Healing: knit one, purl one, knit one, purl one

I have a scar on my right cheek.  It’s this little crescent shape that I have thought of  as a moon or a smile.  I have had it for as long as I can remember because it is from a sharp piece of metal on a doll stroller I got for Christmas when I was about a year and a half old.  (Yes, toys back then before the proliferation of plastics were made of materials like metal.)  I apparently fell and tumbled into the stroller and the little sharp edge near a wheel sliced into my cheek.  Apparently there was much crying, probably more my parents  than me.  My cheek bled, healed and formed my little moon-shaped scar.

I have a few other scars that I am fond of because they bring back memories of my past.  There is one on the inside of my left knee from a buckle on a flipper a friend, Jim Winkler, was wearing when we were swimming at West Meadow Beach and he kicked past me.  All I felt was a little stab and then the blood rose to the surface… my blood.  Fortunately this was Long Island Sound, not the warm Pacific so a shark feeding frenzy did not ensue.

I have a scar on my right knee from a biking accident a few years ago when I was riding from Piermont toward Nyack and hit some gravel.   I got home and realized I didn’t have a Band-aid  anywhere in my house.  I was sitting out in my yard sopping up the blood with towel when my neighbor Dan  (who you have met before in these blogs) came out of his house.  “Dan,” I said in a particularly plaintive voice, “do you happen to have a Band-aid.”  Actually he had quite the Band-aid.  The kind that is akin to the body wraps now used for battle wounds.  A tight plastic seal impregnated with antiseptic.  The wound is sealed up and mends like magic.  That knee boo boo makes me think of a warm beginning of summer day and a good neighbor.

I have a scar on the top of my right foot where a very fashionable shoe bored a hole in my skin while I was walking from meeting to meeting in New York City on a hot summer day.  (Hint always have a pair of flip flops or sneakers hidden somewhere in your briefcase for these dangerous situations.)  The bloody wound transformed into a lovely silvery oval that I think looks quite sparkly as it peeks through the lacings of elegant sandals.

And there is a quite newly acquired scar on the back of my left hand.  This summer as my friend Julie and I were launching her lovely little sail boat, a West Wight Potter, the boat glided too close to the dock.  In some deranged super hero moment I thought sticking my hand between the dock and the bow would prevent damage to both; of course it was my hand that was painfully sandwiched and immediately blew up like an inflated surgical glove and oozed scarlet.  Julie handily took control of the boat and I dashed up to the boat house and stole (yes, I did not pay for, I totally ripped off) a big bag of ice and buried my hand in it.  I have a pretty high pain threshold so as long as I don’t have to actually look at my own gushing blood and other physical damage, I can be quite functional.  I joined Julie on the boat, we navigated out of the Nyack Boat Club basin, past the moorings and channel markers and sailed the Hudson.  It was beautiful.  Really there is nothing like sailing, especially with a good friend.  From time to time I pulled my hand out of the bag of ice and over the next couple of hours the swelling decreased, my hand, somewhat blue, was in fact totally functional and the bleeding slowed and the blood began to congeal.  The scar now looks like a little butterfly, perhaps a Monarch gliding over the Hudson River enjoying the summer breezes before setting off for Mexico.

It’s kind of a miraculous thing the way our bodies heal.  Miraculous, mystical, magical.  And what is amazing is that this healing is real, it’s scientific, it’s physiological.  Look up healing on the internet and you will get a barrage of spiritual healing, healing stones, healing scriptures, sexual healing, healing your heart, healing hands, the one simple thing to do every morning to heal your prostate, aroma therapy healing, Kundalini healing.  Everybody’s into some kind of healing which is a good thing.   But I love the plain ordinary physical putting little pieces of your body back together healing.  Here’s the process, it’s about three steps of somewhat complicated bio chemistry.

!.  The inflammatory stage (like ouch!!!!) immediately after  the injury.  Clotting takes place to stop the blood loss and various factors are released into the cells to protect from infection.

2.  The proliferation stage.  This is more complicated because this is where the mending takes place.  Collagen starts to form, and new capillaries are produced.  The wound edges are pulled together and then the cells start reproducing to regrow the loss of flesh.  Amazing that they know how to do this.

3.  The remodeling stage.  Collagen fills in the gaps and a scar forms.  This is also known as cicatrisation….scar tissue is cicatrix which I have always thought is a pretty cool word.

I have been a knitter for a long time.  Friends and family have gotten scarves and sweaters.  A sweater vest with Reindeer.  Last year for Christmas I knit everyone in my family a scarf in their favorite color.  I love knitting because you can take this long yarn which really is pretty useless and turn it into something useful, something that will keep someone warm, something comforting.  And I like that repetitive knit, knit, knit, maybe a knit, purl, knit, purl seed stitch.  It’s meditative.  And I think it is like healing.

When I was about 15, I had a very intellectual boyfriend named Richard McDonough.  For my birthday he gave me a book of John Updike poems called Telephone Poles and Other Poems.   I had that book up until about 5 years ago when getting divorced, moving, packing and the various painful activities involved therein, many of my books including that little volume of poetry disappeared.  I think the birthday card that Richard gave me was still in the book.  Sad.  But of course the wonders of the internet are that one can track almost anything down.  No, not the exact book that was mine, but another copy.  I clicked on the “Buy With One Click” button on Amazon and a few days later there in my mail box was Telephone Poles, its worn cover like a dear old friend.  The price on the jacket flap is $4.00 and the back sports a photo of a very young John Updike on a beach.   As I perused the poems, “The Great Scarf of Birds,”  “Winter Ocean,” “Wash,” the words and syntax brought back feelings and memories of long, long ago, a time when I had far fewer scars for better or for worse.

I came across a poem I had always particularly loved, “Seven Stanzas at Easter.”  Updike writing of the Resurrection wrote:

If the cells’ dissolution did not reverse,

molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

the Church will fall.

The healing miracle was very physical.  It was like knitting.

When I get hurt, I like to think of healing as my cells, my molecules, my amino acids miraculously knitting themselves together, cozy, homey and very domestic like a winter evening in front of a fireplace, making something physical, warm, comforting.