Monday, May 31, 2010

Untangling Knots

As much as macramé is the art of tying knots, it’s the art of untangling them too. Carefully twisted loops and coils become necklaces, bags, and sandals, while snarls of misbegotten twine become a life metaphor. Macramé reminds me that parallel cords never tangle. They needn’t be bundled or even kept separate from one another. The longest strings can lay harmlessly side by side in what appears to be a completely chaotic mass of twine. Yet gentle tugging reveals each cord has its own path. They slide easily into the knot work.

The trouble begins when one cord wraps around itself. When I look at the source of the biggest snarls, I invariably find a tiny noose where one cord encircled itself and caught other cords in its circle. A person who’s “wrapped up in herself” enact a similarly destructive narcissism. She looses sight of others in the glamour of self. Their stories become merely an extension of her story. The naturally parallel, though still intimate and cooperative, threads are caught up in a loop of hurt feelings, ego, or fear. As more and more cords get snarled, the knot expands, until that first tiny noose is lost in the mess it created.

Yet macramé has taught me to follow the threads back to their beginning, back to the free end where change and tangles are made and unmade. All it takes is loosening that one circle to free the others. If I’m lucky, the caught cords haven’t formed their own snarls. They return easily to their original purpose. Other times, they’ve formed a whole series of interlocked nooses and tangles. Yet the most impossible knot forms when the other cords escape and the looped cord is pulled into a tight, lonely knot. Life, like a knot, needs space to uncoil. Though the circle may hold and protect, it can also entrap when I endlessly reenact my mistakes or replay my frustrations, rather than weave them into life’s knot work. Thus macramé is the art of tying and untying, repetition and innovation, tension and patience, making and unmaking, --the art of living.

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