I think I get it now. I started ripping out what I had done so far and found out that you can, in fact, separate the knits from purls onto separate needles which didn't occur to me until I saw how it looked when I was ripping it. This is the left "end" of the scarf and when it is completed, you will slip the right "end" into the left end. The part I am working on is apparently going to be a little 'opening' to slip the right end into after completing the shawl. The pattern says to join these two separated sections after 3", thereby creating the little opening to slip the other end into.