Last Saturday El Guapo and I had a pleasant walk along some lovely waterways in Bremen. On this walk we came upon a pedestrian bridge whose end posts were covered in knitted sleeves, in stripes of different kinds and colors of yarn.
We puzzled over them for a while, and it caused me to consider how we determine the meaning of new things we encounter in our travels. I certainly have never before seen a bridge cosy like this, but I don’t have the background with this area to answer questions about it. Is this typical? Maybe lots of German pedestrian bridges have bridge cosies. Or perhaps it’s a variation on a theme? Maybe there’s a strong German tradition of knitting covers for architectural elements, and this is a natural outgrowth of that tradition. Or is this a completely new thing? Maybe no one in the world has ever knitted a bridge cosy before now, here or elsewhere, and I’ve witnessed a truly new application for knitwear.
As a traveler I’m very aware that I can make observations, but I can’t necessarily understand what I’m seeing without some local knowledge. I generally shy away from guided tours of any kind, but I would have greatly appreciated a local perspective on the bridge cosy, and even more, a chance to chat with the knitter.
I talked with Liebling and Chiquito about the bridge cosy later, and they smiled knowingly. It turns out that knitted cosies aren’t a German thing, but a knitters’ thing, a sort of knitted graffiti. Doing a little research, I was introduced to the terms yarn bombing and yarnstorming. It’s an international phenomenon now. Standing by that bridge in Bremen, without enough knowledge of either German or knitting culture, I wasn’t able to put what I saw into a context I could work with.
Pondering the significance of a knitting-wrapped bridge was valuable for me. It reminded me of how much I don’t know, and of the critical importance of humility in the face of new experiences. (I’ll just take a minute and try to think of a situation where humility would not be an asset. Hmm. Nothing comes to mind.) This was a comparatively easy call for me–I see stockinette stitch where I expect to see iron–I know that I don’t know what’s going on.
The more difficult situations are those where I don’t recognize my ignorance: things are just familiar enough that I can make assumptions. I think I understand, so maybe I don’t take the time to look carefully, and then I miss things, or just plain get it wrong. What would it be like if in my travels, in my relationships, in my life, I approached things with curiosity and a recognition of the limitations of my understanding? I have a feeling it would be better.
The last question is whether there’s something in my life that could really benefit from a knitted cosy. While I ponder this, you can ponder some pictures of yarnstorms in various places.