Zen and the Art of Unwinding

I recently saw a list of suggestions for achieving happiness.  This philosophical gem was posted by a friend on my Facebook Newsfeed.  One item dealt with the positive benefits of getting into the flow of an activity, and, I as I read it, I immediately thought of knitting.  I also recalled my friend Cindy who often says, “Such and such is very Zen for her,” when talking about individuals who lose themselves in artistic pursuits or even activities as mundane as shopping.  While Zen is a school of Buddhism that emphasizes enlightenment, Cindy’s usage has a slightly different meaning.  The Urban Dictionary defines Zen as “a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind.”  And when I think of this word, my mind goes to this definition.

Last weekend, in an attempt to assuage end-of-year school stress, I decided to refrain from doing household chores and lost myself in activities, not solely knitting and spinning, that are very Zen to me.  On Saturday morning I went to a local farmers’ market.  This market takes place in a town that was once as small-town in atmosphere as Mayberry, but is now in the heart of the suburbs and has a main street with restaurants and shops that capitalize on its old-time charm.  I bought some eggs, kale, and lettuce at the market, and then purchased a coffee and sat at an outside table and knit awhile. 

The entrance to Matthews Farmer's Market is inviting. 



I then walked to a nearby hardware store.  A quaint remnant from earlier times, Renfrow, sits on the main street, displaying some of its wares on the sidewalk.  With its pot-bellied stove, well-worn wooden floors, chickens and plants for sale, and cavernous room-upon-room filled with seed packets, tools, and anachronistic items such as washboards and jelly jars stocked to the high ceilings, visiting this place made for a nice way to round out my trip to the farmer’s market and to get into the “flow” of a peaceful Saturday morning. 

Renfrow sells these dried gourds to use for birdhouses. 

My morning’s activities did exhaust me a bit, so my intentions of returning home and cooking up a meal using my purchases dwindled.  I ended up spending the afternoon with a friend at the movies (The Great Gatsby) and ate popcorn and other snack food for dinner.  My boys were pleased at not having to sit down together at the table (I’m not sure what that fact says about my family dynamic) and at being able to graze from leftovers in the refrigerator. 

But on Sunday, energy renewed a bit, I threw myself into other activities in which I engaged myself fully, once again swimming into a soothing current.  I cooked some bacon and eggs, stir fried kale and zucchini, and dusted off my pasta maker, a gadget for which I’d registered when I’d married, envisioning years of lively entertaining and cooking with fresh ingredients, and had only used once—over twenty years ago.     I have to say as I’ve aged I’ve become much more patient and attentive to following directions and, this time (unlike in my previous attempt where my finished product crumbled all over), my pasta, made with a mixture of semolina and wheat flour, turned out surprisingly well.  Some of it was lost, however, as my scramble-brained dog, Maggie (a lab mix), enjoyed pulling some of the strands of pasta from the rack on which I was drying them.  I didn’t worry too much about residual saliva on the remaining noodles.  Heck, boiling kills germs!  (I hope my mother and aunt aren’t reading this!)

I served my pasta with a heavy cream and sundried tomato sauce.  I have to say,
it was delicious. 
Anyway, tired from cooking and cleaning up residual flour, I spent the making significant progress on my Taini vest.  I'm using Rowan Summerspun to make this garment--love this wool-cotton blend.  Now it’s back to some winter knits I’ve put on hold for a while.  Before this past weekend, I also finished my Shetland Triangle Shawl and need to get that off in the mail—a late Mother’s Day present. 

I have to say my weekend, which also included eating tapas at a restaurant on Friday night and taking my dogs for a long walk, left me fortified for the work week ahead.  Doing one pleasant thing at a time and doing it completely was a way for me to escape from my sometimes frantic and fragmented workaday life, even if I was left on Monday with a pile of mail from the previous week piled up on the counter and a to-do list a mile long.  But my summer vacation starts today, so I can get to work on catching up. 

Our family pet, Streaky, needs no lessons in unwinding.


  1. I do like the sound of your Saturday and your Sunday for that matter! Your pasta looks wonderful - I know it's a bit of a faff to make but nothing beats homemade pasta and with cream and sun-dried tomatoes too - yummy! I find it hard to focus on doing zen type things when I feel stuff is piling up but I have learned that sometimes one gets more done when one is refreshed and re-created. Your knitting, as always, is absolutely beautiful. And your summer break has already started - wonderful! Enjoy every minute! E x
    PS Hope your lovely rose-coloured coat is finished - you're going to need it unless the weather gets a move on and summer actually begins in the UK! At the present rate of knots you'd better pack plenty of thick jumpers and scarves as well - it's like winter here today. Dreadful.

  2. After a long tiring semester, you certainly deserve a nice long break! Sounds like you've really taken advantage of your free time too. Your farmers market looks lovely! Although the W-S one is pretty nice too surprisingly. I have a theory that kale from the farmers market is better than any other kale. I'm not sure how kale could beat that pasta you made though, yum! Your shawl is gorgeous! Oh the patience and concentration that must have required! I'm in awe!

  3. I've always fancied a pasta machine too - the idea of turning the handle and stretching out the dough reminds me of wringing clothes in a mangle - an activity I always found very exciting when I was small. I can't believe you've started you r summer holidays already! We still have seven - yes SEVEN - weeks of teaching left! Enjoy every minute, Judy.


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