catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 13, Num 11 :: 2014.05.30 — 2014.06.12



There is a certain holiness in coupling the works of our hands with the desires of our hearts; in crafting, in shaping and reshaping the world around us. I think this happens in many ways and certainly does not have to be tangible, but there is something about manual labor that brings us back to ancient places. 

I am slowly learning that craft is not limited to scrapbooks and Popsicle sticks. My fellow laborers — my friends — on one of the farms where I work come from Michoacán, Mexico. This town is known for making beautiful guitars, recognized for their craftsmanship all around Central America and the southwest United States. Though they had no such skill in this sort of creation, the efforts of my co-workers are no less beautiful. It took my breath away the day I realized I could tell if a fence post had been placed by Antonio or placed by Jonas. Sometimes I worry that I assign too much depth to the world around me, but I feel deeply that they left their marks on the world, their signature, and for those who knew what to look for, it was subtly beautiful.

Ma, you should take art classes, I suggest, feeling out for ideas for Mother’s Day presents.

Maybe, but I’m not very craftyshe responds. I would disagree. 

When we work with our hands we become part of the world around us. On a molecular level, parts of my mother remain on the dishes she washes and no matter how many times she polishes, there is the physical residue left where she once was. I have learned to watch her after she does these things and it is the same look of satisfaction, of accomplishment, of — I dare say — wonder, that I have after I have performed a ballad. When I, with a smile, spontaneously join in to help her, it is the same prickling of the skin that I feel when someone I do not know begins to sing the words to a song I wrote.

There is something of a sea change that occurs the day a child realizes that the sweep of a broom is not only an act of love, but an art. Though it is a simple act, it must be done in a certain way and while it does not necessarily create something new, it recreates a space. Art need not be complicated and graffiti need not be subversive, and much of the time, I think they are only us crafting our space. Why polish? Why use these colors? Why carve mermaids onto ships? Why cut parts into hair? These things become part of our conversation with ourselves and with the world. 

I see my father in our yard — his escape from the office — moving his soul from rows of cubicles filled with those who often joke with me that they are dying slowly, to terraced gardens — empty now, but with green right under the surface. His sweat and — and now he has cut himself on a thorn — even his blood, become part of the soil composition; his watermark. 

There is the deep desire in us to be remembered and to make the world better. For me, this is all craft is at its root: to share something that is often unnecessary to our survival that gives us inspiration and purpose and makes us smile and reminds us to be thankful and to be better than just alright. There is an honesty and optimism in this sort of unnecessary creation that I am forever trying to understand and hold onto.

It is the father that is telling me the only thing that kept him alive in Iraq was the necklace his son made for him before he left. It is the little doodles Antonio will draw on the fence post during siesta that make him feel like we own this work, and this labor is his. It is the awful, beautiful, drawing a little sister made of me playing drums that reminds me of what I love when I have writer’s block and when I can’t even look at a guitar. We can breathe without these things, but when we breathe them in, it seems to me that everything is better.

This is not to say the superfluous works of our hands and hearts should be trusted more than stock markets and ones and zeros, or that we should neglect the fact that fences should be made well and there is a better and worse amount of space to leave between new plants that lie outside of our own whims and artistic flourishes; but for me, there is a liberation that occurs when we take what is, and imagine what could be

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