When is the last time you made something, other than your bed or a quick meal? When was the last time you built, crafted, painted, composed, sketched or concocted something with your hands and a bit of imagination– that was not out of necessity or for money?
If you’d have asked me that question before the retreat in June, I would have been hard pressed to answer you. When I was young, I wrote music— and I am being very, very generous with that description so don’t get any ideas about my hidden musical talents, as they do not exist. However, I would sit down at the piano and just play something that had never been played before. Sometimes it sounded kind of amazing, but usually it sounded pretty awful to anyone within earshot. But the feeling of just sitting and creating was healing, cathartic and a way of expressing the creative force within that I was unable to do otherwise.
In my adult life, I took on cooking in the same way. I had no use for a recipe or following any instructions (hence, I was, am and will forever be a terrible baker). It was another experiment; a much needed creative outlet. Luckily for those around me, the results in the kitchen were far, far better than in the Chopin years. It was a joy to throw ingredients together, simmer, stir and saute and then share with friends.
In the business and busyness of the past few years, my kitchen adventures have become nearly non-existent. Most cooking is necessity, not art. And aside from a short stint of glorious piano lessons (glorious because of my amazing teacher and not at all because I have retained one muscle memory from a childhood of playing) the magical making of music or culinary delights- or pretty much anything else- for the pleasure of making it- has been all but forgotten.
Enter: The Sacred Feminine. While on retreat, one of the participants taught the rest of us how to make a mala: 108 beads with hand-tied knots between. As we were sorting beads and creating a pattern, before the knotting process even started, I knew I was hooked. Upon my return home, a loved one said “I’m so glad you’ve found a new hobby!” This encouragement was a catalyst for the recognition that “new” was an unnecessary modifier, as I don’t know I’ve ever had a hobby before— not like this. And at this point in my life…a hobby? How self-indulgent. How impractical. No time for that.
But craft addiction is real, and it has created a fascinating opportunity for self-reflection. Ironic how intimately my relationship to a handicraft that I learned on a women’s retreat is tied to the strict, patriarchal structure and values of my childhood. While to me, that philosophy is completely irrelevant and outdated intellectually, it still has a hold in my persona. Right from the beginning, I was trying to figure out how I could sell them, how much I would need to charge, how I could cover expenses, etc, etc, etc. I was looking to make it practical, logical, to fit into a framework that had value and was productive. In addition, I was faced with not only not being very good at something (why do something you’re not good at?) but watching people who learned the art at the very same time flying through new, beautiful creations on a daily basis. That was excellent for a dose of comparison and not good enoughness. Really? All because of a craft project? Yes.
But I have settled in. In addition to walking about 37 laps around my kitchen and eating 177 gummy bears while I’ve been writing and editing this post, I’ve regularly paused to tie a few more knots into my latest creation. I’m making malas because it brings me immense pleasure to do so. In fact, also during this writing, I gave the first one away as a gift to a dear friend. So, maybe someday I will sell them. Or maybe I will give them all away, or perhaps I will hoard them all to myself, imbued as they are, each with a different intention and mantra. But I am creating for the sake of creating. I don’t need an explanation or a reason, a chart, spreadsheet or dissertation about why I’m doing it. This is utterly revolutionary.
If, like me, you couldn’t answer the question “when did you last make something?” I urge you to do it. Pull out a sketch pad or build a table or throw together a curry— something, anything. Create for the sake of creating. Create because you can. Create because you were made to do so.