Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thinking abouot Not Thinking / Straitjacket Part 2

* * * * * Warning: Long and Rambling Thoughts and Non-Thoughts * * * * *

Did I tell you Ben's had last and this week off? I gardened between a couple of hours to half a day three afternoons last week, between and in the rain; Ben water-blasted the green growth on our concrete patio. Truth to tell, neither of us made much progress; the garden looks like someone's head after that someone's mom made the first zap with an electrical clipper and was called away. Still, those afternoons of weeding alone with no radio reset my mind, as it were; it stopped the chatter for a while.

I don't know if it was the small drawings or weeding in the rain, but I had high fever and slept from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning, then spent the most glorious sunny, calm, warm Sunday, inside, medicated, on the couch/bed watching Star Trek Motion Pictures 1 though 5 in one afternoon. (They're not that long without the commercial breaks.) An interesting thing was, for the first 2.5 movies, I was making mental notes about the cut of the costumes around the collar and sleeves.

Had Monday been warmer or not rainy, I would have had a moral conundrum of whether to weed or not, but luckily it was miserable so we cleaned the inside and watched the last, sixth movie.

I've been emotionally away from doing fiber things I had to dream about the last piece I took off the loom to be reminded of it; we had to conduct a search lasing 45 minutes, up and down the stairs in all likely fiber places to locate it. This made me recheck all my fiber-related To Do lists, which got me out of the holiday mood, for good or bad. I've been a big looser; I still can't find the cotton scarf, I'm fine, but it saddens me to see Ben so sad about my loosing it; more importantly to me, I've been missing my purple Long Janes like forever and I can really use them now.

(Mind the Stream of Consciousness Gap)

Early on in my weeding week, my mind wandered and contemplated the futility of weeding, especially in a sunny/rainy place like Nelson. Depending on the season, you can see new growth the morning after you weeded, exactly where you thought you got the whole root system out. I'm not joking. I was thinking of all the folks with impeccably maintained gardens, and others with impeccable-looking gardens. (I've been told the two are not the same, that, for e.g., maintaining a rambling English cottage garden in New Zealand is be a full time job.)

Part of my recurring problem is, if I can't do something to my satisfaction or intended completion, I don't start. It takes a lot of effort and determination for me to work incrementally. So our garden is left to its own device until Ben takes a week or two off so the two of us can put in a concerted effort, except when the time comes, Ben/I doesn't/don't feel like it, one of us gets sick, I can't bring myself to pester Ben, or it rains too much.

Then I thought of friends who have less than perfect gardens; they are never apologetic, but take pleasure in sharing what they have and retelling of what they accomplished. Parental expectations and educational background aside, I thought how wonderful life would be if I could concentrate on what I did get done and stop being apologetic about what I didn't, or how the outcome differred to what I had expected.

My parental expectations and educational/occupational background made me critical/cynical. I don't know if this is my perception or the truth, but I lived in environments where the critical eye was a mark of alertness, even intelligence. And a defense mechanism. I have opinions, and I marked my existence by asserting them, and because I was reasonably good at it, from time to time I received better grades as a student than I deserved, (or so I thought but now looking back, my grades are crap!) and it served me well in some of my past jobs. It became my modus operandi.

Pluck me out of my familiar world, plunk me into this aft/craft one: I don't even make an accurate critic, but I'm an excellent pointer-outer-of-what's-wrong, and not an optimist. On reflection I don't often come up with remedies for mistakes, but can dish out long lists what not to do the next time.

Granted, I've worked hard these last years so I do work incrementally, I can take process into consideration, even be intrigued by it sometimes, I can take in the new, the different, the other. (And may I say, your company certainly help me progress.) I often fret I am the most joyless weaver when it comes to my own finished work, but I'm finally, finally seeing the bad side of perfectionism.

(Mind the Stream of Consciousness Crack)

I can nor will never belong to the "everything is wonderful" school. I will never simply match yarns with a structure; I aspire to weave pieces that cannot be replicated from a recipe in the first instance, participating alone will never been sufficient, and I won't shy away from saying this out loud. I want to always look at my own work with a standard I set, and I'd like it to be on the high side. (Though it's come down a few notches lately.) I probably can never shed this innate cynicism, (yes, I said innate; have you met my Dad?, but I would like to stop admonishing the fun-loving optimist to make this road a little smoother; I need to practice being a maker and a critic at different and appropriate times.

