Monday, May 16, 2011

Memory in the Fingers

When I spin I dream of my ancestor.  She is sitting on a rich green hill in Ireland, the cool, wet wind blowing through her long hair, spinning.  It is ridiculous to think of spinning outside in the mizzle, but this is what comes when I spin.  Learning to spin came so naturally to me, I felt that there was "memory in my fingers" as Elizabeth Zimmerman calls it.

I was recently reading Elizabeth Zimmerman's book the Knitter's Almanac, and found that she had a similar experience when she was knitting an aran sweater from a genuine Irish pattern.  She had a "strong feeling that my fingers knew quite well what they were about, and welcomed the chance to be about it again after a long lapse of time.  I knew then that I had been through this before, with younger fingers in a ruder boat, rocked on the salty summer waves on the Atlantic off the Irish coast.  Silly?  No."

About handspinning, which she taught herself, she writes, "When the fed fibers threaten to become suddenly too thin, my left thumb and forefinger give them a quick extra twist to keep them together until they are safely on the spindle.  Why is this?  I certainly never cogitated on the matter; my fingers doped it out for themselves.  I can only think that centuries of genes have given fingers inherited skills of which we wot not." 

Are there memories in your fingers?

7 comments:

laurie said...

I think you may be right,, sometimes we try too hard ,, we could just let things happen,, our fingers must have a memory same as our brains,, inherited from generations past.Lovely isn't it,,

softearthart said...

Lovely memories how wonderful Beth.

I do remember pictures of Mother Nature that I have passed in a forest or bush area. And when I sit down to create something they appear in my work, the shape of a leaf or tree or fern. And this then turns into something rather special. cheers Marie

Francesca said...

Oh, yes, there are memories in my fingers...my grandmas mostly (Laura and Ondina), but my great grandma Ilde too...

Beth said...

Dear Francesca, What are the memories in your fingers which you got from your grandmothers and great-grandmothers? love, Beth

anushka said...

i've never thought of that before today and would like to think that there are. i've always prided myself on my adeptness with handwork. i wonder if it isn't an inherent memory that has helped me in life to be skilled in the fine motor department, my handwriting, drawing skills, painting, sculpting, knitting and most of all - playing the piano. very interesting. past lives resurfacing themselves in my fingers. : ) i'll have to meditate on that now as i'm about to pick up my needles.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Yes, when I first began spinning I would lose myself in thought from the time I smelled the wool coming out of the basket till it was flying through my fingers, my foot pumping gently in time to ancient songs and thoughts.

Loved this and what it evokes in me...

Sharon

Mrs. Bartos said...

Your posts are always so beautiful, thank you for sharing these parts of yourself....