Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sometimes You Just Have to Make Stuff



It was just about this time of year during my freshman year of college—after the worst ear infection of my life, with my left eardrum still adding a kazoo-like sound to everything I heard, after Thanksgiving but before finals—that I started making paper snowflakes.

Hello winter. You are lovely and magical and cold. I am tired and stressed and the best thing I can think of to do with my world right now is to pour some extra beauty over it because it is otherwise rather hard. Sort of the way you’ve coated everything with glittering fresh snow. Underneath you are pretty grimy.

I cut out a lot of snowflakes. From plain white paper, as intricately as possible. I learned to cut big holes rather than little snips, and to let the lines swoop and dive across the paper. I worked when I took breaks from reading or studying, and my hand ached from cutting before I was done. By the end of finals week there were quite a few snowflakes hanging from my dorm room ceiling. My grades didn’t seem to suffer, and I think the project actually helped me get through that first semester. And I loved being in a room dripping with paper snow.

Very often, this time of year, you can find me making things.

This season—paper cranes. Made in odd moments. I have specific plans for them, so I tell myself what I’m doing is practical. Extremely practical. Mixed in with healthy doses of avoidance and coping. It is unbelievably soothing to have your hands moving, and to see something taking shape beneath them. To lose yourself in motion and color and pattern. To allow your mind to think and process freely, far beyond the neat folds and bright bits of paper you are working with.

Hello winter. You are lovely and magical and coldexcept right now you are rather warm and drab. I'm waiting. I long for your snow.



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7 comments:

  1. So lovely, Karen. My hands, too, long to be useful, in motion, making actual, tangible, physical things in addition to tapping away on a keyboard. Thanks for this! XO
    - alison

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  2. This is the reason I want to be able to knit. A thin strand of yarn on one side, busy hands and a pile of warm coziness growing on my lap. But alas my knitting is a stressful event leading to strained eyes and necks and exhausted fingers. I love the idea of making tangible things while your mind wanders, or even sits and rests.

    And the cranes are beautiful. Post a picture of whatever you're going to do with them when it's done!

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  3. You both used the word tangible, and I love that word. As much as I love words and all they can do, I need the tangible stuff at least as much.

    Janice, my body was so tense when I was learning to knit! And I frowned a lot. You might wonder why I kept going with it, because sometimes, still, I get stuck on a pattern and completely stressed-out. But for the most part I find it relaxing. I think it is completely about the busy hands part.

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  4. Janice, I taught myself to knit scarves from youtube videos (cast on, knit, cast off, make fringe). I decided that the only thing I would ever knit was scarves, and I'm perfectly happy with that decision. I knit scarves in meetings, at church, and on airplanes.

    Karen probably knits gorgeous Scandinavian sweaters with cranes patterned into them, but maybe you could lower your knitting standards and knit scarves and only scarves? Busy fingers, calm mind. . .

    :)

    - alison

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    Replies
    1. I enjoy intricate things, but I also love scarves and hats (knitting in the round = no stopping and no turning!) with very simple knit/purl combinations. Things I can finish quickly that don't require a lot of thought--just color and texture and movement.

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  5. I frown and scowl a lot too. I think knitting is one of those skills I want, but not enough to practice enough to get it! But every time is see a handmade scarf, I dream about buying soft yard!

    I tried a baby blanket for each child. Each one was about 36"x4" when I gave up and headed to the store to buy one. Actually for Belle I taught myself how to crochet because I was convinced with all the holes it must be a faster process than knitting. I started when I found out she was going to be a girl. She's three and I just found the 9"x9" piece of blanket I'd gotten crocheted. So now she has a handmade baby doll blanket. :)

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    Replies
    1. I hear you. I tend to take on small projects, only, for exactly that reason. (But really, how cool is a handmade baby doll blanket?!)

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