After the overall theme of the last blogs about finding inspiration and the pressure of repeatedly creating something from nothing, a simple stop for coffee yesterday yielded a chance to step out of my comfort zone and explore options for new subject matter.
I was sitting down with my husband and son in a Starbucks after a fun but cold afternoon of sledding when I noticed that the man sitting next to me was knitting. Now, that might make people pause right there. Not many men are known to knit, at least not in public. He was a large, not fat but large, man. Rather funky in his buzz cut, yellow chamois shirt, cargo pants, and what I can only describe as the typical LL Bean boots for wet weather. You know, the kind with the rubber foot and soles and the leather uppers that lace up. His were unlaced at the moment. He had a monocle attached to his simple wire framed glasses. I suppose he used it for magnifying when he needed to see a stitch more closely.
Anyway, I had only glanced at him as we walked in and had not really taken stock of him or anyone else for that matter. But Aidan saw him knitting and was drop jawed. I told him that that is how our friend, Flo, had made the wool sweater he was wearing at the moment. At that, the many offered to show him more closely what he was doing. Of course we asked him what it was and his story turned out to be more interesting than I had expected.
He is an army veteran. He was making helmet liners for his former comrades in arms. Some of them still deployed (he did not say where) and some home like him. These liners were being made from a pattern he had created just for this purpose. They were mostly camouflage colored using variegated wool. The rim was made from a thick grey wool that would offer extra padding around the ears. If this was not enough, he had sewn a small green heart button, this size of a pea, onto the back of each hat. He said that if he ran into any one of them wearing this hat with the heart on it, he would buy them a drink.
So, can you imagine the angles this meeting offers? Army veterans and their connections to those they served with. How some veterans choose to celebrate these ties. Knitting and masculinity. Knitting as a conversation starter or community builder (two other ladies came over to join the conversation and by the time we left he was giving them a lesson in this pattern).
Yes, someone’s appearance is often a clue to who they are or at least what is happening with them at that moment. Let’s face it. He looked interesting. He was interesting. The ladies who finally came to ask about his project looked kind of timid in their dress and posture. They were. They needed me (with a funky hat and silly happy family–husband with ponytail included) to open up the discussion. Journalism is about being judgmental in a way. At least at first. The eye of the writer must look for something to question. If the funky person is not so interesting after all, no problem. If the average looking person turns out to be one of the most dynamic people you’ve met in years, great. But, as my mother used to say “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
So I asked . . .