When I am out and about with my camera, I am all eyes. I literally feel them open wider like a lens to scan everything for that view around which a rectangle can be constructed for the perfect shot. Maybe now that I have my first digital SLR, I will become more of the kind of photographer who shoots at will and edits later, but for now I am the kind who leaves the house with my camera only when I mean business – I am out to find that shot which will never happen again, and I only have so many chances per roll of film, and no option to check, reject and redo along the way, so I better be paying attention, and I better get it right the first time. I actually enjoy that pressure. Sometimes I have to wait all day and make myself very small and quiet for the image no one else notices to allow itself to be caught unawares. And then comes the pleasant surprise, when the image comes back days later and is exactly what I thought I captured. It teaches humility and patience.
I don't know where I end and you begin
When I am writing, I am also all eyes, but they are the eyes of my mind, turned inward to the point I often close them as I watch the words form on an inner screen. The first lines of my poems, and my first ideas for blog posts lately, often come when I’m lying in bed, or walking around in such a state of introverted distraction I am barely aware of my surroundings, as line leads to line and I cannot tell whether I am putting my thoughts into words or the words are putting thoughts into me, or both, as in the famous print of hand drawing hand by Escher.
What a piece of work is man...(from Shakespeare's "Hamlet")
I have always envied painters (see my man above, and visit him here) their ability to make things. I know how to capture things – in words, on film – not how to draw them out of nothingness. But when I crochet I get to borrow for a time that sense of beginning with a blank space and daily watching chosen bits of color join and grow into a harmonious whole. I get to feel physically as well as mentally engaged in the thing I’m working at it. I get to smell and touch it. I get the satisfaction of being able to prove that art is not just about observing the world or living in your head envisioning beautiful things, but actual work, the kind you feel tired after several hours of toiling over. The kind you have to clean up after. I think, as artists, we cannot too often remind ourselves and the world that just because we love what we do and don’t get paid enough or anything at all for it, and some people don’t see the usefulness of our creations, there is no doubt that it’s WORK.
with edges softened surface etched by time
This post is a celebration of the gratitude of being able to work with my hands. I come from people who did just that, peasants, bakers, tailors, factory workers. My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was 10. I loved the closeness and connection we shared bent together over the yarn in our laps, but the work itself focused, calmed and pleased me in ways unattainable otherwise. I loved the rhythm of the loop-in-loop motion, the inevitability of substance steadily manifesting where there was nothing before. I wasn’t very good at it – her stitches were perfectly even and smooth while mine bunched up, skewed, skipped and snagged – but I loved doing it, even if the resulting product was ugly and unusable. It taught me a love for simple pleasures and for the handmade, not as a hobby, but as handiwork. It taught me humility and patience. And after a few decades, I’ve actually gotten pretty good at it. I finished this piece of work the other day. And it felt great.