What I Think About While I’m Making

Photo unrelated to post.  Just a nice photo of redwoods from the archive.

A nice archived photo of redwoods.

When you spend many hours, or even an hour, making something, your mind is a part of the process just as your hands.  Here are a few of the things that I think about while I’m making stuff.

1.  Nothing.

Amazingly, sometimes my mind just empties and all that runs through the typically muddled space is just serene.  When I get to this calm place it is a form of meditation.  My focus is simply on the task at hand and not distracted or worried about the past, the future or anything else .  On these blissful yet rare moments, my incessant multi-tasking mind is just employed with the one task.  When I am able to just make and not have a stream of consciousness flowing through my head, I am content and at peace.  These moments are not prolific as often I am simultaneously cooking and listening to music or I only have an allotted time to work so I am cognizant of the ticking clock. However, when I can get to this space, it is a beautiful thing.

2.  The person I’m making __________ for.

Whether I am stirring away or stitching away, when I am making something for someone I think about how much I care about them with every movement.  I think about how what I make will make someone I love smile, or fill their stomach or warm them up.  I contemplate how lucky I am to have so many amazing people in my life that I can reciprocate a token of my gratitude with something homemade.  I think about how happy I am when I receive anything made with attention and love.

3.  My problems / problems.

There are times where you just need to do something to manage the downs of life.  I suppose I could go for a run around town, but I’d rather pick up my knitting needles or start a batch of risotto.  I have long sworn by the power of stirring to really work things out.  I have solved many of my own problems simply by doing something else and channeling the troubles into construction, into something more constructive.  This is often why I pedal home at lunch to make something that will make me forget about whatever has me riled up.  Making is a great way to use my negative energy and turn it into something positive.  If even after my best attentions to divert my bad energy into something better fail, I can always fall back on either an hour-long bath followed by an early retreat to sleep or a stiff drink and some mind-numbing streaming tv on the computer.

4.  The art of making

When I am working away, I am aware of the fact that I am a member of the making class.  The making class is a group of people who enjoy the process as much as the result.  Often there are easier ways to do things these days than what makers choose to do.  We could shop, order in, or simply wonder about how something is made yet not attempt it.  Once you recognize that you are a maker you continue to try making more because the process is an enjoyable one and the results are the proverbial icing on the cake.

5.  That even if it’s not perfect, it’s still pretty awesome

I don’t agonize over what isn’t right in what I’ve made.  I see things that are not perfect and I realize that it really doesn’t matter.  It is easy to focus on the small imperfections instead of on how much of the project is right.  Rarely am I unable to fix something; even a bad loaf of bread can become croutons.  My philosophy is that if something is handmade, then it should look/taste as if handmade and not manufactured.

Here you have it, a snapshot of what fills up my headspace while my hands are busy.  I understand that making stuff is both my salve and my salvation.

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A Joyous Vanksgiving

This was our view on Black Friday 2014

Black Friday in the canyon

Of all the traditional prescribed holidays, Thanksgiving is by far my favorite, no doubt because I adore mashed potatoes.  Well, that isn’t the only reason why it is my fave.  I love Thanksgiving because I like the spirit of gratitude behind the holiday, the gathering of friends and family together and yes, the food.  Thanksgiving itself is a time to be thankful for what we have.  The day after is when we start to want again.  But for 1/365th of the year, we gather around and celebrate what we’ve got.

I’ve spent Thanksgivings in Seattle, Portland, Denver, Durango, Utah and Paris, all which were delightful and full of good memories.  My favorite gatherings are the ones that are informal, where slippers are encouraged if not required and everyone cooks something special to them.  Second to these larger gatherings, I cherish the times I’ve spent camping in the van, prepping instant stuffing and enjoying what I call Vanksgiving.  Vanksgiving 2014 began on the Friday following T-day and lasted a blissful 3 days in a canyon in southwestern Utah.  Our traditional Vanksgiving dinner consisted of instant stuffing, sauteed brussels sprouts and leftover turkey all doused in homemade gravy and cranberry sauce.  It was peaceful, it was loving and it was full of gratitude.

Now that we are in the throes of the holiday season, it is my time to step back and reflect on what the holidays really mean.  As a minimalist, I am not fond of all the consumerism that now clouds over Christmas/ Hanukkah / Kwanza.  There are so many implications to this rampant spending that I don’t need to go into here.  Suffice to say that all of the buying and wanting really turn me off.  There are (already as we’re merely days into the season) all of these advice pieces about how to beat holiday stress and how to enjoy the holidays once again on simpler terms.  The holidays are supposed to be a time of enjoyment, remembrance and relaxation.  They have become something so foreign to me that I have stepped off of this rapid path and taken the holidays back for myself.

I know that this piece may sound curmudgeonly, which is not my intent.  I enjoy the holidays in my own ways.  I have my family heirloom ceramic lighted tree and I cherish seeing it aglow.  I love to give gifts, but I do not let the giving stress me out because that is absolutely contrary to the whole spirit of a gift.  I like to give items that will be useful and that I have made myself.  I’d rather have friends over for wine and appetizers (in their slippers, of course) than attend some fancy party.  I’m more about quality than quantity and the holidays have turned into one big distasteful binge.

I am happy that I am still able to celebrate the holidays in a quiet and meaningful way.  I am grateful for the experiences shared with loved ones rather than what I get.  I am at a point in my life where I have everything that I could possibly need, and more.  The best gifts in life are in time, peace and good food.

No crowds.  No lines.  No stress.

No crowds. No lines. No stress.