The Wheel and the Hook

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Passionate about ordinary things, like how ingredients become food – that detail was included in the winning story told at the Moth event I attended last week. The detail was in reference to the storyteller’s friend (the subject of their piece), and I felt a kinship because of that choice; I too am passionate about ordinary things.

The storyteller was actually a Barnard grad. It was some coincidence to walk into a bar in Portland and be identified immediately by this piece of my New York life. On top of that, the story they told was powerful and hit close to home. It seemed closer to fate than coincidence when this person who shared several of my identities got up and told a story about their days on campus that played on the theme of the night: ‘Save’. I wish that I could have snagged them afterward to thank them for telling it, but by then they had disappeared into the night.

Me trying to feed a carrot to a b&w fuzzy llama; I'm trying so hard to get them to like me.

I have been doing a bit of travel lately. Apart from moving back to Seattle from NYC, I have also been visiting friends in common and uncommon places. Several weeks ago, I went to visit my high school friend in Arkansas where he is now teaching. I feel like I’m still processing that brief trip; it was my first time to the South and to a town like Pine Bluff, where the urban decay is so visible. I felt in many ways that I was in the Land of Contradictions, so I’ve been thinking about how to write in a way that really honors that. I’m working on a (more polished) piece about it, so stay tuned.

Last week I was in Portland where my best friend from elementary school lives. We did our usual gallivanting – thrifted for butter dishes and books, saw that amazing Moth Storyslam, adopted a cat. We also went to #realOregon for a sheep to shawl festival that I got very excited about. I’m an avid knitter and also am interested in the political implications of knowing about how we get our clothes (knit and otherwise). I’d never been to a shearing, so watching a llama get its hair taken off was actually super interesting.

But perhaps the best part was seeing people spin yarn out of fiber using nothing more than drop spindle. For some reason I thought that you needed the big machinery of a loom in order to spin yarn, but it appears that for a more traditional practice you only need a funny looking little wheel on a hook. As my friend remarked, it really does make you think about all the effort that goes into making a garment by hand. Sure, we do have factories now and different processes are more automated, but there are still so many hands that go into making the things that we buy (much too cheaply for the labor, I might add).

I’ve been thinking a lot about things that we take for granted: clothes, food, safety. Coming back from the trip, I found myself reading Vandana Shiva’s Staying Alive and Googling restorative justice programs. I don’t yet have a clear picture of what I’ll do with all this information – for instance, even though I now possess a drop spindle, I doubt I’ll start making all my clothes by hand. But at the event, I felt humbled and encouraged by the storyteller’s rendering of their friend’s life. Through their use of language, they elevated the ordinary and left me chewing on ideas of how to do the same.