Tears, treble stitch, text, textiles….

I’ve just finished a marathon of marking. I think it started in May, so maybe it was 2 months. there was some teaching and a week of flu in there, and somehow Melbourne has slid into winter, and I’ve lived in my pyjamas, making risotto, baking shortbread, marking essays, blogs, texts, analyses. Wranglings rubrics and fiddling Excel formulas. Wishing those silly tutor training things would include an hour of Excel training – just so I wouldn’t have to keep acquiring bits on the fly and forgetting them again. I’ve archived some of my proper Academic stuff (and links to student blogs) here….

I also kept crochetting, every night – at least an hour, in front of DVDs and the heater. I think I’m learning some form of self discipline in my middle years…. Getting up early (the cat makes me), meditating, then working during the day, and stopping at night. No late night computer reading, and consequently better sleep…..

My visits to the detention centre have been peripatetic (last weeks visit derailed by a planned visit by the minister for immigration), but the weekly classes have been sustained by the other volunteers – one of whom made this amazing website too.  I’ve continued to receive and forward donations of wool from incredibly generous people. Mostly this was done through Facebook as well as this site, and I enjoyed the buzz of seeing how my networks of ratbag sexual perverts , artists, academics and others have been able to provide an incredibly practical and worthwhile contribution to what is usually seen as a such a conservative genre.

I had a period of feeling too guilty to buy wool for myself, for my own practice of crochet, but I think I’ve worked through this, and continued to stitch each night. I finally finished this rug last night (while watching The Island on blu-ray). It says Azadi or “freedom” in Persian. Ive started on the same word in Arabic, and will do a few other languages of the women I meet in detention centres.

Writing the letters is easy and takes a couple of hours of using single treble stitches along a row of chain stitches. I took the letters of AZADI inside, about a month ago, to show some of the Iranian women, and check that I’d crochetted the text correctly. Amidst the craziness of wool distribution, kids coming in, setting up and supervising drawing and painting with one eye… while talking and hugging and smiling and joking and being offered cups of tea from the zipboil teabag samovar…. being able to take out these little wool letters and lay them on the table… laying out the letters of a word that isn’t spoken, but that everyone wishes…..

Azadi was a word we used to write on balloons and was printed on t-shirts. Azadi was something we used to chant loudly like an in-breath between cries of Freedom at the rallies 10 years ago. We are still chanting Freedom in English, but no attempts at other languages. Azadi, like “nar, or anar” is one of those words that work like a stem through a range of different languages. Maybe like “liberty” does in European languages. Azadi is spoken in Farsi, Dari, Urdu, Hazargi and even in Punjabi they say something similar.

One woman touched the letters and tears sprung to her eyes, and mine…. “Azadi… Hosh Keller” I stammered in broken Farsi…. meaning that Freedom is beautiful…. and making freedom in little textile stitches, slowly, patiently is itself beautiful.  Even cheap yarn is itself touching and comforting. The virtuosity of granny squares or even granny triangles filling the spaces between the letters with wonderfully tesselated mathematical precision creates other spaces where tears and sweat and hopes and solidarity and care all get wound and bound in colour and shape.

The bigger picture is horrifying. The bigger picture makes me want to blog my ears and sing “lalalalalalala” or hide under a rock or on a rock and run away far. It’s getting worse. I can’t run away. I just take my heart and my hopes and meet with others and we all do what we can to keep hoping that life will somehow continue.




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