For a lot of this past year, a sweet friend of mine was out of town for work.
That seems like a perfectly benign sentence, right? You probably didn't make much of it, I'd guess. Well, let me translate it for you and see if you feel differently:
A lot of this past year = 7 months straight
Out of town = in China
Sweet friend = guy who has 12 people over for a birthday dinner, insists that no one bring him gifts, and instead gives every guest a beautifully gift-wrapped present chosen specifically for them. From China.
Small but important aside: Amazing how a simple sentence about a friend and his work can be so rich with meaning. It's stunning to think about how often people say things where there's a whole story quietly waiting to be known, and we just keep on truckin' past it because we're busy, or we think we know what they mean, or we don't even notice that there might be more to it.
But gifts! There were gifts! Let's talk about the gifts! Yes, yes. Gifts!
In the presentation of each of the gifts, my friend provided a thoughtful comment about why the items were selected. Lovely jewelry for some, tea and books for others. Some people were given painted items along with a little verbal warning about possible lead content. Some were given t-shirts and were cautioned that there would be certain shrinkage and lack of steadfastness of the dye. ("It is China," he reminded us.) My gift came not with a warning, but with a challenge.
"I don't know anything about knitting," he said, "but I'm imagining this could be difficult. So, I challenge you to make something out of this."
Lace or fingering weight.
Yarn like cashmere. Only we don't actually know what it is -- the only thing I can read on the label is the name of this post. (Well, it doesn't say "The Challenge" on the label. You know what I mean.) My friend said something like, "It's such thin string, I figured it had to be difficult to knit with."
So I will ask you explicitly -- so there's no confusion-- what should I make with these 11 balls of very fine Chinese yarn? We've got a challenge here, people. What say you?!