I also searched for some papers needed for the insurance on the Fire Island debacle (yes, that is still pending). And I found them.
I sorted through two baskets with debris that had been stashed in the garage. Found some Christmas presents from last year (2011 that is), that I had meant to give our friends, but one thing led to another and they were away, so it didn't happen. I will put them near the door with the other things that need to be re-homed.
There are several large Tupperware containers with clothes and objects to give to the shelter. And several large containers of books. They are in my car to go to their new homes. Later today, that will be done. It needs to get done, because I am hosting friends to go into town tomorrow night to see the new movie "Lincoln" and I will need to have seats in the car.
So why this chronicle?
Herb and I have been debating about the flooring and the lighting for his pool room over the garage. It has been insulated and sheetrocked, and flooring and lighting will be the next decisions. I told Herb that someone I had told about the pool room-to-be some months ago (Bob), had been playing pool ever since. Bob told me about the guy that he has been playing with, who seems to have PTSD and uses pool to come down from the heebie-jeebies.We talked about how pool can be a meditation.
I reported the conversation to H and he told me that one of last places that he likes to play may be about to close. He said that it seemed that pool needed to be reinvented as something other than a place for toughs and hustlers: "less macho, less gambling, more attentive." And I thought about the way it is a meditation for him. I talked with our friend Matt about how pool can be a place to let the stress go. And Matt told me about another mutual friend who is teaching therapeutic riding to PTSD survivors of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He talked about how they learn to let go so they can be around the horse, and that the horse knows, and helps them let go. And Matt said the ex-soldiers say that they didn't think the voices in their heads would ever stop.
There is a dearth of opportunities in our lives for such meditations. We fill the days with meetings and email, and the meetings and the email fill our heads. It is only when we become more "attentive" to something that frees us, that we begin to alter the droning (or screaming) of the voices in our heads.
I stash objects around the house as a meditation, and to quell the voices in my head. Or maybe to listen to them in a different way. There is a Japanese tea ceremony spoon on the top of a window molding in the kitchen. There is my new black feathered and bejewelled Venetian mask held on a porcelain hand on the window sill in the bathroom. No reason. I just like it there. I like getting the clothes and the books out of the garage. I like packing tools in the Tupperware with other tools. It's a meditation.
When H wrote that it seemed another pool room was about to close, I felt a certain pain for him. There are effectively no places left where he can ply his craft and learn from others. He is reduced to watching pool on the computer. Not the same thing as doing what you love and what makes the voices in your head go away; or makes it possible for you to listen to them differently.
I talked with our friend Matt about the character of tools: a wooden block plane with a horn that he uses and a rabbeting plane that came from the building of the houses on Fire Island. He described the marriage of hard and softwood in the tool, the way the curve of the front of the plane fit his finger. He talked about the zen of doing the work that he does with precision and focus. It's a meditation.
When H wrote that it seemed another pool room was about to close, I wrote that I understood. I have been a spinner for thirty years. It is a weirdly anachronistic craft. After all, those who spin are commonly known as "spinsters" with all the attendant pity for their plight. But spinning is not a pitiful act. It requires attention to detail--the character of the fiber, its source in sheep or rabbit or dog or cat or goat or yak or worm (yes! silkworms!), or possum or bison or .....Each fiber has to be sheared, cleaned of chaff, washed, dried, carded or combed and prepared for the spinning by making rolags or "top". Some spinners attend to each individual fiber, stripping out the "guard hair" and cherishing the down. Some spinners align the fibers so all the sheared ends and points are consistent; it can make for a more consistent yarn. Each animal produces fiber that requires a somewhat different technique, and a spinner has to decide whether to spin thick or thin, whether to use it on its own or to ply it with another strand of similar or different genesis, has to decide whether to use a "long draw" or a "short draw", whether it will be woolen or worsted. And the process is very slow. If the spinner is in the "zone" the fiber is easier to spin. If the spinner is troubled, the fiber will overtwist or undertwist and break. Someone else might not notice it, but the spinner does.
Once the yarn is spun and plyed, only then does it become something to knit or weave, with all the attendant decisions about that. And only after those decisions, and that craft, does it become something to wear. And for most people, it is nothing more than a pair of socks or sweater in a pretty color. But the act is a meditation. Doing it makes the voices in my head go away, or it makes it possible to listen to them differently.
I have been asked many times whether I sell my yarns, and I always say no. It wouldn't be worth my while, given the amount of time to prepare and spin a single hank of yarn. Of course I could try to sell it for some vast sums as "art", or merely cover the cost of the spinning oil that lubricates the wheel, but selling it hardly seems to make sense. So I give it away on occasion, but most of it fills containers in a neglected room upstairs. There is something about the doing of it that is enough. It is a meditation. And it makes the voices in my head go away; or makes it possible to listen to them differently.
When H wrote that it seemed another pool room was about to close, I wrote to H about spinning and about pool. "I don’t like the idea that the game you care so much about –not as a game—but as strategy and meditation may have to die to be reborn. But it is something I recognize. Spinners have been an unrequited class of people though I have found it compelling for 30 years. People seem to continue to see it as archaic, which it is, in a way that I like…Attention to detail, zoning out of the other debris of life to find the “zone”...slow, very slow."
Writing is like that too. And craft. And gardening. And watching, really watching, the skies change on a January thaw day.
In an exhibition catalog for "Islands in the Land" at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1972, curator Eudorah Moore wrote, "The idea upon which the exhibition was formulated was that, as the leading wedge of the crafts movement has swung so strongly to the manipulation of materials for purely aesthetic expression, the moment had come perhaps to pause, to reevaluate and reassess, and to look back briefly at the roots of the craft movement in this country...The thought was that by looking, really looking at the objects of beautiful, simple, place rooted function, vision could be enriched, values reassessed, humor reinstated, and humanist sensitivity reaffirmed...Although the pressure of constant production, or production to someone else's designs, may produce steady income, it does not recognize the most important element of the craftsman's tradition, pride and creativity in his work, and it often tends to lower those standards of workmanship so essential in to the continuing integrity of the tradition. Where that integrity exists, each object has a palpable vitality, a strong personality, a beauty of design."
We live in a world that makes no room for that unless we are on vacation, where the cobblestones are set in patterns.
Where people stop on bridges and take pictures of each other in the act of "seeing." When else do we get to really watch? And see. And be attentive. When else do we get to see the way the acts we take result in something we desire, in the beauty of design, in pride and creativity in the work? When else do we get to think about the voices in our head and choose which ones to listen to, and which ones to let go?