-Originally appeared in Winter of 2005 edition of Blackpurl Magazine.

Crochet basket and embroidered crochet tortilla cloth by you.We had been in New Orleans scarcely a month when family and friends urged my husband, daughter and I to evacuate for Hurricane Ivan.  Being new to the evacuee experience, we threw a few things in a bag and left.  Since I always take a project with me when I travel but wasn’t working on anything at that moment, I grabbed a ball of turquoise green lace weight acrylic yarn that I hadn’t really known what to do with and decided to try an openwork scarf pattern I had recently encountered.  Thirteen hours in traffic later, I was extremely glad I had brought a project.  As it turns out, that storm passed New Orleans by only to hit hard further down the gulf-coast.  My scarf was also less than I’d expected.  My gauge was off and even with careful blocking looked more like an extra long tie than anything else.  The acrylic yarn continued being low-grade acrylic and even its pretty color and sparkly glimmer couldn’t´t make up for its flatness in texture and total lack of cuddly softness.  Ah, well…a learning experience.

A year later it was time to evacuate again. We had been away on vacation and missed some of the earlier summer storms.  I was able to draw on our past experience and packed more clothes and food this time.  Al tough we talked to many New Orleanians who did not seem to be very concerned, there were more urgent calls to leave and I began to feel a deep sense of worry and unrest as I shut windows and moved things as far up off the floor as I could, in the event that our first floor apartment should flood.  I walked about the house trying to pack and secure my most valuable possessions, which thankfully are few.  Then I stopped at my yarn stash.  I had to admit that I hated to leave it, even though I knew there were many things we would have to leave behind.

After what seemed like a long time of silent staring, I plucked out a small ball of lavender thread to edge a tortilla napkin I had embroidered some time ago and never got around to finishing.  I finally left my basket of remnant yarns collected over the past few gypsy years.  Yarns bought in Mexico and various parts of the United States, even some silk I bought in Egypt.  My hands brushed over the grey ball of chunky wool I spun in college, leftovers from the fair-isle sweater I knit for my daughter last summer.  I put them all up and out of the way and gave them my blessing.  My husband arrived weary from his late night shift.  We all slept a few hours and then we got in the car and once again, drove off to Baton Rouge.

Officials had also learned from past experience and we arrived much more quickly this time.  It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies and it was hard to imagine the dark storm they were describing being so near.  We passed gas station after station with no gas.  We were passed by dozens of military trucks bringing in supplies.  The voices on the radio began to run out of ways to restate the importance of leaving.  As we drove way from our current home it also felt as though we were driving away from all semblance of reality, what made for t.v- disaster-movie had I fallen into?  Soon we arrived in Baton Rouge to the warm welcome of our extended family.

As we sat in wait, hook and thread kept me rooted in some semblance of calm and I thought of frontier women who  found the time to edge their linens and underskirts in beautiful flounces as they worked their way west.  I thought of the wives of sailors and fishermen who picked up their bobbins, needles, or hooks to keep their hands from wringing and their minds from worrying about the dangers of the sea.  I was glad that I brought this project: a traditional Mexican embroidered napkin edged in crocheted lace to wrap tortillas in and keep them warm.  It reminded me of my childhood home in Mexico and promised of family gathered around the table to eat a meal cooked with love.                        

When power was restored in our host’s home and news of the extent of hurricane Katrina’s devastation began to trickle in, I stitched furiously.  Each stitch grounded me in the blessings I´ve received in life this far and the miracles we were experiencing as family members began calling in, reporting themselves safe and sound and we watched helicopters scoop people off rooftops on the news.  I soon realized I should have brought a larger project and added a couple of more rows to my pattern to keep me occupied.  By the third day of heartbreaking news I began to despair at my useless lacy scrap of cloth.  I needed to be stitching solid sturdy afghans, prayer shawls, comforting teddy bears and teletransporting thousands to the superdome right now! My small cloth seemed incapable of offering shelter or comfort to anyone but myself.  Americans don’t even eat tortillas.

The next day, my thread ran out.  I only had one round left to go in my pattern and managed to convince my husband that a two dollar investment in thread to finish the project was worth including in our budget.  Not surprisingly, the nearest Walmart could not match the lavender thread I had bought in Mexico.  I bought some white, thinking it would not only make a nice contrast, but also leave the possibilities wide open for future projects.  Nevertheless, once I finished the project, I began to unravel.  I tried to focus and compose myself long enough to plan and start on something else, but could not.  Even though we had all more or less, banished the news for the past few days, the ripples of all the suffering, worry and anguish all around were still seeping in.  Projects to come were hard to imagine, much as we knew that we all had to think about projects to come.  My daughter converted my tortilla napkin into a princess cape and danced through the living room as I stared long and hard at my hook and ball of white thread trying hard to imagine, to the fullest extent of wondrous creative possibility: what next?

