Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In the details

Fall's arrival draws my eyes upwards to the shape of treetops against the deepening blue of the sky.  And invariably I think of a day in art class in seventh or eighth grade, and a watercolor still life assignment.  The subject was an arrangement of budding branches in a vase.  I spent the first few class periods working on the shape of the vase and the precise curvature and proportion of the branches.

Then came the moment to turn to the minuscule reddish-pink flowers on the branches.  And that's when I made a decision that I still think about to this day.  I felt that no one could be expected to actually paint those tiny petals individually.  I was sure I would not be blamed for merely suggesting the flowers, rather than specifying any detail.

So I washed a kind of general pink haze around those carefully delineated branches.  And then I went on to wash some blue and green behind that as a sort of paint backdrop.

It was a terrible copout, and an even worse picture.  I got a bad grade.  I can still see how awful it looked -- like I'd just given up.  Which is what I did.

Looking at those trees today, with each leaf of tens of thousands sharply evident against the sky as if pasted on by collage-style, I perceive that these details, at every scale, are a key to the meaning of life.  And I see my knitting and crocheting work as a remedy for my former negligence.  Stitch by stitch is how we have to go.  There's no way to take a short-cut or fake your way to the end; every thing you do, good ideas and bad, careful decisions and careless, become details in the finished object.  They might be details you treasure or ones you wish you could forget.  Leaf by leaf, petal by petal, stitch by stitch -- the edges clear, the individuality unmistakeable, the whole constructed thereof.

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