Friday, January 03, 2014

By Hand: A Meditation on a New Year of Gifts

Drawing by the author, May 3, 2009

By Hand

If I follow this line, will it lead anywhere?
If I start at the root, will I capture the outline of the tree?
If this is not beautiful, can it still be art?
If I ask you to read this, would it be enough?

If I start with black, will I end up with purple?
If I make fifty lines, will the next patch be eighty lines?
If I make a curve here, will the next shape be linear?
If I make downward strokes, will I then make upward strokes?

If I don't think, will the drawing draw itself?
If I breathe deeply, is it meditation?
If there are no words, is it a poem?
If these are the leaves, is there a tree?

When was the last time you made something by hand? I drew the drawing above in 2009. This was significant to me. I had just lost a baby. It was an ectopic pregnancy and I was on maternity leave. I remember painting, too, after my first miscarriage in 2005. For some reason, the loss of life spurred a very deep need in me to create something with my hands. It was an expression of grief. And hope.

I thought back to this because I mentioned on Facebook, today, that I wanted to go back to an artisanal life: a time when we enjoy well-made things (not mass-made things), well cared-for things, things that last for lifetimes. It's not about a consumerist life but a life that combines art and work...when work is finally not something that has to do with money but something to do with full self-expression and service to others. Then no one would have a job, just a vocation. Then everyone would have a gift to give to life and life would only have abundance to give back for every gift. Then everyone would know everyone in their community...because you would know the person who sewed your clothes, the person who wrote the books you read, the person who cooked your lovely meal, the person who repaired your chair, the person who grew the tomato in your salad, and so on and on.

I come to this as I prepare for life in 2014. I want this to be a year of gifts. Below is a video of Amanda Palmer's TED talk on the art of asking. It's the other face of giving. Because one does not give if one is not actually asked. That's the beauty of a gift: it is given from the heart...not out of obligation but out of appreciation.

I imagine a life, a world populated by gifts that people give to each other. A life that needs no copyright because each one is unique (and uniquely gifted). I imagine a world where we recognize the gifts given to us, freely, by the earth. I imagine a world full of gratitude for all these gifts. I imagine each person, each creature of God alight with gratitude.

So here's to your 2014 (and mine). May it be the beginning of a new age of gifts.

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