On Seeing YESTERDAY

Imagine if the Beatles never existed.

Such is the premise of the movie “Yesterday,” now playing in theaters. The film is clever. It’s cute. It’s funny. And it got me to thinking.

Imagination is at the heart of creativity, and given that reality, there are endless possibilities around what we choose to draw, paint, write about, sing about, etc. Furthermore, there are possibilities revealed to us through regular day-to-day events and activities—a beautiful window box of flowers inspires us to replicate it on canvas, an interesting turn of phrase inspires us to write a poem—and possibilities that we would have never considered had we not sat down and primed our creative pump. The latter inspired the following exercise…

  1. “Imagine if the Beatles never existed.” In this sentence, “the Beatles” is the subject and “never existed” is an action. Let’s devise a list of several other subjects and actions. Here’s mine:
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      My two piles of subjects and actions

      Subjects: The Royal Family, a farmer, a Bible study group, the Trump administration, a tribe of aborigines, a high school marching band, an NFL football team, the Disney princesses

    • Actions: Started a forest fire, invented teleportation, biked across the U.S., cured cancer, vacationed in Italy, cloned themselves, owned a bakery, became super heroes
  2. I wrote all sixteen of my subjects and actions on separate pieces of paper. Keeping them separated in the two categories, I mixed up the papers and put them face down in two piles. Drawing one piece of paper from each pile, I arrived at the following possibilities—imagine if:
    • A high school marching band owned a bakery.
    • A tribe of aborigines biked across the U.S.
    • The Trump administration cured cancer.
    • A farmer started a forest fire.
    • The Royal Family cloned themselves.
    • A Bible study group invented teleportation.
    • The Disney princesses vacationed in Italy.
    • An NFL football team became super heroes.

I’m not one to dabble in fiction, but how fun would it be to take some of these ideas and develop them into complete stories or fantastical paintings or an all-out screenplay! “Imagine,” said John Lennon. Now you try it!


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Finished project: “Trinity” (Macrame)

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I completed my first piece of macrame and found a little corner for it to hang in my kitchen! Overall impression: Macrame is a full-body sport—I found it most comfortable to twist and tie while on my feet.

Read “On Trying MACRAME” post>>

On Trying CROCHET-ALONGS

I knit. I crochet. I’ve made hats and sweaters and blankets and so much more over my past twenty-five years of experimenting with yarn and needles and hooks. But it wasn’t until recently—last summer, to be exact—that I tried a “crochet-along” or “CAL” for short (you guessed it, there are “knit-alongs” too).

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Just a few of the hats I made last summer as part of a crochet-along

Through the Hooked on Homemade Happiness Crochet Community on Facebook, I signed up to join thousands of other crocheters from around the world to work on different patterns together. The group’s organizer, Breann Mauldin, is an accomplished crocheter and pattern writer who shares free PDFs (for a limited time generally) of her original creations, thus rallying the rest of us to get hooking too.

During a CAL, a new pattern is released weekly, then we post photos of our finished products on the group thread. It’s amazing to see how the same pattern results in such unique works of craftsmanship—it’s fun to see how people put their own spins on it. Different colors. Different textures. Different adornments. Artistry abounds!

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Here’s my progress so far on the sampler afghan CAL pattern. Each week entails adding another few inches of a different pattern to our blankets.

The Hooked on Homemade Happiness Crochet Community is currently in the middle of another hat CAL, which I completed for the first time last year. In the end, I donated about twenty finished hats to the cancer patients of the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, which is where one of my dearest friends fought and won her battle with the disease. I also enjoyed taking part in a sampler afghan CAL over the winter. My blanket is still in progress, but I’m determined to get it finished before the snow flies again. Just a couple more sections to go and some kind of border, then I’ll be done!

There’s something special about knitting and crocheting, how versatile they are not only in what I can make, but also in where and with whom I can focus on my projects. In the quiet of home. At a coffee shop with a friend. Around a computer with the rest of humanity. There’s no doubt I’ll keep knitting and crocheting along!

On Learning FINGER KNITTING

Finger knitting. I remember learning how to finger knit from a childhood friend so many decades ago. We’d spend hours together during sleepovers making long lengths of narrow knitted tubing in various colors. Sometimes we’d attempt to make something useful from our thick, long ropes of yarn—little pillows or blankets for our dolls, for instance—but we were never quite satisfied with the end results. I eventually traded in finger knitting for embroidery and cross-stitch, which seemed much more sophisticated back in the day.

homepage-knitting-without-needlesIt was through Creativebug that I was recently reminded of the fun of finger knitting.  And thanks to the brilliance of maker Anne Weil, my eyes are now open to the craft’s possibilities. In one of her six Creativebug classes, Weil walks viewers through the steps of creating a pretty and practical woven rug from finger-knitted cords. The same project is featured in her book Knitting Without Needles, which is full of patterns for finger- and arm-knitters alike. I picked her book up from the library, along with Finger Knitting Fun by Vickie Howell, Arm & Finger Knitting by Laura Strutt and Finger Knitting by Mary Beth Temple. Sweaters, toys, hats, and blankets—the options seem endless as I page through these resources on finger knitting.

