river? A swirling spiral perhaps, free flowing and original. Perhaps.
But honestly, I was just too tired. What I wanted was a pattern I could
relax with, cast on, and knit right away. I wanted to feel the calm
descend as I watched the shawl developed. I wanted a pattern that had
all the math done. By someone else.
Wrap pattern turned out to
be the perfect choice. I had admired it when it first came out and the
wavy pattern seemed river-like. It was a long rectangle and its 80
inches would provide me with the comfort of many hours of knitting. The
lacy pattern was easy to remember, really just three rows, two of which
varied in small, but logical ways. A tad of complexity.
Using stitch markers at the beginning and end of repeats
detecting and fixing mistakes easy. And a row counter, to keep track of
where I was in the pattern.
While the river peaked, I dug into my stash
of dyed LB
1878, my many balls of varying color ways, mostly deep
oranges yellows and browns. Choosing a darker skein and a brighter
skein, I began by alternating between the two, every two rows. With
lace-weight wool, even on number 8 needles, knitting this is not an
overnight project. It might take all summer. Fall and winter. But I'm
in no rush. Really. It’s such pleasant knitting, logical and methodical
and beautiful to watch. Such lightweight is knitting easy to take
along. Perhaps, I'll still be knitting the shawl when the river recedes
completely or the clean-up underway is finally finished. And then, this
shawl will remind me of the flood, the fear and anxiety and horror of
watching the river spill over into much loved parts of our town and
university. Of a time when all our attention was on the power of
weather and the river. When I'm finished with this shawl, they'll be
just a few skeins of yarn left from my spring dying. Worsted and bulky
weight. Perfect for hats and mittens. Let's hope for a peaceful winter. - Courage from the soggy heartland.
If you are interested in helping with the relief effort, here are a few organizations that you may want to contact (click names to go to their websites):
- Family Farm Disaster Fund
- Mennonite Disaster Service
- Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation
- University of Iowa Flood Relief Fund