By Ashley Lodato
I wrote last week about attending a fiber arts exhibit at Confluence Gallery and am picking up that thread (pun intended) again this week because of an idea I discussed with a few of the featured artists.
Because several of the exhibited pieces involve yarn, we talked about the concept of unraveling, which even the very best knitters (or maybe especially even the very best knitters) find themselves doing from time to time, to correct an irregularity, fix a mistake, or begin a new stitch in the intended location.
Unraveling carries so many negative connotations, not only in knitting but in human character. A wool piece becomes unraveled when the knitting is left unattended and the cat or a child starts pulling at the loose yarn. In just seconds, hours of work lie undone on the floor in a tangled pile. Often unraveling a knitted section is the only solution to human error; the knitter laments when she must unravel hard work to get back to the place where she took a wrong turn.
A person described as being unraveled is perceived to be unhinged, unbalanced, a bit out of one’s mind. An unraveled person is someone falling apart, someone lost. The state of being unraveled is considered to be a chaotic, failing emotional state.
And yet unraveling also refers to freeing something from complication, such as unraveling a mystery. Unraveling is the process of untangling threads — a painstaking procedure whether one is separating strands of yarn or unsnarling the threads of a complicated situation seeking clarity. Something unraveled is something laid bare, something restored to an earlier state of existence, something perhaps simpler and easier to comprehend. When mysteries are unraveled we are left with answers — answers that only the process of unraveling could have revealed.
Here in the Methow Valley we are all, of course, all tangled up in each other’s lives, the way people tend to be in small towns. Especially for those who have lived here for decades, or who were born and raised here, the threads that connect people are tightly interwoven. Yet those ties are not always obvious to others. Over time as relationships are unraveled, we learn that those two people were once married, or those four owned a business together, or this person is that person’s mother. I once introduced two local women to each other, not realizing they were sisters.
As these threads of connection are unraveled, what remains are not individual strands or snarled balls, but instead a tapestry of community: complex, beautiful, and as strong as the fibers that create it.