I saw Joe the Hiker on the trail this morning as I walked to the knitting bench. I told him he was right–the Sabbath is Saturday, but that I wasn’t planning to become a member of his church. And I asked him to stop trying to talk me into it. It felt good and clean to get that off my chest. I want to stop trying to make people like me by being phony.
Saturday morning is a very quiet time to knit outside. I saw a family on the opposite side of the road dressed up as if for a wedding–the two men wore striped ties, the little girls had on pink tutus, and the woman was in a striped dress. They seemed to hesitate on the edge of the sidewalk opposite–it was clear that they didn’t know whether to talk to me or not, but finally the men crossed the street to ask me what I was doing. I think they were Mormon missionaries–the best dressed ones I’ve ever seen. Really, we could have had a fashion show right then and there.
My neighbor introduced her sister who is visiting from Michigan, and explained to her about my project. Her sister told me she is part of a medieval reenactment group; her friend The Baronness knits tiny clothes for preemies…
–at this point, I was thinking, how practical…I should do that. But then she said–
…who die in the hospital…for burial.
Some people would say that is a waste of time and material. But I think it’s an act of love, of meaning, even art…Evolutionary anthropologist, Ellen Dissanyake, says that humans have a biological drive to “make special” which is how she defines art. The Baroness, in this example, is making special for grieving parents.
I drove to the bench today and found a new friend of mine, an artist, waiting for me. We tossed ideas back and forth for a whole hour.
She told me that my knitting this rope every day is pretty obsessive. I laughed and thanked her for stating the obvious. I’m surprised no one has told me this yet in 3 years. We both agreed that obsession goes with the territory of being an artist. Her obsession is picking up old bottle caps…she’s been at it for years. It is easy to feel slightly embarrassed about this need to return to the same thing over and over again. I think the words artistic and autistic are close cousins for a reason.
We talked about the artist’s way as a spiritual calling, serving the visions that come begging to be given form. It doesn’t feel like an option to say no. She compared it to a saint who tells a heavenly apparition, “I’m sorry, I’m too busy right now–it would interrupt my routine.”
I said that making art is a form of divination for me, and that when I don’t create, I lose access to a huge part of my psyche, my internal guidance system. She said making art helps her to make sense of life, to find meaning.
Whether or not a work of art gets a red dot beside it, the greatest reward is the knowledge that you have brought something new into the world, something better than you could ever imagine. The certainty that what you have made is good. I always come back to this quote by Thomas Merton:
Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.