I didn’t write a post yesterday, because I had a HORRIBLE afternoon. I’m tired and lurgy, so I was in no mood to go to my Tea Ceremony lesson, but I decided to be stern with myself (it’s a few hours out of my afternoon, it’s not that demanding an activity, the serene atmosphere would make me feel better, etc). So, when work ended, I wrapped myself in my scarf and coat, trudged to the station and plonked onto the Kinomoto train, where I sat in an unhappy daze with my scarf beside me… until I stood up and left it on the train!
And it was THAT scarf! My soft blue, lamb’s wool scarf that Kin chose the yarn for. My second-ever knitting project! I only finished it a few weeks ago, on the way back from Tokyo and it’s already gone.
I actually DID remember my scarf before the train got away, so I raced back along the platform with a JR employee and scoured the carriages for it, but some rotten sod had whipped it in the time it took us to get back there! I hoped so much that they’d simply picked it up to hand in to lost property, but it was not to be.
Tea Ceremony was a sad experience that day. Not only had it cost me my lovely scarf, lugging my bag around had given me a headache and I was far too wooly-headed and unhappy to actually learn anything. By seven, I decided that the day was a write-off, so I bid my sensei farewell and left early to catch the seven thirty train.
…and missed it. So I had an hour to sit scarfless in the cold, reflecting on how much nicer everything would be right then if I’d been less strong willed and had just gone home when I wanted to. Now I wasn’t going to be home until nine AND I still had to make dinner and wash my hair. As far as first-world problems go, I was suffering badly last night.
Kin, thankfully, knows how to put me back together, so I didn’t have time to take off my coat before he bundled me off for steak and cheap wine at the imitation Italian joint down the road (bless him). A decanter of dodgy white is generally all it takes to improve my outlook (not to mention my headache) so I felt much better about the world before very long at all.
So what was the take-away from my unhappy evening (since “wine makes everything better!” is probably not a good moral)?
While I was still shivering in the dark, I thought that the moral to this story was that if you really, really don’t want to do something, you’re a lot better off not doing it. Revived by steak and sauvignon blanc, I still broadly agreed with that point of view, but could remember what that tired, chilly Gem could not; that the whole reason I’d dragged myself out was because I’ve been not-doing far too much lately! So maybe the lesson is really that it’s important to determine and maintain acceptable levels of activity, so that you don’t have to force yourself to do things when it genuinely is a bad time for you.
I actually like the second moral, even if it’s not very catchy, but I thought of an even better one today. I was really very, very sad about my scarf; I treasure my clothes and homewares, because I don’t have a lot of money to spend on that sort of thing. When that’s the case, and something happens to one of your possessions, it’s something of a tragedy. This time is different. I loved my scarf; it was lovely, soft and expensive, but…
I can make another one.
A good scarf is bloody hard to find. Actual wool scarves cost a fortune and even finding a decently pretty acrylic is a matter of waiting until a shop finally has what you want and snapping it up the second it goes on sale (if it does). And if you lose it or stain it, it’s gone. You can’t have that scarf again. You have to resume waiting for the next pretty thing to turn up and hope that you have the money for it.
But my scarf wasn’t irreplaceable. Hours went into making it, but I was learning the entire time and now I know I can make it again; much, MUCH faster. I no longer have to wait for someone to design and produce a scarf for me at a price I can afford. It might not seem like much, but it shows how important it can be to an individual to develop a bit of independence in the production process.
(I’m trying to avoid the “teach a man to fish” parable here, but it just keeps seeming more appropriate with every word.)
This has made me more determined than ever to beg Beans for sewing lessons, stock up on crochet hooks and practice my knitting. Back when everyone could make things, I suppose store-bought items were a luxurious option. Now, though, we’re uncomfortably reliant on them; and the quality is dropping. Otherwise, why can no woman in the world find a blouse that is the right size for her knockers AND her waist? Not to mention opaque enough not to show her bra?
I don’t think we should all stop buying things; humans have always produced and traded goods, even when we were just doing it within our own villages. Our village is a lot larger now, but I love our interconnected world and I have no wish at all to shut myself away from it. I just think that it’s important for individuals (and communities) to keep their options open. In this case, if we had a little more independence when it came to making our own basic clothing, the products on the market would probably reflect the change.
Now think: If a certain amount of independence is important for luxuries like pretty clothing, how much more important must it be for things like housing and food? And how capable are you of separating yourself from the marketplace for both?
I’m not, very. When we’re in Australia, I produce a lot of the vegetables we eat, but when it comes to grains, meat and fruit, we’re totally reliant on outside providers. And I’m a fairly accomplished cook, so foodwise, we’re more independent than most.
I don’t actually mind buying most of my food; I’m pretty sure the dude who made the best flint tools traded for a lot of his as well. But I’m very glad that I don’t need to depend on anyone else to turn those raw materials into meals for me. And it worries me how much other people my age DO seem to need it.
But when it comes to housing, I am hopeless. Both of my parents are competent with their hands, but I’m utterly useless. Carpentry is something I’ve desperately wanted to learn for years, just not desperately enough to do more about than search for local courses a few times a year and give up when I don’t find any. I should have bought a book, gone to open days at Bunnings or hired a carpenter to teach me some of the basics. When I get home, I will do those things, or whatever else needs to be done, and when I hire a specialist, it will be for a specialist job.
I plan on being a lot more independent in future. I will still work within my profession and make money. And with that money, I will still participate in the world’s trading. But I’ll have the ability to be a lot more particular about what I’m buying.
THAT is what my carelessness on the train has taught me. I feel stronger when I think of what I’ve already learned and I feel very, very good about the new things that I will learn and the new independence that will grow from it.
(….but… Oh! My lovely scarf!)
Are you growing, making or otherwise trying to keep a bit of distance between yourself and the markets of the world? How are you working on it?