THE SACRED FAMILY #4: MAKING SOMETHING FROM NOTHING

This Sacred Family post is about celebrating the process of creation. I love making things: making anything! I think my interest in craft and creating has always stemmed from fascination of the amazing process that happens when you take a bunch of raw materials and turn them into something else … it feels like magic! When I am cooking from scratch I feel like an alchemist or sorceress intent upon the transformations happening in my cauldron. When I am spinning yarn I feel like an old revered Grandmother transforming the wisdoms of the past into something tangible for the future. When I am sewing or knitting or making felt I feel like a magician – voila! Look what I have made! Sometimes I create just for the satisfaction and curiosity of the transformation process, taking apparently unrelated ingredients and creating something completely different. Sometimes it is to challenge my creativity, sometimes it is for the healing benefits, the time to sit, and the opportunity to allow my thoughts to wander freely while my hands are still busy. I am always proud of what I make, even if I am not quite sure of what to do with it when I am finished!!

My husband is a creator as well. For his birthday last year he bought himself a ukulele kit and has spent snatched moments of time lovingly forming all those bits and pieces into a quality (and very beautiful) ukulele that he now plays almost every evening. He also turned the wood from a table into a toddler bed, which has since been taken apart, rebuilt into a work-table, then taken apart again and bits of it used for other projects around the house. Any scraps left have been squirreled away by our son for his on-going hammerings in the garage. Everything has value and it simultaneously pleases me and frustrates me to see both my husband and my son scrutinising every item for its construction potential … as a result some items we are NOT finished with also may become ‘reused’ if we are not careful!

Creating something out of ‘nothing’ is extremely satisfying; however what intrigues me the most is the level of steps some products we use daily go through in order to reach their final transformation. Have you made paper before? Isn’t it incredible to think that the white, flimsy bits of stuff we write on were once strong, living trees? I think I blew my son’s mind when I told him how paper was connected to trees. There is an intense industrial process behind most of the end-products we use, a process that we just don’t consider when we go shopping.

My two-year old had all the answers about the source of things. For a while she was quite convinced that everything came from a ‘dog bone’. Honestly I have no idea where this idea came from, but who am I to contradict her? It made complete sense to her and she was satisfied with the idea of dog bones as the source of all creation. Science is definitely not needed here when the answer to everything is so obvious!

In other ways, we like to explore the origin of things – in cooking for example. For a long time our children have been asking where different kinds of food come from (this was around the time that the ‘dog bone’ explanation surfaced. Did you know that ham comes from a dog bone?). Our dinner is occasionally analysed and compartmentalised into food that is grown in the ground, on trees, from animals or IS an animal. It makes for interesting discussion.

I used to teach a class of preschoolers who had no experience of shopping with their parents and believed that food came from the fridge. It was just always there and the fridge replenished itself like the Magic Pudding. Milk and eggs came from a carton and, for one child in particular, the thought of milk coming from a cow was just repulsive. The fact that an egg comes out of a chicken’s bottom sent her off food for a while and her parents were not happy with me for facilitating this juicy discussion among the children! This realisation astounded me and I then began to take the children on little excursions to the fruit and vegetable shop, and the supermarket (we were lucky these places were within walking distance of the kindergarten!) so that we could buy ingredients for our class cooking. I wish we could have gone to a farm, but those are scarce in an inner city.

I am lucky now that I live in area that is both city and country in one. Twenty minutes in either direction can have me amongst the sky scrapers, or viewing those sky scrapers from the top of green rolling pasture on a mountain. We have a few local dairies nearby and it is a pleasure to take my children there to buy milk.  The first time I took the children unleashed a world of wonder and awareness about animals and milk – the fact that it is a food that is made INSIDE AN ANIMAL is an amazing concept, and watching the cows being milked in a no-nonsense but also loving and respectful way (on the part of the farmer) was an incredible experience for my children. See the three-day old calf! Mum is that the bull? What are they eating? Look at them doing wees wherever they want to! – my two-year-old was particularly fascinated with this – and then the questions about milk,  which eventually lead to questions about my own breasts and how they produce milk for my babies (“…my body makes the best milk when I eat nutritious food, and stay happy and relaxed, just like the cows do…”). There was so much gained in a 45 minute visit to the cows.

After the visit we then we took our milk home and made yogurt, and from the yogurt we make cream cheese and whey. The whey we used to soak our oats and ferment some vegetables. The cream cheese we enjoyed on home-made bread and crackers. We were discoverers and experimenters, delighting in taking one thing and turning it into many other things. We were magicians.

Another experience visiting the source of things was my son’s recent school excursion to a farm show. Ok – it was a bit commercial and showy, but the children did watch a sheep being sheared, and some children were able to have a go at clipping the fleece. I work a lot with fleece in my own felt-making and so this experience excited me. I brought my spinning wheel into school after the excursion and showed the children how raw fleece can be transformed into yarn: the wool is carded, spun, washed, dyed, knitted and then worn as a garment! It is magic! It really is! Thoughts like this often swirl around my mind when I am making felt – how truly wonderful it is to take part in creating something useful and beautiful from something that has seemingly no value at all. How clever of someone to even THINK of using such raw materials in the first place, and then centuries of experimentation and discovery going into perfecting the process of transformation.

I see it in my children, this excitement about creation: as I mentioned, my son has always been a constructor – always ‘finding’ random items from various places around the house and making something incredible with them. I have loved watching the process of creation unfold within him. Now, at almost six years of age, his play has changed from building wonderlands with blocks and chairs (anything not tied down, actually), to constructing with paper and collage. His day starts at 5:30am (earlier sometimes) at his craft table, arms whirling like the arms of goddess Kali wielding scissors, glue, staplers, sticky tape, pencils, hole punchers and creating something different every time. It is a pretty messy process, and I have to admit the mess drives me to distraction, but I don’t always wish to burst his bubble of inspiration with practical considerations.  All the same, I love it, I love watching my children work and construct, I love watching their faces change expressions as they are clearly having a great idea, and I love the fact that they see their mum and dad, and their grandparents too (where do you think WE got it from?) in the same processes. We all get consumed by inspiration at one point. It is a bit rough on the house when inspiration hits us all at once. No time for mundane tasks like housework when genius is unfolding 😉

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