Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

RAK It Up: Revisiting Random Acts of Knitting

We took a quick plunge into full winter temperatures here at the beginning of November. Our warm fall days crashed into minus double digits and for the past week, temperatures have been in the -10C to -15C range; high winds have shifted those temperatures so that it feels as if it's in the -20's.  Those temperatures are to be expected in late December and through January, but not so much in November, where the daytime average is around -3C with a low of -15C.  Brrrrr. It's a great time to be bundled up inside, reading, knitting, enjoying homemade soup.  I've been spinning Merino wool and working on a shawl and some socks as I attempt to finish older projects to clear my slate for the few holiday knits that remain on my list.

As I sit wrapped in a hand knit sweater, on my cozy couch, I listen to local news on the radio. This weekend, a homeless man froze to death in another part of our province. Fortunately, this is still rare enough that it made headlines which garnered compassionate responses; however, the reaction from some people and particularly the Minister for Social Services has been less than stellar. There have been hints of "Not my problem" and more than one suggestion of victim blaming and a shifting of responsibilities for homelessness and hunger onto "other people." (To those who think that homelessness and hunger is not a problem in our city, I invite you to take a walk around our downtown, any time of day.  Then consider that the people you see wandering the streets and sitting on grates are a mere fraction of the people in need.  In our climate, much of the problem is hidden at this time of year, as people are huddled in alley doorways, around power boxes behind malls, moving from bus shelter to bus shelter to stay out of the wind and living in abandoned houses and vehicles.)

As I sit with a woollen shawl draped around my shoulders, in my comfy chair, while I watch another show on Netflix or play on my computer, it occurs to me that this time of year in particular and really, any time, brings perfect opportunities for an intersection between yoga and the work of our hands.  Donating to charities is great, passing along used clothing to organizations to distribute to those is need is wonderful, but perhaps we can also take a hands-on approach to "Being the Change." We can participate in karma/action yoga by sharing our knitting, our crocheting, our weaving or any handwork. We can do that without relying on third parties, by taking our fibre crafts to the street.

Several years back, a group calling itself "Random Acts of Knitting" was active in this city. Group members distributed their hats, scarves, mittens, and other items around town by draping scarves around sculptures, hanging hats from light posts, dropping mittens on park benches and in bus shelters.  Each item was clearly marked to indicate that it was a gift for anyone who wished to have it or to pass along to someone else.  Sometimes, a piece of clothing would be accompanied by an energy bar, bits of chocolate or candy, some dried fruit-anything that isn't damaged by intense weather and which provides fuel to people stuck out in the bitter cold. Gifts were freely given, with no concern as to who might receive them and no expectations of feedback.  Although I'm not sure this group saw its expeditions as such, I think of these events as yoga in action, i.e., karma yoga.

Members of that group are active still, although it's been a long time since they went on a RAK expedition together.  You can join this group as well.  There are no meetings, no fees, no rules.  All one has to do is knit or crochet or otherwise make an article of warm clothing. (There are patterns available on Ravelry.  My free crocheted hat pattern, "You Can Leave Your Hat On, is quick and easy to work.) Whatever you make, be sure to label that the item is there for anyone would wishes to take it. Don't assume that people help themselves to stray articles of winter clothing; I've seen lost hats and sets of mittens stay on the street for weeks, possibly because people think the owners may come looking for their missing apparel. Consider tucking a cold-resistant food item in with your garment.

You can leave your RAK in public places: decorate statues, drop your work on benches, slip things into bus shelters, behind malls, anywhere you wish.  You can offer items directly to someone, but be mindful of approaching people you assume to be less fortunate. They may not need or want your help.  Don't allow your good intentions and gifts to be a source of taking away people's dignity.

As I sit with my feet warmed by hand spun socks, in my well-stocked home, it occurs to me that one hand made hat or scarf is no big deal.  It also occurs to me that if, every person who works with fibre and yarns did a single RAK, together, we could blanket the world.

I spotted this RAK a number of years ago, just before the snow flew.  


1 comment:

  1. Excellent information. Thank you so much for your great post and pictures are really very awesome. Great post.
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