That darn Noonday Demon!

In the fourth century AD, Christian monasteries sprang up in the deserts near Alexandria in Egypt. In these harsh conditions monks struggled to live ascetic lives of prayer and deprivation in the belief that this would secure them eternal life.  One can easily imagine how these monks might lose heart and be distracted from godly prayer – particularly in the sleepy postprandial times of the midday lull. One monk, Evagrius Ponticus, wrote about the tiresome demon behind these temptations of listlessness and lassitude, calling it the Noonday Demon.

Over the last few months, I too have struggled with this darned Noonday Demon – though in my case, it has broken all the rules, and will not stick to the stipulated noonday hours of ten to two …

I did complete my doodle stitchery as I wrote in my blog post last month. But otherwise I seem to be just flitting from project to project, unable to find the energy or drive to complete anything in particular …

At the beginning of the summer I started another Judi Dench tapestry, this time replacing the greens with blue tones …It came on a couple of train trips with me, and then I lost interest and it got put to the side …So I thought I would try some spinning … I got out my best most glorious colours …And yes, I did find the spinning very comforting and pleasurable, and got quite a bit done.  But I lost interest when I saw what how the dark tones submerge the brighter colours in the finished spun yarn …A pile of my most beautiful fabrics came out one weekend when Stephen was away …I did a little machining …Played with some other fabrics …But it just didn’t grab me.  So I put it all away – and the only being happy with the whole event was the cat …I know! I declared to myself. I’ll go back to my first proper knitting love!  I’ll do some Kaffe Fassett knitting! And I was indeed very happy with this blue/green/purple strip of knitting – but then unruly thoughts niggled at me  … Was this planned knit really going to be useful … Kaffe Fassett knits are so cosy with all that stranded knitting at the back.  Do I really want to wear that sort of cardi any more …It got put to the side, ending up next to the wastepaper basket – oh dear, what indignity!I got books of inspiration out …I was sent fabulous fabric scraps by generous friends … but nothing seemed to spark my creative wires …I did complete one other piece – oh yeay! I was asked to stitch a Berwick Worm for the Tweed 1000 celebrations …This is a community stitchery being worked to commemorate the Battle of Carham of 1018. That almost unknown battle resulted in  the Scottish/English border being set as it is now, adjoining the River Tweed, rather than near Edinburgh. The pieces being worked are all linked with the history of the area.

There are many stories of Worms in the area – probably the best known is the Lambton Worm of County Durham.  The Durham locals have a song about their worm which you can hear here beautifully sung by a famous County Durham boy, Bryan Ferry. It’s a great worm story!

The worm got fat an’ grewed an’ grewed,
An’ grewed an aaful size;
He’d greet big teeth, a greet big gob,
An greet big goggly eyes …

I was so very chuffed to be allocated the Berwick Worm.  I got out my fabrics, and started stitching …Sadly, I have to say my heart wasn’t really in it. Although I think he’s quite a pleasing worm and I’m not in any way ashamed of my contribution, I didn’t find it quite as unputdownable as the best projects are …The one other long-term stitching project that I have toyed with this summer is an old friend which I started last year when I first learned about Alabama Chanin’s embroidered clothes.  I wanted to make a garment for myself but decided to start with a sample piece – and here it is at the beginning of the summer …I have picked it up recently and enjoyed adding quite a lot more different stitches to the background …I’m not alone to struggle with this problem. Others call it different names – for Ann Wood, for example, it’s Natsubate.  Some know it as Accidie.  Myself, I like the personalization of that imp, the darned Noonday Demon.

Perhaps it’s just this very long hot dry summer that we’re experiencing in the UK right now.  And I only need for the heavens to open to right my energies? With the political temperature soaring all over the world, it seems more than a trifle shaming to be so concerned with the pace of my creativity.

It’s just the small things though, isn’t it, that are really important?

Again I resume the long
lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind
and bring it to rest.

