catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 17 :: 2013.09.20 — 2013.10.03


Craft lust

A conversation about building elevated garden beds for beans and salad greens in the community garden we help out with takes me to Pinterest.  Before I know it, I’m recalling those homemade Oreos I wanted to request for my birthday dessert, browsing pallet furniture ideas and wandering ever further down a winding road lined with bunting, caramelized onions, stencils, a-million-and-four recipes for pumpkin…and, of course, good intentions.

DIY porn can distort our vision for the good life in the same way the usual kind of pornography can — by taking a good thing and abstracting it for the purposes of mass consumption and domination.  I can easily spend more hours browsing gardening and printing books than I spend actually digging in the dirt or putting ink on fabric.  Sure, there is something to be said for dreaming about seeds and growing methods in the depths of a Michigan winter, but I’m also aware that bingeing irresponsibly can grow desire way beyond the potential for satisfaction.

Whether or not I actually perform the handmade tasks I dream about, I need to acknowledge the distance between necessity and luxury. Time and technology have redrawn the boundaries of necessity in many parts of the world so that the poor, who perhaps used to depend on what could be eked out of their own plot of dirt, now depend on what can be eked out of a food desert or found on sale at WalMart.  In the meantime, I can jars of peaches not because my husband and I will starve if I don’t, but because we have the wealth, time and imagination to invest in such activities.  Even though saying yes to preserving food in season means saying no to other things — it is a choice that requires trade-offs — I still enjoy the privilege of an option other than store-bought, commercially processed food.  Popping open a jar of organic peaches in the middle of winter may be a simple, old-fashioned luxury, but it is still a luxury.

And yet, we must be able to claim some space for the goodness of handmade things between the guilt of privilege and the burden of necessity — a space in which we can honor the inherently humanizing work of the made-from-scratch, the home grown, the hand-stitched.  There is certainly something delightful about a pan of fragrant cinnamon rolls coming out of the oven or a colorful patchwork quilt made from old clothing or a Black Krim tomato, sliced open while it’s still warm from the sun.  These things are gifts from God, and also, when shared, they are gifts to and from one another.  When it’s not overshadowed by craft lust or devastating scarcity, the sense of community engendered by sharing homemade things begins to feel as essential as breathing.  In Community and Growth, Jean Vanier writes,

A community which is just an explosion of heroism is not a true community. True community implies a way of life, a way of living and seeing reality; it implies above all fidelity in the daily round. And this is made up of simple things — getting meals, using and washing dishes and using them again, going to meetings — as well as gift, joy and celebration; and it is made up of forgiving seventy times seventy-seven.

In a world that is endlessly Pinteresting, novelty has a short shelf life, but shared, daily rhythms saturated with a sense of gratitude and grace can keep us nourished even through the longest winter.  We each have a vision of what it looks like to live well, and in my mind, living well looks like a loaf of homemade bread in a bag tied with a ribbon on the neighbor’s door at Christmas, or an icon embroidered by a friend — and in some cases, as we forgive each other and ourselves seventy times seventy-seven, it even looks like Cool Whip and crushed, store-bought Oreos with gummy worms.

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