In the case of recent straitjacket situation in the drawing class: no, I don't like small gesture drawing; yes, I will try anything as instructed; but blow me away, even in drawing I now know what I like to do not based on uspicions of the unknown or the untried, but because I've done some. And any kind of a self-knowledge is good. With drawing, this is a milestone as thus far I only tried to follow direction and live in the moment. Come to think of it, I am a Terrible Two in drawing with one week left in the first of four terms of my third year. So, what? Sit tight, but eventually grow out of it?

As regards my difficulty with the book "Women who Run with Wolves", that I can't make sense out of it, that the writing is too wordy, I perceive as failing intellectually not because I see myself as intellectual, but because in my art/craft life I've often been told I'm overintellectualizing, when in fact verbose would have been more accurate. (You 'd think I'd love the book, then, wouldn't you?)

Not understanding the point of this book meant I am loosing one propensity before gaining another; it made me feel stupid without being blissfully ignorant in a Nirvana way. That many women artists I admire loved the book make this event feel like non-admittance to a club I longed to belong. Annabelle, the classmate in drawing who finally got me to buy the book and who enjoys Jung, posited I'm passed the stage that needs this book. I've thought of that but I'm included to disagree because I'm not in Nirvana. I feel so in-between, neither intelligent enough nor instinctive enough.

Interim Conclusion:

1) Perfectionism = pessimism
Optimism = celebrating accomplishments = enjoyment = good.

2) Self-knowledge = good; pride = bad.

3) Stationary perspective/settled persona = bad.
Flux = inevitable and embracing this eliminates anguish = closer to enjoyment.

(Stream of Consciousness Return to Origin)

Regarding the garden, well, I'm resigned to the fact we won't get much done. Pity, as the time is now to plant/transplant with all this rain. Not so deep down, I know we won't be spending too much time outside on weekends, either, so our place will be a mess again come another glorious Nelson summer. I'll do what I can manage, and the heavy stuff, I'll pay professionals to come help me. We'll all be happier this way.


  1. It sounds like you and I have some of the same problems with gardening. I especially identified with what you said about it taking more time and energy to approach it incrementally. Gardening is different from other tasks, in that when you approach it incrementally you never SEE progress, because like you say (I also live in a rainy sunny climate) incremental progress is instantly overtaken. Whereas if you make a big push, you at least get a temporary vista of what you've accomplished. A big push can also put you enough ahead that the maintenance tasks aren't quite so overwhelming, as long as you make a careful habit of them. Or so I've been told!!

    I belive it's possible to work with the current instead of against it and set up a beautiful-varied-yet-low maintenance garden, but that it requires a lot of work and thought (and plant knowledge) at the outset. I see current and past gardens I've made at rentals as being a self-training course for MY garden, the one I'll eventually plant to suit myself and take into old age. But I also try to enjoy the blooms along the way. And I'm kind of addicted to planting trees and woody perennials--THERE's progress that goes on without you.

    Regarding the rest of it. I think Not Thinking is overrated. Especially by artists and spiritual folk. Especially when they are trying to write books, in which they are automatically intellectualizing the virtues of Not Thinking. Your struggle with it has made me really curious about Running With Wolves. I expect I'd hate it unappologetically, judging by past books I've encountered on similar topics.

    A lot of inspirational stuff seems to inspire everyone but me. It *is* kind of lonely. But then I find other weird books that aren't about art or inspiration at all, that speak to my art. I don't get to share them with anyone, but that's okay.

  2. One important word I forgot to say: cover crop.

    It's saved my bacon. Something like oats that's easy to turn over (clover and rye not so good, if you let them go too long). The only way to keep back weeds is by planting something else. Fight vegetation with vegetation.

  3. Gardens, eh, Tranputo. Can't live with it, can't live without it. Actually, I can; I wouldn't mind living in an apartment as long as I have plenty of living space, and nobody above me, (don't want their noise) or below me, (don't want them to have to live with my noise, especially the loom vibration!).

    Ben and I were actually talking about a year or two that we might have been able to live above an Indian restaurant in Auckland - I automatically rejected it as we lived for 5 years in an apartment. The last months after I left my job to prepare for our move to NZ, I smelled their dinner every night at around 4PM while the mother cooked early for her kids; they were not strange smells, just good food, but it made me feel physically ill to realize we lived in such proximity to strangers, and around 3PM every day I had to have a lie down or very unhealthy preprocessor snack to dull the senses. Towards the end, on occasion, I started drinking, too, but I was aware of the danger so never more than a glass or wine, but it was more than once in a while.

    Anyhoo, this afternoon might be a gardening afternoon.


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