I don't always have time to knit, sew, make pottery, play the mandolin or travel to countries where I don't speak the language, but there is almost always time for a story.
Neat, Tidy and…Creative?
“If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what’s an empty desk a sign of?” - Einstein When Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up became a best-seller, I borrowed it from the library, wondering whether I could glean anything from this popular book that would help me in my lifelong struggle with keeping things in order. Unwilling to commit as yet to her recommended marathon once-in-a-lifetime decluttering event, I nevertheless found some very good tips there. For example, getting rid of things that don’t bring joy made sense - I figured if I was going to get rid of extra stuff, I might as well start with things I didn’t like. So I began letting those things go. It felt good.
A Stitch in Timelessness
The most ambitious hand-sewing project I ever undertook was a long-sleeved plaid flannel shirt for my fiancé. I was twenty-one, I’d been using a sewing machine since I was eight, and I hadn’t intended to sew this shirt by hand - I knew from having three brothers that guys could be hard on their clothes, and I assumed the shirt would need machine-sewn seams and buttonholes if it was to stand up to the rough wear I expected my intended - who was working in a sawmill at the time - to give it. But I was going to be spending a few weeks that fall with friends “off the grid,” and I was trying to think of some kind of handcraft project I could bring with me that wouldn’t take up too much room in my backpack. There was no electricity where I was going; even if there had been, I wasn’t about to lug my sewing machine out there. My mom suggested I cut the shirt out and take the pieces with me to sew by hand.
The forgiving medium
When we put things on a “bucket list,” they are often things we have dreamed of doing but suspect we’re not likely to ever get a chance at. You know, stuff like climbing Mount Everest. Or getting a part in a Broadway musical. Or meeting a celebrity we’ve always admired. Or traveling to the Faroe Islands to meet the head of tourism and the shepherds, not to mention the sheep, who helped create Google “Sheep View.”
Creating calm - one detail at a time
There was, I think, a gap of about ten years between when my parents believed that I was old enough to sit through a church service and behave myself, and when I actually began to pay regular attention to what was going on and to think it had much to do with me and my life. Not that I never heard anything the preacher said during those years. I did hear many things and I even remembered some of them. I also enjoyed singing all the hymns, which might have been my favorite part of any church service. But when we settled back to listen to the sermon, I doodled on the margins of the church bulletin. I had begun drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon without eating it (or so I tell people) and drawing was one of my favorite activities.
The Art So Restorative That Shakespeare Compared It To Sleep
“Sleep, that knits up the raveled sleave of care.” - Shakespeare It really started as an experiment. Well, actually, before that it started with an emergency visit to my dentist after I woke up one day with throbbing pain and a noticeably swollen jaw. The dentist looked in my mouth and told me I had an impacted wisdom tooth and would need it pulled.
“Japanese Pizza,” American style
Jet lag. Culture shock. Seven months pregnant, balancing a squirming toddler on my nonexistent lap (in the days before mandatory child safety seats in cars) while packed with my husband and four other adults into a Japanese minivan that looked to be not much larger than a North American six-seater sedan but had almost enough room in the back for our luggage, traveling cross-country for a day that had, for me, already seemingly lasted about 24 hours and wasn’t nearly over yet, I experienced my first Japanese restaurant meal at noon, local time: a combination of chicken, egg and vegetables served over rice and called, somewhat unnervingly, “mother and child bowl” (mother and child = chicken and egg; get it?).
The Virtual Flash Mob of Creative Souls
My brother Paul is a blacksmith. He makes carving tools, custom knives, and other things in metal, including his own equipment, if there’s something he needs and can’t find anywhere else. He’s also a singer, a songwriter, a musical instrument builder and player, and a spectacular nature photographer. And, oh yeah, he makes films, based either on his nature photography or on the other kinds of work he does.
The Day I Cried in College
As an artist, I often tell people that one of the scariest things I do on a regular basis is to walk into a shop, show my art to the proprietor and ask if they are willing to sell it. I’ve talked myself into doing this scary thing many times, but it’s still nerve-wracking. One of the scariest things I have ever done in my life, though, was to walk into our local community college and ask for directions to the registration office. On my last day of high school more than forty years earlier, I had walked out promising myself I would never set foot in a classroom again.
It was only after getting his master’s degree in music theory that my dad concluded he had made a mistake: he should have gone for music education instead, which would have made it easier to find a job. So, for the next few years, he tried his hand at different things, some of which included music (he was directing a high-school band the year I was born) and many of which didn’t. He worked for a while in a florist’s shop, then a photography studio. He even tried to sell insurance for a couple of years.
My Doll Story: How I (Finally) Grew Up
I opened my daughter’s gift that Christmas morning already knowing what it was. Actually, it had been a surprise the previous summer, when she first told me about it. Once I got over the shock, though, I had suggested she save it and give it to me for Christmas, by which time it would have faded from my memory and seem virtually new again. All I had asked was that she have it framed first.