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Sunday, October 18, 2009

remnants of the day

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I'm not very good at putting things away. Going on three months after Lesley & Brian's wedding, there is still evidence of it out in plain view. Peter's wedding shoes in which he stood as Man of Honor for his sister are on the living room floor, and Lesley's cleaned and boxed gown sits in the treadmill room. Peter has no need or room for these shoes on the ship, and Lesley & Brian already have more books, pots & pans and clothes than they can accommodate in their small NY apartment. Where would they store this big box, on top of the TV?



We ourselves have too much stuff. Don and I grumble about it now and then.

But let me veer from that thought. Let's look at the stuff. I want to express gratitude for the ones who make it. I look at Peter's beautiful shoes, or Lesley's dreamy gown made by Mika in NY, and when I stop and think of the skill and dexterity it took to make them, I have to pause.

Once when I ventured to Chicago alone for a few hours at the Art Institute, I took lunch in the little garden restaurant. When you eat alone you have to occupy yourself somehow. I had a journal and pen, and before I requested my food, while I ate it, and afterward, I sat and jotted down all the professions involved within my small sphere at that table. There was my waiter, Dan, and the cook, Charlie. A farmer named Joe raised the vegetables and the chicken was probably grown in one of those big factories. Elsa at a pasta company poured ingredients into a big vat to mix the dough. There was the dishwasher Sammy who might have burned his hand with the steamy sprayer. Sarah ran the machine that manufactured the linens after a farmer named Michael grew the flax (read here if you think that's an easy job). Todd designed and laid out the menu and another few people printed and laminated it. Who made the plastic for the lamination? Ellen designed the plates and glasses, and Leiton mixed the ingredients and molded them in just the right process. Lisa in brown delivered the big boxes of heavy dishes to the restaurant at the end of a long day of deliveries, at about 6:30pm. And of course there were many other designers, planners and makers - just around my restaurant table.

I have not done any of these things. I've cooked, but not for a whole restaurant. I could probably design a menu. But I would have no clue how to pour the ink into a machine to print it. Have you noticed how we notice mistakes and flaws (Just look at that splotch of ink there!), but rarely do we notice, let alone appreciate, a job well done in the normal realm of daily life?

To make a pair of shoes?! That is an art that has always fascinated me. What a collection of tools a shoemaker must have to craft those gorgeous seams and shape the heel! Look at this shoemaking book illustrating how to "last the back" with pincers, nails, and patience. Or better yet, watch this 3 minute video of a guy making a shoe by hand. See how important his own bare feet are:





I could probably have sewn Lesley's wedding gown, but would she have wanted to wear it? Poor thing. She would have, to please her mother. In the last photo, taken by the wedding photographer Mihaela Avasiloaie, Lesley's gown which was made by Mika, thank goodness, waits for her to put it on behind the spinning wheel that was passed down on my mother's side. Someone made that old piece of technology with their hands - carving, sanding, waxing and assembling so it works (still works). What women spun wool on this wheel? Lesley dreams of raising her own sheep, shearing them and spinning wool for knitted garments she designs. Imagine the satisfaction in the completion of that circle. She won't be doing that in NYC. Some stuff has to be spread out.

















Last photo by Mihaela Avasiloaie

67 comments:

Gwen Buchanan said...

Hi Ruth, how our minds want to fill up with thoughts... amazing aren't they... we try to make peace with ourselves ...

Weddings are rather like Christmas..with all the build-up , then the event, then... we are left with ourselves to think...

.... About 35 years ago I found a pair of very old shoe-lasts in a tumbled-in stone foundation not far from my dad's camp in the woods.. Later I discovered that a cobbler had lived there.. I have always treasured them... They were one of the things that never burned in my fire.


... You have made me reminiscence once again...

Susan said...

Well, just so you know, I will now have to stop writing my blog, because no way, no how could I ever compete with your writing...not that we're in competition, but...I'm just sayin'.

Ruthie, your mind works in ways that would never cross my imagination and we're all the richer for it. I love that you think about all the people who are responsible for a simple meal.

I've actually thought about having a favorite pair of shoes replicated by a shoe craftsman. The company that made mine no longer makes that design, of course, and I thought I would never again have another pair that was as comfortable. After much searching and complaining, I finally, FINALLY, found what I've been looking for. I had to pay a pretty big price for them, but I know I'll wear them for years and years. I'm already thinking, "Should I go buy another pair and put them in storage to have when these wear out?" I know, I'm a little nutty about it, but it's so hard for me to find the right shoes.