Of course, I have all I need to get started again: a good pair of hands and plenty of yarn. I think I’ll try Weil’s idea for a wreath first, then maybe I’ll finally have something presentable to show for my finger-knitting skills. It only took forty years.

 

 

 

On Reading TELL IT SLANT

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“The care of words is urgent Christian work.”
—Eugene H. Peterson

It was through the writings of Madeleine L’Engle and her best friend, Luci Shaw, that I discovered another one of their contemporaries Eugene H. Peterson. Best known for authoring The Message Bible, Peterson boasts a knack for taking age-old language and thought, and translating them into contemporary terms. His book Tell It Slant follows suit.

Poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “Tell the truth but tell it slant,” which means to employ creativity and subtlety and ambiguity and “unhurried intimacies” to deepen our understanding of the many facets of life. Such is the inspiration behind Peterson’s book as he delves into the parables and prayers of Jesus Christ, and focuses on the various nuances of His teachings and conversations.

At the same time, through Tell It Slant, Peterson aims to “cultivate a sense of continuity between the prayers we offer to God and the conversations we have with the people we speak to and who speak to us. I want to nurture an awareness of the sanctity of words, the holy gift of language, regardless of whether it is directed vertically or horizontally. Just as Jesus did.”

As a writer by both trade and passion, I admire Peterson’s goal. And in reading Tell It Slant, I now count him among my “artistic ancestors,” those whose work will forever impact my own. I enjoyed every one of Tell It Slant‘s chapters, but I knew Peterson would leave a lasting impression on me in reading the introduction to a portion based on Luke 18:9-14:

It takes a storyteller to give us access to all that is going on—the swirling maelstrom of sound and silence, visible and invisible, in even the dowdiest of women, the dullest of men… 

Storytellers activate our imaginations to see and hear beneath the surface of life and involve us in the many dimensions of what is going on behind our backs or just around the corner. It takes a storyteller to reveal the beauty that dazzles like “shining from shook foil” (Gerard Manley Hopkins). 

Every time Jesus tells a story, the world of those who listen enlarges, understanding deepens, imaginations are energized. Without stories we end up with stereotypes—a flat earth with flat cardboard figures that have no texture or depth, no interior. 

Though my artistic explorations of late have focused on the visual, my ventures in writing and storytelling are the most constant way by which I exercise my creative muscle. And in Peterson’s words I find a new calling—even a personal prayer—related to those endeavors. May I continue to grow into a storyteller who values and demonstrates the sacred art of language, the beauty revealed through original insight and twist of phrase, and revulsion of the “flat.” May I dream to create that which “dazzles”!

 

On Seeing SAINT JOHN’S POTTERY STUDIO

My fascination with the Saint John’s Pottery Studio began with “Clay, Wood, Fire, Spirit,” a documentary produced in 1996, but featured recently on TPT Twin Cities PBS. The film serves as a “video portrait” of Richard Bresnahan, a master potter and the studio’s artist-in-residence. Watch video>>

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The sales room offers an overwhelming array of pottery in various forms.

During a recent visit to the campus of Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., I was able to swing by the studio to see it in the flesh. I was greeted by two young apprentrices hard at work at their wheels—barefoot, gooey with clay, and engrossed in the forming of their signature vessels. I took in the gallery walls filled with numerous pieces of pottery in various forms: platters, bowls, vases, candlesticks, and cups. And I marveled at the hundreds of works for sale in a side room. Oh, to imagine the people-hours invested in the throwing and glazing and firing of all that I saw!

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Guests of the studio are invited to enjoy some tea at the “irori,” a traditional Japanese hearth.

Perhaps the biggest impression the studio made on me was its air of hospitality. The apprentices were quick to offer a formal tour, which I look forward to taking them up on another day. I was offered a seat at the studio’s “irori,” a traditional Japanese hearth, for a cup of green tea and conversation. Smiles and warm attention and a sense of home—these qualities definitely enhanced my appreciation of the art around me and, of course, the people who make it.

The experience got me to thinking… How can I infuse some hospitality into my own art making and sharing? What part does environment play in the spirit of my work? These are good—and fun—questions to ponder.  I’m eager to keep my eyes and ears open for more inspiration.