Monday, August 30, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, Kevin and I spontaneously decided to take care of one of the items on his "bucket list".

Since he was a little boy, Kevin has loved fast cars. Though there is a National Hot Rod Association race that takes place within driving distance of us (6 hours south in Brainerd, MN), he had never been.  There were always other priorities, always next year. With the recent purchase of our home, there are definitely other things we could have spent our money on. But, as he so eloquently put it, "I'm not 'always going to remember' the summer we did the eavestroughs."  Amen.

I know it meant a lot to him, but I didn't really know how much until we got home, and he sent me the following essay. Cross something off that list, or help someone you love to do it.  It'll be the best money you've ever spent.

The Model 
(By special guest blogger Kevin)

This past weekend was the Lucas Oil NHRA Top Fuel drag races in Brainerd, Minnisota where the fastest cars on the planet come to race. It was also the awakening of a 10 year old boy as he was summoned to complete a long lost dream.... 

 Containment would be a good word to describe that ride home from the hobby store with my new plastic model kit. If you can call containment an ear to ear grin attached to a bicycle barely touching the pavement as it launched off curbs and kicked up dust flying down the home stretch of my back lane.  

 "Copperhead" this one was called. My first rear engine dragster! I knew I had matched the colour scheme emblazoned on the box perfectly when I plucked the tiny paint bottles from their display rack. Assembly would be just as the folded instructions dictated plus a few of my own touches. Like thread pilfered from Moms sewing box to run as distributor wires and a small square of sandpaper from the basement workbench to roughen up the slicks to make the replica seem as it really did zoom down the strip. 

 To the naked eye all seems normal as a bar of light squeezes itself under the closed bedroom door covered in racing stickers, but inside a ritual has begun. Everything would be carefully laid out on last nights paper upon my bedroom floor. It was better here than the desk. I could see every aspect of the assembly line. Engine to the left, wheels stacked on the right, freshly painted body in front about to receive decals soaking in a bowl of water. Hours would effortlessly spin off the clock as did the songs from the AM radio beside me. After several days of a "why aren't you in bed yet" weekend, my masterpiece would be completed. 

 As I focused intently at my finished work my imaginary senses would come alive.
I could feel the rumble and crackle of the engine, smell the consumed fuel and easily see the haze of vaporized rubber from the burnout. It was only my mother calling me to supper that would melt the film playing in my mind. A movie that would be spliced and watched to the finish line many years later. The simple dream of a little boy that that came full circle. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

140 Characters

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time on Twitter.

I was reluctant at first, mostly because of the hype, and a bit because of the overwhelmingly rapid-fire social nature of it. But as I've begun using it more, I've noticed something: among the myriad of tweets about what was for lunch, and the weather, and the activities of children, pets, and neighbours, there is something interesting happening: beautiful little, 140-character bits of art.

The constraint of the structure, like sonata form, or haiku, seems to me to encourage more creativity because of the limitations of the form. Say it in 140 characters, or it doesn't get said. And gorgeous little gems are popping up all the time on my feed. They also seem to come from people who cannot seem to limit their efforts to just one form of art or craft (composers who knit, dancers who write, and a quilter on her way to teach a cake-decorating class).

I bought some homemade jam from my friend the quilting cake-decoration teacher today, who took me down the block to her garden. In the 25 minutes we spent together, Jody also told me about the script that she wrote, the next batch of jams she was planning, the book she is writing, the beans she is growing, the class she was teaching this afternoon and what she's planning to do with her stained glass if she moves. We also talked about our blogs (currently neglected) and about Twitter as artistic medium (currently enthusiastically embraced).

And later, as I was kneading bread dough and thinking about all of this, I had a realization.

Those of us who make things often have what we make (knitting, music, baking, painting etc.) called "self-expression". I've always been uncomfortable with that, because it seems to presume that wanting to get up on stage, or make something beautiful is somehow Narcissistic, that it's about the person ("self") rather than the act ("expression"). But I see it as completely the opposite.

Jody's raspberry jam is not about Jody, it's about raspberries. She is in love with her garden and completely smitten with the jam-making process. She therefore wants to celebrate it all: what is best in the fruit, and the method, and the history. Like all of these wonderful creative people on my Twitter feed and in my life, she cannot help but act as conduit: she sees beauty and pleasure in the world, and she is driven to embrace it, to revel in it, and to share it with you in case you missed it. It is wholly a selfless act.