We had been in New Orleans scarcely a month when family and friends urged my husband, daughter and I to evacuate for Hurricane Ivan.  Being new to the evacuee experience, we threw a few things in a bag and left.  Since I always take a project with me when I travel but wasn’t working on anything at that moment, I grabbed a ball of turquoise green lace weight acrylic yarn that I hadn’t really known what to do with and decided to try an openwork scarf pattern I had recently encountered.  Thirteen hours in traffic later, I was extremely glad I had brought a project.  As it turns out, that storm passed New Orleans by only to hit hard further down the gulf-coast.  My scarf was also less than I’d expected.  My gauge was off and even with careful blocking looked more like an extra long tie than anything else.  The acrylic yarn continued being low-grade acrylic and even its pretty color and sparkly glimmer couldn’t´t make up for its flatness in texture and total lack of cuddly softness.  Ah, well…a learning experience.

A year later it was time to evacuate again. We had been away on vacation and missed some of the earlier summer storms.  I was able to draw on our past experience and packed more clothes and food this time.  Al tough we talked to many New Orleanians who did not seem to be very concerned, there were more urgent calls to leave and I began to feel a deep sense of worry and unrest as I shut windows and moved things as far up off the floor as I could, in the event that our first floor apartment should flood.  I walked about the house trying to pack and secure my most valuable possessions, which thankfully are few.  Then I stopped at my yarn stash.  I had to admit that I hated to leave it, even though I knew there were many things we would have to leave behind.

After what seemed like a long time of silent staring, I plucked out a small ball of lavender thread to edge a tortilla napkin I had embroidered some time ago and never got around to finishing.  I finally left my basket of remnant yarns collected over the past few gypsy years.  Yarns bought in Mexico and various parts of the United States, even some silk I bought in Egypt.  My hands brushed over the grey ball of chunky wool I spun in college, leftovers from the fair-isle sweater I knit for my daughter last summer.  I put them all up and out of the way and gave them my blessing.  My husband arrived weary from his late night shift.  We all slept a few hours and then we got in the car and once again, drove off to Baton Rouge.

Officials had also learned from past experience and we arrived much more quickly this time.  It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies and it was hard to imagine the dark storm they were describing being so near.  We passed gas station after station with no gas.  We were passed by dozens of military trucks bringing in supplies.  The voices on the radio began to run out of ways to restate the importance of leaving.  As we drove way from our current home it also felt as though we were driving away from all semblance of reality, what made for t.v- disaster-movie had I fallen into?  Soon we arrived in Baton Rouge to the warm welcome of our extended family.

As we sat in wait, hook and thread kept me rooted in some semblance of calm and I thought of frontier women who  found the time to edge their linens and underskirts in beautiful flounces as they worked their way west.  I thought of the wives of sailors and fishermen who picked up their bobbins, needles, or hooks to keep their hands from wringing and their minds from worrying about the dangers of the sea.  I was glad that I brought this project: a traditional Mexican embroidered napkin edged in crocheted lace to wrap tortillas in and keep them warm.  It reminded me of my childhood home in Mexico and promised of family gathered around the table to eat a meal cooked with love.                        

When power was restored in our host’s home and news of the extent of hurricane Katrina’s devastation began to trickle in, I stitched furiously.  Each stitch grounded me in the blessings I´ve received in life this far and the miracles we were experiencing as family members began calling in, reporting themselves safe and sound and we watched helicopters scoop people off rooftops on the news.  I soon realized I should have brought a larger project and added a couple of more rows to my pattern to keep me occupied.  By the third day of heartbreaking news I began to despair at my useless lacy scrap of cloth.  I needed to be stitching solid sturdy afghans, prayer shawls, comforting teddy bears and teletransporting thousands to the superdome right now! My small cloth seemed incapable of offering shelter or comfort to anyone but myself.  Americans don’t even eat tortillas.

The next day, my thread ran out.  I only had one round left to go in my pattern and managed to convince my husband that a two dollar investment in thread to finish the project was worth including in our budget.  Not surprisingly, the nearest Walmart could not match the lavender thread I had bought in Mexico.  I bought some white, thinking it would not only make a nice contrast, but also leave the possibilities wide open for future projects.  Nevertheless, once I finished the project, I began to unravel.  I tried to focus and compose myself long enough to plan and start on something else, but could not.  Even though we had all more or less, banished the news for the past few days, the ripples of all the suffering, worry and anguish all around were still seeping in.  Projects to come were hard to imagine, much as we knew that we all had to think about projects to come.  My daughter converted my tortilla napkin into a princess cape and danced through the living room as I stared long and hard at my hook and ball of white thread trying hard to imagine, to the fullest extent of wondrous creative possibility: what next?

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