Barry said...

A very thoughtful post, Ruth. It is amazing what we don't notice and don't appreciate.

Ah, but let there be a flaw, of any kind, and it come immediately to our attention!

How spoiled we are.

ellen abbott said...

I love this post Ruth, it compliments my own of a few days ago so well.

We also have too much stuff and since we are moving to a new place, we are taking the opportunity to really think about what we actually and what we actually have. Lots of stuff is not being moved.

California Girl said...

Good Morning! When you think of all the time, effort and resources that go into anything, it seems criminally wasteful to never use again or recycle. One of the best aspects of this severe recession is people are being more careful with "things" and purchases. People are not acquiring so easily nor are they throwing away so easily. I would guess second hand stores and consignment shops are doing quite well.

Kat said...

What wonderful thoughts. I love your posts.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Yes, we have been thinking alike, haven't we? You know, I always take time to be grateful for the washing machine. Just imagine if we did not have one!!

Pat said...

We had to pare down an AWFUL lot when we sold our house and began traveling. BUT we still do have a storage unit filled with STUFF.

Yes, we do take things for granted, and you did make me stop and think after reading your post. Thanks for that.

That video was unbelievable. I don't have any sound on my laptop (sigh) so I don't know if there was any talking, but I was amazed how the man used his feet as "tools" to hold the shoe. I wonder if he ever hurt himself tacking on the material to the sole? He came awfully close to his foot. Unbelievable.

CottageGirl said...

You are amazing! Ruth, you on a very sensitive journey as you spend time on this earth.
For you to imagine of all of the people that were involved in making your lunch a pleasant experience is quite remarkable. I usually only think of the waitress and the chef when I'm at a restaurant, not every single person who had any hand in the process of my experience!
You continue to open my eyes to new thoughts and experiences.
Thank you.

shicat said...

Stuff, now that's something I can talk about.Too much, yes, and it's such a responsibility,cleaning it, storing it.
Leaving things out from a special day is a nice reminder of the time. I do the same thing.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if your daughter could raise the sheep, spin the yarn, design the clothing. How rewarding.
Really how much stuff do we need? Maybe it would be better to forgoe the stuff in order to live a life of our choosing? Of course there would be a lot of sacrifice. I think it would be worth it as long as you could survive, although I'm rather spoiled at this point.
Maybe that's what farmers did/do work a city job in order to afford farming. On and on I go. So many dreams so many seed to sow.

ds said...

Ruth, Peter's shoe truly is a work of art (fascinating video, btw, and an excellent reminder of just where our 'things' that we take so for granted come from: a barefoot cobbler); Lesley's gown also. Stunning (as was the bride)! Tell her that her dream is doable: a dear friend's family raised Merino sheep & first sold the wool; then the mother began spinning and weaving it herself, eventually offering lessons, and developed a business that thrives today.
The spinning wheel reminds me of the one in my mother's dining room, and the others in her attic, along with more treasure; once we had a cobbler's bench, but it is probably gone now, along with the great vat in which my grandmother mixed our bread every week...So many memories. And all because you visited the Art Institute in Chicago and took note of who was responsible for what.
Thank you.

Jo said...

Ruth,

For my own wedding,my mother made my dress.So I had no choice but to wear it!Never-the-less, it was a lovely gown made with so much love for me, her daughter.The feeling I got by wearing on the occasion was simply priceless!Plus my mother got all the bragging rights that day!

Loring Wirbel said...

There's a lot of subtle gratitude displayed in this post, the kind we almost never see from people around us. I sort of expect it from you, Ruth. It's not like someone should stand up and say "Thanks" every time fresh milk is delivered to the coffee shop they visit every morning, but how often do people understand and recognize what constitutes their electrical grid, their communication network, etc.? Instead, it's just "Oh, electricity is magical juice that comes out of the wall." When gratitude and comprehension is replaced with eyes-glaze-over and magical thinking, that's the point at which people can be hoodwinked (or at which they hoodwink themselves).

J.G. said...

Thank you for reminding me of a happy memory: My mother was a very capable self-taught seamstress who used an ancient sewing machine. She made my wedding dress. She spent three days just looking at the lace, laid out with the tissue pattern pieces, before she had the courage to cut it out. And when it was finished, it was perfect.

Nancy said...

