Sunday, February 26, 2012

Making It

Making Stuff

Sometimes I barely keep it together. I get overwhelmed. I get frustrated. I wish I could go away. I never really understood those stories about women walking into oceans (The Piano), running away from their kids, but I get it now. Now that I'm a parent, now that I stay at home, and now that my life is a lot less about me. I don't run away, I don't drop off into the ocean despite the temptations, and part of what keeps me together is making stuff.

When my repertoire was small, baking, usually chocolate chip cookies, is what kept me sane. It was the sign that I had some small measure of control and creativity in me despite long hours at too many mindless tasks. As my cooking repertoire expanded, things like serving high tea, having dinner on the table, or making jars of jam do it for me, especially if I get to stare at jars put up on a shelf as if they were a fossil of productivity. Sometimes, I get really clever and make something exceptionally tasty and feel all happy with myself. A feeling of satisfaction, of something working, makes all of those tedious moments better.

When my husband shipped off to Iraq, I looked for something new to do and took up knitting. I managed to knit a few scarves which gave me a sense of accomplishment. With the demise of the knitting group, knitting fell to the wayside, but the joy of making stuff besides dinner, dessert, or tea emerged.

Lately I have been learning to sew. A few other Navy Wives have offered up their skills to help others interested sewing. I dusted off my sewing machine, placed it in the trunk of the car, and drove forty minutes to the base to get some help using it. There aren't many English speaking sewing teachers in my parts here in the wilds of Kamakura. I am just beginning.

Baking, creating, crafting, writing, art, what have you, keeps me from going bonkers. My husband comes home and I can see his eyes sweep the room noting the toys, the laundry racks, the dishes piled in the sink, the unkemptness of it all, but me, I'm delighted with my project. He's wise enough to praise my efforts or at least not say a word about the mess most days. We don't always live in a pigsty, but I have my piles. These projects give me great delight even if their results are so so in the eyes of others. My drive to do them is in part about enlivening some small part of me that must engage the world even in a small way. The act of creating is what keeps me from being that woman walking into the ocean.

Commitment to Process

Last year during lent, I committed to writing daily with the thought that I was either going to write or stop thinking about doing it. I found the surprise at where you go when writing is wonderful even if you stall sometimes and so I keep coming back. Getting feedback that someone read it is pretty nice, but in the end it is in the doing of writing that I find soulful satisfaction. Tapping the inner creative pool that has been building and building, lets off pressure and pain in a weird yet wonderful way. The output may be less than stellar- I could certainly benefit from editing, but the result is only part of the reason for doing it. My beginner mind finds it easier to stay with the process and trust that the results will come.

Creative Process

As I grapple with creative expression, I see my aims more clearly. I seek truths that are so universal that you can see them with me. I want to create things that sing in your mind and in your heart, but it might be a while before I get there. I am crafting with a sledgehammer and can only hope to become more graceful with it with practice.
But how are you to see into a virtuous Soul and know its loveliness? Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smooths there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiseling your statue...
Plotinus, The Enneads
An awareness of outcomes has begun, and it stretches me toward experimenting, learning, and doing things again and again for the sake of doing, for the sake of expressing, and for the hope of making a thing of beauty. It is a wonderful feeling to create something beautiful, something wholesome, but working with a sledgehammer does have its learning curve.

Sewing with Help

Recently, I was privileged with the attention of a sewing teacher's help. Her attention helped me make something lovelier than I could have done by myself. I thought you might like a peek at my first "real purse" as I called it when we turned the bag's insides out for the unveiling. It was wonderful of her to take the time to spend with me. I'm saved for another week, I have a thing of beauty to show for it, and I am grateful for a new creative outlet to explore.

my first "real purse" sewing project
Inside view 


  1. Very bright and beautiful! It doesn't look anything like a sledgehammer ... although handbags may be used as weapons of course... ;-) That's an amazing clasp handle thingie that it's got...

  2. The handle is from Swany in Kamakura. The bag can be changed because the handle unscrews and then the bag can be removed. You can have a casual version, a glam version, and a Scottish version if you are so inclined. I liked it for that reason, that you are wedded to one pattern. It also took off some of the pressure if I really screwed it up.


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