the simple minded suburbanite

Grandmothers’ hands
October 22, 2009, 3:03 am
Filed under: voluntary simplicity | Tags: , ,

I’m a writer.  And a reader.  I like to paint.  I like viewing art.  All of these things take time and I do try very hard to make time to do all of these things.  Yet, the fact is, these things take focused concentration.  It’s difficult to field a phone call, converse with your husband, or quiet honestly pay attention to the newest MadMen episode when reading a novel or banging out an article.  I often feel that I bounce between extreme brain activity (work, literature, writing) to exteme lack of brain activity (the usual: dishes, laundry, picking up dog poop in the foyer) constantly every day.  In my quest for simplicity and gratitude and presence, I have even taken to morning meditation, which is very satisfying… sometimes.

Last winter though, I had a craving, one that could not be satisfied with cerebral activity or spiritual centeredness.  And that craving for something, to do, to try, to create has, though dull at times, has not gone away nor has it been satisfied.  It’s like going to the fridge and then to the pantry in search of something to eat and never finding the food that hits your “ahhh…yes…” spot. ( This usually is the result, in my case, of a near empty hot fudge jar.  Nothing can replace a spoonful of hot fudge!) 

Then it hit me.  On a recent visit with my sister-in-law’s, she showed me a primitive penny rug she was blanket stitching.  Chills went up my back.  “Try it,” she said.  “It’s easy.”  I took the needle and, like a former junkie, my craving returned.  Like lust.  I sank the needle into the red felt; I pulled the black string taut.  And then a sweetness filled my thoughts, a release, a satisfaction.  I used to do things like this, I thought, and visual images of my grandma and my great-grandma and my aunts and my mother and their hands, constantly moving.  And how, as a little girl, even a young woman, I learned to do the same.

Never quiet were their hands.  Not as they relaxed in an evening chair humming to the radio. Not as they chatted with me about my school day at the crumbless kitchen table.  Not as they watched the news, or Lawrence Welk, their head nodding in fatigue.  Their hands pushed needles through canvas, pierced pins through hems, danced crochet hooks amongst delicate thread.  And their eyes, always with a sense of peace.

They never thought about meditating.  This was their meditation.  They never pushed themselves to expand their minds through literature and travel.  Their mind was open to all that was around them because they practiced presence through their crafts.  Their hands worked with their minds worked with their spirit and the rhythmic clackity-clack of their knitting needles or their gentle humming, to which they were unaware, with the rhythm of their stitches created a peace around them. 

And they didn’t make it difficult.  They didn’t say, “I need a girls’ weekend, damnit!”  They didn’t feel they had to contribute something thought provoking at this month’s book club.  They simply wove their peace into the fabric of their everyday life.  They accepted that time to oneself was limited or, in some cases, unavailable.  Yet, instead of complaining about it and demanding something better, they sat calmly, with gratitude, in acceptance of the life around them and found their own meditation, their own creation, filled their own craving.

And I’ve re-discoverd how to refill mine, through the use of my hands.  My penny rug is perhaps the ugliest color combination ever seen by human eyes, but I love the rhythm of the stitches.  I love not feeling resentful when my little boy comes down the stairs and says, “Mommy watch how I play my Ukelele!” because I can watch him and still continue what I’m doing.  I love not knowing what the hell I’m going to do with the hideously ugly thing when I’m done, or even what “being done” means.  It could be a throw pillow, a table runner, a table cloth, or even a bedspread or nothing at all.  Their is no goal achievement here.  No expectation.  No neccessity.  I love the simple experience of doing something with my hands and calming my mind. 

I have fallen back in love with crafts (Ugg!  I can hear all of the black patent, monogrammed, coifed women groan.)  I admit it.  I’ve come back to craft.  It’s not an ugly word.  It might be an ugly craft, but the beauty is in the process and it’s a process that bridges my day to day for me.  And for this, as well as for all the nimble hands of the women I grew up with, I am grateful.


2 Comments so far
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Hi there,
I know where you coming from, I’ve experienced the same thing. When I was in college an sharing a dingy little appartment with a friend that had no TV or radio we discovered a way to pass our time with a little creativity; we turned to embroidery. very soon we were doing embroidery on all our clothes, every little piece of cloth we could find because there was a sense of deep satisfaction and accomplishment that one can only get when you create something with your bare hands. Now that I’m too busy with home and writing(I’m a writer too!) I do not really find the time to do go back to my embroidery but I’ve still cherished an kept the clothes I had done embroidery on, just for keeping the memory of that creativity and satisfaction alive.

Comment by erraticguru

All this for just $3.95 at Joanne fabrics! What in our life costs $3.94? Who knew? Best to you and your writing!

Comment by stacybaca

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