Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Happy New Bed

We've got a new bed: 135cm x 190cm, with a storage base. WoooooooooHOOOOOOooooooooo! I have dreamed of this day. (Actually, it was the day before yesterday. Yesterday was a public holiday, and I spent it rearranging STUFF, and filling the bed base with - oh - a spare duvet.... some extra cushions... and felt, cloth, embroidery materials, beads, rug canvas, yarn, the accumulated and - until now - crammed and less-than-accessible accumulation of years of making things. And half-making things...) I have a confession to make: In the last five years, I have gone from messy (always) to almost pathologically untidy. But I now have reason to believe that I can put a lid on it - or more precisely, a hinged 135cm x 190cm mattress base. (See previous WoooooooooHOOOOOOooooooooo! and double it, adding ridiculous skippy dance in middle of miraculously clear floor.)

I would just say that that I'm also very good at tidying up. I crave order and a sense of spaciousness, and in fact, if these were all I required of my living space, I might well live happily ever after in magnolia-walled, glass-fronted, built-in contentment. However, I love beautiful design and hand-made things around me, and I won't, can't, settle for neutral at home. It may take some time, and I might sometimes wish I could just settle, but that ain't the way it works. And I do have fun. And it nourishes my rather frazzled soul, reassuring me that there's more to us than the sorry shamefulness of what makes the headlines. Art (even art I don't like) speaks to me of human creativity and individual restless questing. In craft traditions I recognise the soul and sense of belonging and sharing. And then there's the broad, shifting Everyman's Land in between, which the academic border guards cannot keep people out of!

In Tony Hillerman's novels about Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police, he writes about the Navajo concept of Beauty, and a way of life informed by the sense of harmony between all things. Clearly, this can be a tad tricky for a police officer (and central character in a crime novel!) but there is a Beauty Way ceremony for when someone needs to restore this harmony.

Walking in Beauty:  Closing Prayer from the Navajo Way Blessing Ceremony

In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again
Today I will walk out, today everything negative will leave me
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever, nothing will hinder me.
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.
In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
My words will be beautiful…

(Brought up Roman Catholic, I was reminded of
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
         Christ behind me, Christ before me,
      Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
         Christ to comfort and restore me,
      Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
         Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
      Christ in hearts of all that love me, 
         Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. 
.. which I have just found out is from a long poem called Lorica, or St Patrick's Breastplate)

Anyway, while I am a bilagáana, the Navajo equivalent of a guíri, I see beauty above me, when I'm out and about in the city with the sky overhead. You can't beat the sky for beauty; even in the past week, when it has seemed best to view it from behind glass, wrapped in a shawl, and sustained by numerous cups of tea. Then there are trees. (Pause for quiet, reverent wow...)

And beauty beside me in the man-made details of thoughtful architecture: planes and angles, windows and doors, patterned brickwork, wrought iron, roof tiles, plasterwork. And the quirky, human happenstance of people's ordinary lives expressed in balconies of strange cacti, laundry, cagebirds singing their hearts out all day long, and solitary chairs and stools angled to catch the sun or shade. And pensioners walking their dogs, and parents pushing toddlers on swings, and the greengrocer who polishes every piece of fruit as he builds his pavement display each morning. More than enough to distract eye, ear and heart from the regular patches of spiritless and bland, and occasional outbreaks of full-on ugly. (O... M... G...!!!!!) Oops. Bad case of urban - beauty within me is always the tricky one, but the others help.

So, can I have beautiful please?  Personally, I lack the spark that makes the artist, the skill and confidence that marks the artesan, and the discipline of either. Forever the amateur, driven by enthusiasm, but hampered by two and a half thumbs and limited time and patience, my progress through painting (acrylics, water colours), drawing (pencils, pastels), needlework (dressmaking, quilting, embroidery, knitting, crochet, weaving), handicrafts (metal sculpture, origami, paper engineering, clay modelling) and gardening (pots, allotment, garden, balcony, terrace) resembles a long series of handbrake turns, or a world record number of driving lessons. Sigh. So, yes, my greatest natural talent appears to be that of creating chaos out of order, like a puppy in a wool basket - Woofdidoo! But now... 135x190... =D

Still, I know what I like, and I like a lot of things. I have a very good eye for colour, line and form. My eyes, ears and skin appreciate texture. So do my nose and taste buds: when my husband emerges from the kitchen in the evening, the fragrant steam rising from plates of home-made pie and gravy - or  salmon, tiny green peas and  dill-speckled sauce - or beer-battered chish & fips - or yesterday's bolognese sauce reworked as chilli con carne on a bed of white basmati - ooh... I succumb...

However, when I aspire to beauty at home, that's when the trouble starts, because as is apparent, I don't just look, I like to make. Now, if I did have real talent or skill (and a sense of direction...), we'd be fine, because I would have a studio for my mess, or would have developed tidy habits over time. But no. Almost inevitably, I start at one end of the sofa, with ideas, assorted materials, and a book or two; subsequently colonising the rest of the sofa, the footstool, sometimes the dining table, and occasionally the sewing machine and ironing board too; bashing away enthusiastically, and gradually narrowing it down to a central idea. I usually get a beautiful result, in the end, but getting there is an object lesson in how much mess one person can generate in a living room in a short time, and then sustain for - oh - however long it takes to work out where she's going, and how to get there. I think I've probably got worse since I  discovered Ravelry and crochet, and the amazing possibilities of a deceptively easy  handicraft that has been hammering at the doors of Art for decades now. Who knew? Oh, only thousands and thousands of people all over the world. Ooh! Freeform! Ooh! Irish crochet! Ooh! Russian crochet! Ooh! sock yarns! hand-dyed yarns! plastic! wire! Working on my skills, reading up, consulting...... If a butterfly took speed... Maybe I should change my user name to What-a-mess.

But storage permits organisation, and organisation permits order, and out of order may just come beauty.

Next time, though I want one of these!