Great way of thinking. Sometimes I think the same types of things - especially when it comes to old things, or places. Old homes, especially. I always wonder what life stories played out between those walls, generation after generation.

Nathalie said...

Ruth what an excellent post. How our minds wander from one thing to the next... but you're right: in this world and age we rarely manage to complete a full cycle on our own, eating our own veggies, if only that)and we depend on others for pretty much every step of our lives.

I can use a computer and a car but there's no way I could fix either of them if they crashed, let alone build them.

Thank you very much for the video showing the shoemaker's work. It's a salubrious reminder of the time and skill involved.

Your blog is an invitation to THINK and PONDER and it's a wonderful thing.

Nathalie said...

BTW your "blasphemy" post was a most entertaining one, so well written it painted vivid images in front of my eyes. Yes it was blasphemy to me, I hate the cold, but your words made for a magnificent read so you're absolved :-)

Peter said...

Wonderful to see things, handmade, possibly with the love of making it all nice! Not much left of it today and often you find this made by underpaid people, often children, in some Asian country. ... perhaps not with the perfect love feeling of making a good job, which is understandable.

Anyhow, Peter’s shoes look very nice, in good shape, probably comfortable...

I spent last week sorting things in my mother’s flat which she now has left, finally putting most things in big plastic bags, to be given or put in dust bins. I also thought about all the love that had been behind a lot of these things, already when they were manufactured, chosen, bought... and now worth “nothing”! Frustrating and sad job!

Bella Rum said...

What a thought provoking post. I love your perspective, and how right you are about how we notice the flaws and often allow a job-well-done to go unnoticed. We often live our lives, consuming as we need, without considering how many hands or how many lives have labored to sustain us. Wonderful post.

dutchbaby said...

What a great exercise to stop to realize how many cogs in the machine of civilization it takes to bring us the comfort we take for granted.

Peter's shoes look like they are very comfy. The shoe video was impressive; thanks for sharing it.

Can I tell you how happy I am to hear that you are not good at putting things away? It's a daily battle isn't it?

Deslilas said...

One can love shoes without being a fetish-addict. Feet support us as long as they can and we don't take care of them enough.
We've quite the same spinning wheel, it came from Finland.

photowannabe said...

Thanks Ruth for stepping inside my head and making me think. I love how you thought about everyone involved in the creation of something.
I adore the last picture of your daughters wedding dress behind the spinning wheel. I hope her dreams do come true.

Babs-beetle said...

There are so many things we take for granted, not really seeing the craftsmanship that goes into making the every day things we see around us.

rauf said...

'Do you know what goes behind this ?'
Do you know how this shirt reached you ?
'Do you know how food reaches your table ?'
do you understand the efforts behind it or how many people involved ?
They don't happen at the push of a button

Ruth, these are the questions i ask the youngsters always. Young people always expect things to happen just by pushing buttons or from the keypad. They have no respect for dignified labour. They get so dejected when computers or machines fail or when the power goes off, most frequently in India.

shoreacres said...

Smiling, I am. I see my boats as analogs to Peter's shoes ~ floating tributes to the fleet of craftspeople who bring them to life.

Beyond that, you've reminded me of the sheer joy of quality. On my first trip to NYC, I was young, timid, but determined to "shop". I went to one of "those" stores on Fifth Avenue and put myself in the hands of an extraordinarily kind staff. I wanted a suit, something that could endure the test of time. Three hours later, I had my suit.

That suit is still in my closet - a tiny black and white houndstooth check, box pleats, a high-waisted, fitted and fully lined jacket with one of "those" names in it. The polished wool looks as though it's just come out of the showroom, and the style is as good today as it was then. In "things" as in literature, quality is why the classics endure.

One more note: I've learned to love, not fear and despise, wealthy people. The rich make my work possible. Those who would bring down the monied classes simply because of their wealth would affect untold numbers of people. Justice and fairness? Of course. Decent conditions of employment? Yes. But the business owners and executives I work for are the ones willing to pay for quality. In their own way, they encourage me to keep on producing it.

Jeanie said...

What a fascinating way to look at things -- and I sure learned something. In Japan there is a saying when people sit down to eat which phonetically is i-ta-da-kee-mas (I have no idea how to really spell it). We've been saying this in our household for ages. It basically means "thanking the food chain" which includes all the people who make it, grow it, right down to the chicken or whatever itself. Such a gentle daily reminder that it isn't just a fabulous cook or any one person who does it all. Your post takes that to every level, and I like that.

