I remember sitting in our hallway as Mom tried over and over, over days, to teach me to tie them in a bow, but it never worked. Finally, one Saturday Mom stood up in frustration and told me that I could not come outside until I learned to tie a bow.
I sat there, weeping, unable to tie the knot. Actually, that was the problem...the only thing I COULD tie was a knot! (Apparently I made wonderful square knots, enough to make a Knot Master proud.) But a nice bow? Fogeddabodit!
Somehow, though, after practicing and practicing, and crying and concentrating, a bow appeared. I tried it again..it worked! Joyfully I ran outside to show Mom and Dad and my brother the beautiful bow (which was HUGE and misshapen).
That was my first experience with knots, and it was an important one...to this day I know how to tie my shoes!
During my candidate year of Ski Patrol, we learned a few knots necessary to our work, such as the bowline, which figured prominently into chair evacuations as well as self-evacuation. Each year during our refresher, we practiced these knots, and it was REALLY IMPORTANT to get it right. Why? Because we'd either be tying a knot to save ourselves and get ourselves out of a stopped chair so as to be able to help others, or we'd be using it to tie the equipment used to get people out of the chair lift should the lift break down completely.
Then I went to the Fire Department, and as a cadet, we had to learn all sorts of knots: the bowline, the half-hitch (used in raising and lowering tools), a figure-eight, a figure-eight follow-through, fly-tie, etc. Our Chief was HUGE on knots so we worked on them a lot, and in fact, when we were approaching graduation, the Chief came to visit us and hand us our assignments. I was on light duty at the time (as I was injured in training), yet I was still called foward with my anticipated assignment. We all had to tie knots before the Chief gave us the written note containing our new Captain and station. I went forward and was asked to tie a half-hitch, and I had to explain when and why it was used.
Every knot we did was for the purpose of saving lives, if even indirectly. All of us found it both funny and disturbing, however, that our reality conflicted with our training. And not a single Captain gave voice to this reality.
The bowline, which we used predominantly in Ski Patrol as basically an all-purpose knot (for the important life-saving stuff) was also used in firefighting for the same purpose. We used it especially with regard to evacuating the tower via the "life safety rope" as an emergency evacuatio procedure. In the cement tower, they built in anchors to the walls so we could affix a rope to them for training purposes. I remember being the first to use it, and remember tying the bowline knot which would be used to support my weight for 4 stories, and later, 6.
A fellow cadet was directed to check the knot...because we'd all be using it. Did they trust my knot? Each inspected it and said it was fine, and they'd watched me carefully as I'd tied it. (No pressure...Adoro's mistake means you might go home in a bucket!)
I was the first one down. I wrapped the rope around my carabiner as we'd learned, took the rope in my hand, and looked at my knot. Now or never. And the knot held. All of us, one by one.
Yet here's the irony; we learned officially in training and in the manual that the bowline was NOT to be used as a "life-safety" knot...EVER. And yet, it was the knot MOST used for life safety in several different situations, and we used several different versions of the knot! (bowline, double-bowline, triple-bowline...)
And as an aside and another thing...the rope we used in training, and did frequently inspect both as part of our training and for necessity, was referred to as "life-safety rope." Officially, Life Safety rope can not be used more than once. That was a test question, and if I remember correctly, it's a national standard. So if you're stuck in a burning building and high-angle rescue is using a rope to save you from the situation, it's a rope that has never been used before, thus has no frays, no breaks in the core, etc. And this is important!
But what did we, as cadets use and upon which did our lives depend...over and over again, used by how many classes before us? Yup. Used Life Safety rope.
To be fair, it was expensive and heavy rope, it was fine, we did inspect it and knew what to report to the Captain, and it could be taken out of use if we found flaws. However, it was a bit scary to realize that our lives were depending not only on amateur knots, but on rope that wasn't up to code.
Knots That Save Eternal Life
The other day, I mentioned in the combox below my rosary post that I wanted to learn to make knotted rosaries. A dear friend sent me some links, and an anon commenter sent me another resource (although rosary army's page doesn't provide links to directions currently). However, I had enough info to start. Today I picked up a couple of crucifixes and some craft cord, and so far I have tied 6 knots. I've tried two more but for some reason they won't work so I quit for the evening.
My plan is to try making some of these rosaries, and to pray while making each knot...thus, I'll have prayed several rosaries, made during leisure time or even Adoration.
Well, this evening I began and while the directions I found say to practice first, I really just started in. When I had success with the first knot, I decided that if I tie a bad rosary, I'll still be praying a rosary. Except that I haven't said a single Hail Mary, and I quit at 6 knots (and I'd tied the 6th knot twice!)
In musing on the knots I did do, however, I realized that these knots were not like my practice knots from ski patrol or firefighting; these knots mean something. These knots each represent a rose to Our Lady, a single prayer that together with the others forms the story of the life of Christ. Knot by knot, I am (ideally) praying the gospel, getting to know my Mother, and contemplating the life of Jesus Christ. And whoever gets these knotted rosaries will receive a physical prayer into their own hands, a manifestation of intercession for prayers heard by God alone, yet the comfort of which can be given in a physical sign.
In ski patrol and in fire training, I tied knots to practice saving my own life, the lives of my fellow cadets, and the lives of strangers who might also need to depend on us to save them.
But when I'm tying knot after knot for a rosary, it's different. No, I can't use this to evacuate a burning building, and the cord is too small to save my life in any situation. Yet these knots are ever more powerful than any knot tied to an anchor using approved life safety rope. These knots lead us prayer by prayer to salvation. Each knot is a conversation unto itself. Each knot is a Word of God. Each knot brings us and others closer to eternal life.
Each knot does not only save lives, but actually saves souls. Each knot...a prayer for someone. Rosary, Divine Mercy..choose your chaplet.
Amazing to think how a child who hated praying the rosary suddenly becomes such a huge fan that she wants to make the prayer a project.
Knots save lives...what kind of knots are YOU tying?