When it has religious aspirations and becomes an altar cloth.
Here, friends, is my little home altar.
It's an Indonesian chest I found in a shop in the neighborhood. I liked it because a) the brass bits to the right and left of the lock escutcheon resemble Dharma wheels and b) it was reduced for quick sale.
On it, left to right, are a bowl gong and striker, the Buddha, a figure of Kannon (the embodiment of compassion), an incense burner and (in the back, peeking around the burner) a Daruma doll dedicated to the completion of a certain task which for now shall remain unspoken.
The whole of this is tucked into a niche I created by shifting one of my bookcases to another part of the living room. On the wall, I hang Japanese scrolls that change about every month or so.
When I'd finally hunted down the bowl gong and checked off all the items on my wish list, I decided I needed one more thing. Something of my own, something I'd made. I considered casting a figure of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Clear Thinking, but it turns out the terms of my lease prohibit iron smelting. So I decided to knit an altar cloth.
I could build a fort in the middle of the living room with all the stitch dictionaries on my shelves, but ultimately the pattern I chose was from that nice Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls. In my stash there was most of the skein of Dale Baby Ull that made Istvan's paws, and when I swatched it using the motif Cheryl cooked up for the Kimono Shawl I knew I had a winner.
This was a fun knit. The pattern is very simple, and after one full repeat I worked from memory. The fabric flowed off the needles.
(In the background, please to admire the lovely stitch marker, one of a pair made and given to me by the one and only Rabbitch.)
The cloth conveniently reached its full extent as the skein ran out, and I was left with the usual shriveled fungus that is unblocked lace.
After stretching it until it screamed for mercy, I have an altar cloth that is almost what I wanted.
The stitch pattern and yarn, I like.
If you want to try lace but it scares you, give the Kimono Shawl a try. This motif is only about eight stitches by fifteen rows or so. In return for rather easy work you get a striking fabric with interest not only from the yarn overs, but also from the texture lent by the lines of the increases and decreases. Lotta bang for your buck.
What makes me grit my teeth in a most un-Zenlike fashion is those frigging wavy edges. I'm not an experienced blocker and I couldn't figure out how to pin out a good rectangle. I'll have another go after I've done some research.
Or maybe I'll just tell people I wanted it to look like that.
Sleeping in the Zendo
While we're on the subject of Zen practice, Ted asked (twice) what happens if somebody falls asleep during a round of meditation in the zendo.
I'm still new at this, so I can only tell you what I've experienced.
The first is: nothing. We actually had somebody nod off during a Sunday sitting a couple of weeks ago and start to snore gently. This went on for a minute or so and then the fellow woke himself up. One of the clever things about the standard zazen postures is that they are inherently stable: you can drift off and not topple over immediately.
Or, it may be (I've also seen this) that the monitor, who faces the room and keeps things on course, will go over and give the sleeper a gentle shake.
That's it. Nothing too dramatic. There's an old saw about Zen practioners being smacked with a stick when they doze off. Not true. There's a stick, yes–it's called the kyosaku–but (contrary to popular belief) it's not used in a punitive fashion.
I prefer to save that kind of thing for other occasions, thank you very much.