“As one grows older, keeps house, and has children, a fact of life emerges to cloud the previously clear, far vistas of fine young minds: everyone is fighting off a creeping state of chaos that relentlessly threatens to overrun home, hearth, and mental health.” So says James Mustich of A Common Reader (http://www.commonreader.com/cgi-bin/rbox/ido.cgi/home.html). He has a point. I know that there is a constant tension in my life between spontaneity and order.

Here I am, for example, after the guests left yesterday, happily knitting Hopkins. My book is arranged so that I can read as I knit, I have one color in each hand, and I am just relaxing and doing what I feel like at the moment. This is the joy of spontaneity. I’ve done this a lot over the past month.

But here is the cost of that spontaneous pleasure. My knitting basket is a welter of yarns with needles poking out every which way. Here is the leftover yarn from the DNA scarves and hats, there a ball from Siv which I thought might come in handy for the ill-fated Fair Isle which has become Hopkins, there a messy skein at the top of a paper bag full of cotton and wool. Markers, measuring tools, crochet hooks, and other impedimenta have fallen to the bottom of the basket where they are nearly impossible to find when needed.

Things are no better in my crafts cupboard, where patterns and yarn are supposed to live neatly with other craft materials.

I have been having fun making stuff with my daughter, and grabbing things needed to finish off holiday projects. And, in a fine spirit of spontaneity, I have not put things away properly. What is the result? Chaos.

And that is the trouble, really. Spontaneity may be at one end of the spectrum of pleasure and order at the other end. Fun and excitement at the spontaneous end, serenity and contemplation at the orderly end. But if you go far enough toward spontaneity, or spend enough time there, you end up off the pleasure spectrum entirely. You no longer have spontaneity; you just have chaos.

This is true of crafts supplies, but it is also true — let’s face it — of most other areas in life, from work to food to sex.

Here is an example from the world of knitting.

This is how knitting needles are supposed to be. Pencil pockets are in a binder, clearly labelled, and the needles are sorted into the pockets, each pocket holding one size of needles, from 00 to 16. The binder then goes neatly on the shelf of my craft cupboard. Whatever size of needles I need, I can go right to it in a matter of moments. Is that what is happening now? By no means. I have been pulling out needles willy-nilly and failing to return them to their pockets, and my daughter has done the same. My sons have used them for sword fights, too. So now I start to make mittens, and have to search for needles. I find no matching sets of sleeve needles plus dpns, which are what I use for mittens. I have to ransack the house, paw through my knitting basket, nag the boys, give up and use the wrong size …

Is this the pleasure of spontaneity? No. It is the misery of chaos.

Obviously, I will have to clean out my crafts cupboard. My knitting basket, too.

The good news is that Hopkins is looking better all the time. Either that, or I am getting used to it. What do you think?

Hopkins, with the order of the colorwork patterns and the spontaneity of the variegated yarns, may be the ideal knitting representation of the philosophical issue at hand.