Annie said...

Great post again and I love the poem below. (too tired to think of anything else to say :-))

~*~Magpie's Nest said...

Life is all about the details, isn't it!
Love your thoughtfulness and how you express it!
The video of making a shoe was fascinating ... it is so easy to take things for granted in this good and full life we live ... thank you for making me think about that Ruth!
~*~ Patty

Oh said...

Ruth - you know you got me with the picutre of the shoes on the rug and the big box of gown. And all the ensuing thoughts. Just lovely.

Also, please know that last, I have gotten on the bandwagon, leaped into the rink and come up iwth a name or two for the rockin' bloggin' roller derby derby-ettes, in answer to your challenge over at Arti's place!

Ruth said...

Gwen, oh yes the mind races and flips and turns. I don't mind when it works on something like this little lunch time project. It is one way for me to occupy it in a helpful way. So often I get to the university after my drive and I realize my mind had been whirring and I have no idea about what.

I have seen your studio and home with the beautiful beautiful found objects. You adopt them as worthy children - reborn!

Ruth said...

Susie, what you do and say and think are treasures, and we need your voice too. I so appreciate your encouragement, always.

If your foot is hard to fit, or you have a hard time finding shoes, of course you should do whatever it takes to make your feet comfortable. My dad - Mr Frugality - said we spend most of our time on our feet or in our bed, so we should invest in shoes and mattresses accordingly.

Ruth said...

Barry, when I read the four book series The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg, in the third book The Settlers when they created their home in Minnesota, I read with my mouth open realizing that every thing they had they had to make or build, except a few things they got from the general store - which was a great distance and hard to travel. From clearing the land to cutting timbers into logs for the home, growing food, making clothes. Yes we are spoiled.

Ruth said...

Ellen, I guess that is one of the good things (and bad things) about moving: really looking at our stuff and what to keep and move.

A lot of the time I feel unworthy of this house and its contents because I do not love them well enough. By that I mean I am not attentive to them.

Ruth said...

Morning to you, California Girl. A few months ago I heard an NPR report that second hand stores are indeed doing very well.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Kat.

Ruth said...

Pamela, if I did not have a washing machine, I would have far fewer clothes.

Ruth said...

Pat, there was no talking in the video, just the sound of his hammer tap tap tapping. I was amazed that he didn't hit his foot or fingers too. But I imagine he's been there done that.

Ruth said...

Thank you for that, CottageGirl. I find that we are all aware of different things. That's why we need each other.

Ruth said...

Cathy, I could not agree more. I know for a fact that I would be happy in one room with a few essentials. In fact I think it would be very joyful for me. I just don't have the will to get there. For one thing, I tell myself that my children should have these things that belonged to my ancestors, like the spinning wheel.

Ruth said...

DS, your friend's family is doing it! That is awesome. Gwen, the first commenter in this post, has done it too. She is an artisan who knows how to start at the beginning and get all the way to the end.

When I used to make quilts and did the stitches by hand I wondered if women of the previous generations would have quilted by hand if they'd had sewing machines? I think the work is more beautiful when it is "uneven" in a hand-stitched way. We each have our own sensibilities about these things.

Ruth said...

Jo, your mother making your dress made the experience a hundred times more meaningful. I had two things like that for Lesley's wedding. One, she knitted me a summer shawl/scarf to wear when I was chilly. It is so gorgeous, and I felt honored that the Bride made me something to wear. Two, my two sisters Bootsie and Nancy spent a total of 7 hours altering the dress I wore, which had only one size left in the whole country, and it was too large. I hardly thought about the dress the entire evening because it fit so perfectly.

Ruth said...

Loring, that's an important point. Being attentive to what surrounds us results in everything being taken care of better, whether it's a pair of shoes or the community in which we live.

Ruth said...

J.G., now I have to thank you for that image of your mother. Splendid.

My dad bought me an old Singer when I was a teenager, one of the heavy old black ones that never wear out. I'm sure the new plastic models are wonderful with fancy stitches, but I loved my machine.

Ruth said...

Nancy, you remind me. A lady I know is into esoteric, paranormal stuff, and when she visited our house she said, "I could never live in an old house - there are too many people here!" - meaning the ones who lived here before.

Strangely enough that thought has not bothered me even at night. Well I am not afraid of those energies like I used to be.

Ruth said...

