Monday, December 27, 2010

Making Things

There are deep snowdrifts outside and fierce, blowing winds. Inside the family is busy with projects. Phil is braiding a piece of wool fabric to patch the  rug that sits in the middle of our living room, a giant ten or more feet in diameter that my grandmother made thirty years ago. The girls are busy with projects they started over Christmas weekend - a lacy turquoise scarf and a warm earth-toned striped one, each perfectly matched to the personalities of the knitters.

Our Christmas was rich with hand-made gifts, too, My parents worked together to make beautiful wooden boxes for each of the grandchildren: sturdy tool chests with wrought iron hinges for the boys, delicate angled boxes for the girls. Phil's knitting needles were flying through socks and hats that weren't quite finished in time for wrapping. Spread across the kitchen table are the parts of a secret present for grandparents, aimed to be finished by New Year's when we'll see them next.

The pure satisfaction around here when the last stitch is knitted and the scarf is draped around a neck or the hat is pulled onto a head is a thing to behold. From the four year-old weaving pot-holders with his new loom under the Christmas tree, to his grandpa unveiling his beautiful wooden boxes, the desire to create things that are beautiful and useful runs strong and deep in most of us, maybe all of us. The products of this desire are as varied as the individuals with the compulsion to create:  well crafted sentences, paintings, patchwork quilts, six-layer cakes, or well-executed computer code. When I look at the people around me, it's the act of creation that brings the pleasure, as much as the finished product.

In the transition to sustainability we are going to need to call upon and depend upon all sorts of new 'high-tech" inventions, from smart-grids to super-efficient materials, but we are also going to need to shift to a world focused on quality rather than quantity, on designing things to be patched and fixed and re-used, rather than tossed away when a plastic part snaps or a circuit burns out.  In the world we need to be moving towards,  making thing will be not just a pleasure but, it seems to me, an integral part of life. Therein lies a blessing:  the forces pushing us to more sustainable ways of living seem to be pushing us towards more satisfying ways of living, at the same time.

Our younger daughter and her friend just came up the stairs to the room next door to my office. "I'm in a project mood" announces the friend.  While I write these few paragraphs, yarn and needles are coming out, the ideas are taking shape, and I keep overhearing snatches of conversation:  a serious disagreement about the definition of knit and purl and finally agreement:('the swirling things are knit and the things that look like braids are purl.' There's some sort of struggle with the 'darned slip knot', a quick lesson in casting on ('you point a gun and then go up with the yarn') and then the needles are clicking in earnest, and the two are chatting away like grandmothers on a front porch.

I worry about these children and their generation a lot of the time. But, along with the messes they are inheriting, they are, in the changed world they will inherit, going to  discover gifts, as well. If they dig deep enough into themselves, they will find, they obviously already are finding, aptitudes and attitudes that will carry them well through turbulent times. Or so I hope.

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