In 2009 I was a student at California College of the Arts and I took a summer class abroad in Italy, courtesy of financial aid. It was the first time I’d gone anywhere by myself in quite a long time, and the first time since I was 18 that I’d made an overseas journey; I was gone for a month and it generated a considerable upset in my household, but I felt temporarily liberated, and the sense of adventure and possibility was like a physical force in my body.
While I was waiting to board my flight, I began knitting a scarf (stockinette stitch) to occupy myself. I continued to work on it at various times of waiting, flipping the direction of my knit/perl rhythm each time I started again, making ridges at each interval (the first time was accidental, to be honest, but serendipitous), and creating a timeline of sorts. Because of the nature of its creation, I decided to call it “Diary of Interstices”, and my stitches became specific and intentional.
In Spring 2010, it became a piece in my senior show, Improbable Remains. As part of the prep for that show, one of my friends knit at least 10 rows on it, and then I left it out in a basket next to an armchair, in case anyone else felt like adding a few stitches, though I don’t think anyone did.
Well, I worked on the scarf intermittently for about four years, and in that time my life turned completely upside down: I’d finished school, separated from my husband, I was struggling to pay bills and take care of my kids while looking for steady work, not to mention rediscovering who I was by myself. It felt like it was damn well time to finish the bloody thing; I was so tired of waiting for things to be different, for life to feel less heavy, to just GET ON WITH IT already.
I did finish it, but somehow I felt like it still haunted me. The waiting. So when I went to Clear Lake with a friend in the summer of 2013, I decided I needed to drown it. Clear Lake is one of the oldest lakes in California, at least 480,000 years old, and hosts a variety of aquatic life, including catfish. Catfish keep growing their entire lives, and the lake is very old and deep, so I enjoyed imagining that there might be monstrously huge catfish lurking, half-buried in the soft silty floor of the lake, as I swam about near the shore.
I put the scarf under the water, drenching it and digging it into the silt with my feet. It smelled of green muck and algae, a healthy sort of decay.
It was good, it felt right, but after the scarf dried and no longer smelled of the lake, I realized it wasn’t done yet. It needed salt water too. I put it in a 2-liter mason jar, and planned to make a trip to the ocean to acquire enough seawater to fill the jar, and then I was going to put it in a sunny window and watch it disintegrate over time. It took me nearly two more years to actually get the seawater and finish it (I had tried at one point, unsuccessfully, to get water from the North Sea off Orkney in the Hebrides, but I ultimately settled on water from the Pacific Ocean, near where I grew up and where my grandparents lived). Finally, yesterday evening, I drove to Stinson Beach with my kids to collect the water. I waved to Stinson Beach Books, once owned by my grandparents long ago, as we drove down the main street to the water. It was misty and beginning to get dark, and very windy and cold. And utterly beautiful. Aside from the numerous seagulls milling about, there were lots of crab bits scattered across the beach, as well as Pacific burrowing crab remains, and vast swathes of washed-up Velella velella, a colonial organism related to the Portuguese Man o’ War (but not dangerous). My youngest progeny and I danced in and out of the surf as I gathered the water, cup by cup, and poured it into my big empty jar
When we got home, I filled the jar containing the scarf and screwed the lid on tight.
There was actually a bit of water and some sand left in the bottom of the big transport jar, and tonight, as my eldest progeny was chopping potatoes for dinner, they noticed tiny burrowing crab babies swimming in the seawater in the bottom. We were surprised and excited to discover them and resolved to take them to Crab Cove and release them into the Bay after dinner (they’re native to the whole West coast of the U.S., so we wouldn’t be screwing up any ecosystems). We also checked the jar with the scarf in it to make sure we hadn’t trapped any crabs in there by accident (we hadn’t). Under cover of darkness, we poured the water, sand, and tiny crabs into the Bay from the Rocky Shoreline Intertidal Ramp, my favorite spot at Crab Cove.
Now there is only to watch the process. Since seawater contains abundant biological material, I expect there will be some interesting stuff that grows in there. A couple of friends pointed out today that I’m still waiting, just waiting for a different thing; I suppose that’s true, but it feels different to me. My part is now complete and the time has arrived for nature and entropy to take their course, I feel content to step aside and allow the decay to unfold as it will.