Nathalie, I am so happy to see you. You bring reason and artistry to the world, and I feel it whenever you come here or I go to Avignon to visit you virtually. You have a decency about you that touches me; that word sounds mundane, but in you it is a vibrant reality. Thank you so much.

Yes, I know I am obnoxious to be wishing the cold season upon us. It is more visual than anything. But the cold comes with the visuals, and I accept it, even though my extremities don't like it much.

Ruth said...

Peter, oh and there is that, the sorting through our parents' things that have now come to nearly nothing. It is sad. Each of us in my family took small things that meant something to us. Don found some things I missed that I'm so glad he did, like a small pair of silver tongs I use at the holidays. It must be difficult to be away from your mother now, but it's good you get back to her as needed.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Bella, I know you understand.

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, I am not good about taking care of all our things. I tell myself I am better than some. But I feel the guilt a lot. I will keep trying to live in the moment and not worry about what I can't get done. Hope you can do that too.

Ruth said...

Bonjour, Daniel. I could have a shoe fetish if I let myself. I have to be careful. Well I've gotten used to being careful, so I don't have to be as careful now.

I think this spinning wheel came from England.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Sue. I don't know if Mihaela set that photo up, or if Lesley had hung her dress there. I'm guessing it was a set-up. I was surprised to see it in the album and liked it very much too. It has meaning, probably Mihaela didn't even know. Lesley is an artisan, and then all those women who spun wool on that wheel, together.

Ruth said...

Babs, yep. Believe me, I am not this reflective most of the time.

Ruth said...

rauf: "dignified labour." That is a good phrase.

I've noticed this too about young people, and sometimes myself, that if I am delayed even a minute or two waiting in line, or I am without my computer for one half day, I am annihilated.

Each maker deserves respect.

Ruth said...

Linda, I enjoyed hearing about your suit, that investment, and I LOVED where you went with the comment about wealthy people. Oh yes, there are reverse snobs everywhere, and it is no less abhorrent than the other kind. You make a good point that we need the rich to keep investing in our communities. Just as Jesus said, "the poor you always have with you" we always have the rich, thankfully. You really got me thinking with that, thank you.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, however you spell it, the thought is perfect. I do that sometimes too, picked it up from a Native American writing. To sit and thank all those who grew the food.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Annie. Hope you get some rest. I know new babies are a lot of work and at odd times.

Ruth said...

Patty, you could tell that shoemaker has been making shoes a long time. I would have pounded my toes or fingers at every other blow. I did not expect such a pretty shoe at the end, what a surprise.

Ruth said...

Hi, Ohyounuttin. :D Let's skate!

Annie said...

Thanks for the comment. Removed the post anyway because I thought it didn't suit my blog after all.

Ruth said...

Oh, well, Annie, I can say I'm glad I got to see that red ensemble.

VioletSky said...

Between your post and several comments, I see so much inspiration.
You are a master of the segue!

Ruth said...

Ha, Violetski, I will accept that designation! :)

Oliag said...

Beautiful shoes against a red carpet!...I love the photo...

There are very few left who remain self-sufficient...I for one enjoy being part of a community that depends upon each other for all our needs and wants...It is a good thing to step back and be grateful for the entire community it takes to live our lifestyle...

Did you know that the actor Daniel Day Lewis has become a shoe-maker?...an unusual hobby for a very interesting man...

lesleyanne said...

i do love this post. it is amazing to think about the work that goes into each little thing in our lives! i love the processes and starting from scratch.

i definitely would have worn a wedding dress handmade by you. you know, it was always a dream of mine to design, embroider and make my wedding dress!! but when it got down to it, i just couldn't find the time. perhaps if i didn't have a day job! :)

ps. thank you for preserving and storing my gown! :)

Ruth said...

Oliag, wow, no I had never heard about Daniel Day Lewis - how cool is that! Maybe he was inspired by "My Left Foot" ;-).

Your Outstanding Field dinner is a terrific way to connect with local farmers, I just love it.

Ruth said...

Wesrey, you're sweet. I would have loved making you a dress too. It might have taken longer than your engagement though. :|

Ginnie said...

Years ago I had a British friend in college who had very few clothes which she wore over and over again. We talked about it once...that quality was more important to her in her world culture (back in the 60s, that is) than quantity. I have never forgotten that, Ruth. This post is definitely about that for me: quality! It stands the test of time.

Ruth said...

I like where that sent you, Boots.