Wendell Berry: Sabbaths 1999, VII

Ever in hope I have started a new knitting project! There is nothing like a knitting shawl for comforting ease of project and I have several very long car journeys later this summer when I will need some knitting.  I had to undo a shawl that I didn’t think was quite right for me to reclaim this beautiful Old Maiden Aunt yarn.  ( It’s a beautiful 4ply baby alpaca, silk and cashmere combo called ghillie ghu.) I’m hoping to knit it up as a Karie Westermann Bibliotheca shawl.Wish me luck – I so wish to find a project that will be absorb me!

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kaydeerouge

Lost - and found.

12 thoughts on “That darn Noonday Demon!”

  1. I think the weather makes it hard to settle to anything. I’ve flitted from project to project though I haven’t been as industrious as you. At least you have plenty of things to pick up and finish when you’re ready. That last yarn looks gorgeous.

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    1. Yes, the consensus is the weather is to blame – so many comforting stories coming my way of others struggling too … oh, and that last yarn is gorgeous, – and I’m loving knitting it!

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  2. You do go at rather a pace Katherine! Steve is astounded at your ouput. We slow down as we get older and I think we have a tendency to lose interest in things. Sometimes we feel a bit tired, other times the creative enthusiasm or energy is lacking. Perhaps it’s just a natural letting-go or possibly a need to change direction, learn something new. (If anyone had told me I would stop doing my daily exercises, I would not have believed them – but now I have to force myself and occasionally seize up when I have left it too long.) Also, this summer the heat has been crippling and made it difficult to even think, let alone get anything done. Why not take a break from your unfinished projects and do something else for a while? I’m sure your creative urges will come flooding back soon.

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    1. I’ve always had this constant stream of ideas of things to do, things to make, Mandy – and that hasn’t slowed down at all, though I agree with you we are slowing down quite a lot in other ways. That’s natural and not a problem. What’s really upset me is that I’m so dissatisfied with the things I’m producing. In the old days (and up to very recently), I would start a project and get a buzz and couldn’t put it down – and oh, I do long for that heavenly feeling again!

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  3. You really do sound uninspired, quite unlike how you normally sound on this blog. It is not really the doldrums, not a temporary becalming but something more existential perhaps? I wonder what might happen if you stopped trying for while, actually stopped making, put the projects away and just did other stuff for a while, like gardening, walking, exploring etc. Perhaps the energy of summer is seeking an external expression in you, something outward looking. Perhaps not making for a while will renew the curiousity and the impetus and when autumn comes and you start to turn inwards, it might be there…waiting to spring. I wish you well.

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    1. Thank you, Rebecca, for your very kind wishes. I feel so feeble to be complaining when I think of what you’ve been through – and are still going through. But you’re right there is an existential element to my problem – something I only articulated in a reply to one of your posts recently. I don’t think I’d been aware of it before. I do like things to be useful (underlined and in italics!), and I’m not finding much sense of purpose in my making at the moment. It is a well-known crisis in retirement that you have the change from doing to being to cope with, but I thought I’d got through that fine. Perhaps not …

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  4. It seems there is a sadness about your disconnection with all your chosen handwork, the familiar companion always there at your side in a basket or bag. I believe that we all have these times of listlessness, they are there for a reason. I have no doubt that all will be revealed to you when the time is perfect.

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    1. Yes, Lydia, it does make me sad to have all these goodies sitting beside me, calling me – and I just don’t want to go there! It’s so strange too, as I am not often like that. However, thinking back over my life, there have been other times when I’ve struggled a bit like this, and I think you are quite right that these things solve themselves in their own time …

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  5. I love the Kaffe Fasset style stranded swatch you’ve done, the colours are stunning, and are inspiring me for a fair-isle cardigan colour palette. Why not do Kaffe Fasset intarsia instead, you won’t have the extra thickness from the strands then…

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    1. Thanks, Ruth, for the suggestion – and glad you like the colours! I’ve been mulling it over since I read your suggestion a couple of days ago, and alas, I can’t see how I could knit that small detailed patterning intarsia … but possibly I could try a different pattern …. The whole knit is on hold – partly because of the heat – and I’m not sure what I’ll decide when I come back to it. Perhaps we could chat about it at a Guild meeting …..?

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