Counting Uncountable Miles

 

It’s January, and crazy-cold out there. Or maybe just crazy. But I switchback along in my studio, squinting for 2020 vision of 2019. I added 85 miles to my Appalachian Trail log, upping my total miles to 701.9. There is something satisfying about logging my miles, and yet, the numbers never do the journey justice, as numbers never do.

 

There are always uncountable miles. The blue-blazed approach trails. The side trails, some long, some to a spring I hope is running, or to a stream down a steep slope I hope I’ll be able to climb back up. The circuitous, sunset searches for the right tree with the right branch for hanging my bag of food. And all the miles I backtrack when I learn I’ve gone the wrong way.

 

Same goes for creative pursuits. Countless, uncountable miles on the way to finish even the smallest piece. Well I say: here’s to them. Here’s to the jumble of awkward-not-working-right-yet phrases and all the words which are necessary before they become unnecessary. To the hunting and seeking and tweaking and trying again. 

 

It is hard, very hard, to be patient with the slow process of learning new territory. Thanks to an inspiring week-long summer intensive on natural dyeing techniques at the Women’s Studio Workshop, my already-cluttered basement now looks like something out of Breaking Bad. Add to this a dive into letterpress printing at the Center for Book Arts. Learning curves, anyone? More like sheer cliffs. Where being in a rush can be fatal. I suspect these fine craft electives do more than enrich my art practice. I am betting they are core to an overall course in Patience itself.

 

 

Nobody explains the importance of patience more eloquently than Rainer Maria Rilke in his Letters to a Young Poet. I chose to typeset by hand and letterpress a few of his words in order to literally take them in. With justified margins and an initial cap, I might add, which was a tortuously-long, head-exploding task for an Adobe software freak like me. But it sure deepened my appreciation, in bold relief, of the centuries-rich history and aesthetic of publishing before it went bonkers.

 

So, in between the logging of miles, and in between the fabric scouring, stitching, and multiple dippings, and in between the measuring and fixing of upside-down letters, i am learning to embrace process. And to see the sometimes-strange beauty of things just as they are, at each step. To me, that counts a lot.

 

 

 

 

More to come around the bend…

6 Responses to “Counting Uncountable Miles

  • Anonymous
    10 months ago

    Karen,
    You lighten my life load with the beauty & wisdom of your process & passion of your journey. It’s a privilege to experience your work.

  • Elsa and Peter Southam
    10 months ago

    What a joy and proud privilege it is to watch your incredible artistic talents continue to evolve, embarking on new and creative processes over the years. We’ve been the recipients of thoughtful handmade gifts lovingly and patiently created over many long hours in your home studio (or basement), or in your room when you were living in Toronto. Another beautiful blog post shared with us and all those fortunate to join you in your life journey, even if vicariously, on the Appalachian Trail!

    Love, Mummeth, Dad, David

  • This is so incredibly wise. I am sharing it with all the people I know who, like you and me, labor for unpaid hours simply because the process can never be valued enough to warrant an honest invoice. But the process is so worth it even without the oh-so-satisfying results you share here. So yeah: here’s to that basement full of not-working-right-yet deliverables which are necessary before they become unnecessary. And to the hunting and seeking and tweaking and trying again. Even if the client or user can’t see the point and won’t pay for your learning curve. Cuz I’m in it for the curve!

    • Thank you for YOUR wisdom in this comment which fills me with gratitude and fuels me up for another laborious round. ‘In it for the curve,’ I love it, what a mantra!

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