I believe that the best and most beautiful art & craft comes from this attitude and approach. It's not using art to express yourself, it is using your "self" to express art or craft with passion and humility: I think this is wonderful, and I want you to have some too. Selfless. Joyful. Beautiful.

It's what my friend does every day, with every fibre of her being, in glass and beads and fruit and fabric and yarn and royal icing and 140-character paintings. I think it's why her jam's so good.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I have considered writing many times over the past month, even sat down to do so on many occasions, my unpublished blog list growing like a pile of laundry. I have a lot on my mind these days, not much of which meets full-bloggable criteria (gift-knitting for a reader, too personal, not personal enough, too common, too important, not my story to tell). These factors, coupled with a nasty perfectionist streak I haven't quite yet shaken yet, means that I haven't written at all. And that doesn't seem quite right.

 And so, with your indulgence, I present the tapas version of a usual blog... little tastes of things I've been thinking about. Bon appetit.

1. On Vuvuzelas

I usually watch the World Cup, and I'm not this year solely because I cannot tolerate the constant drone. I have tried just muting the tv, but then I can't really follow the game while I'm knitting. Do I think an entire nation should change their traditions for my convenience? No. Am I disappointed? You bet. I am personally of the belief that my rights end where yours begin and vice versa, and I wish that a better solution - one that takes into consideration all of the fans, not just those in the stadium - could be found (Isn't it interesting how the rights of the local trump the rights of the majority?) But I don't get to make these decisions, because for some reason the world has not elected me queen yet.

2. On How Things Will Be When I Am Queen 

When I am Benevolent Empress of All I Survey, the following shall be enacted at once:

A. The first day of the calendar year that reaches 25C and is a regularly-scheduled work day for you shall be an automatic, mandatory statutory holiday for all.

B. Needlework (knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching etc.), music-making and story-telling of all kinds shall not be relegated to private residences or concert halls, but rather shall be celebrated and encouraged in public places.

C. Any meeting that requires its organizer(s) to call for agenda items (in other words, any of the "standing" variety) shall be cancelled at once. Any who attempt to proceed with such a meeting shall be immediately banished from my sights until they think better of it.

D. Recess - of the go outside and play soccer, or baseball, or marbles - is hereby reinstated for all the land and for all of the peoples, including, and in fact especially for, people of the adult, suit-wearing variety. Everyone shall go outside and play from 10:00 - 10:20am and 2:15 - 2:35pm daily. Those who have reached the age of majority may substitute afternoon play with afternoon nap/snack combination if desired.

E. In addition to being able to "call in sick", my people shall be permitted to call in well under the following circumstances:
  • the earliest days of being in love, when being away from the object of one's affections would result only in pining, sighing, and flower-picking
  • complete immersion in a creative process or spate of learning
  • an overwhelming and irresistable desire to dig in, plant, weed, maintain or admire one's garden
So let it be written, so let it be done.

3. On What I'm Knitting

A. A project of unspeakable beauty (if I do say so myself) that I will tell you about as soon as I give it to its recipient. It has taught me that I can make really beautiful things, and that it's even more fun to give beautiful things away. 

B. A sock ("Wavy" from Sock Club: Join the Knitting Adventure in my latest Loopy Ewe Sock Club yarn).  It has taught me that, despite "having something mindless to knit in front of the TV" sounding like a really good idea, it's actually not. I don't like mindless knitting, I like mindful knitting. To whit...

C. Another sock ("I Love Gansey", also from Sock Club, in some Socks that Rock I bought last year). It has taught me that fuschia might not be so bad after all.

4. ...And Some Random Things I've Learned
(from the "Too Personal" Category of Unbloggable)

Sometimes, dealing with bureaucrats actually works. 

Sometimes, it's better to act first and discuss later (or not at all), especially if the discussion-about -the-decision part is more troublesome than the outcome of an "incorrect" decision would be. It's amazing how often decisions actually don't warrant discussion. Being able to tell the difference is the tricky bit. It's probably less often than I think.

Sometimes - maybe even most times - the fear of scary things is far worse than the scary things themselves turn out to be.

Good fences do make good neighbors, money isn't everything, and life is short. 
For all of these reasons, it's a good idea to make peace if and when and how you can.