When you allow it to, how far does your mind wander?
As I stood at Grand Central Counter this morning, trimming dozens of pieces for quilt blocks, my mind wandered. I mused. I ruminated. I pondered.
My mind wandered widely and freely, not always deeply, but in ways so satisfying.
And this pondering, it occurred to me, is one of the reasons I love to make things by hand.
As much as I desire an endeavor that engages me and makes me focus and solve problems, as much as I want a mental challenge from the making I do, I realize that I also want periods of mindlessness, or at least of repetitive action that requires only minimal thinking.
I love to ponder and let my thoughts wander. I spend a huge amount of time in my own head, in introspection.
Almost none of this is meaningful or profound thinking. I just wonder about things. When I was child, I wondered about the fact that Santa and Satan had the same exact letters in their names . . . surely that must mean something but what? Hmmm . . .
Similarly, I pondered Skitch Henderson and Mitch Miller. Skitch and Mitch, such funny names, and they both were on TV and they both made music and they had similar facial hair.
Were they related? Surely there must be a connection but what? Hmmmm . . .
Some of my pondering has been a bit weightier, it’s true.
When I was a grad student, I needed to ponder the ideas for my never-ending dissertation. When I was teaching college, I needed to ponder ways to get difficult concepts across to my students. When I retired, I needed to ponder what would make me feel productive and good about the rest of my life.
So, yes, I am given to pondering. But I’ve found that if you just sit around and stare into space and ponder, it makes other people nervous. They think you’re wasting time or that you’re bored and they need to amuse you.
I’ve always needed a socially-acceptable cover for my ruminating. I get it to some extent, like I know many of you do, from walking. I like to take long walks—I like the exercise and, I swear, some of my best pondering occurs then.
But my feet have never been able to wander as much as my brain wants to ponder.
And that’s where making comes in. All of the creative activities I like best have processes that are necessary and important but also repetitive and easy and undemanding.
Tempering chocolate—Each batch takes about 40 minutes of simple stirring, and it can’t be rushed. Some days, I temper 4-5 batches over the course of the day. So much time to ponder . . .
Winding warp—I stand at the warping board and make the same basic movements maybe 600 times, to arrive at the numbers of threads I need to put on my loom. Lots of time to ponder . . .
Quilting—On the machine, I sew the same short seams over and over, to create the small blocks from which to create more complex ones. At the quilting frame, I make thousands of tiny, rhythmic stitches to turn the fabric into a bed cover. Endless time to ponder . . .
I ponder big and I ponder small. What will I wear to dinner tonight? How come people believe in God? What do people see in rap music? Should I increase the insulin dose I’m giving the cat? What in the world will I blog about next? Hmmmm . . .
I can get away with all this pondering because I’m engaged in making something and I appear to be busy and to be concentrating very hard. No one wants to interrupt another person if they are concentrating very hard!
So, how about you? Do you use your gardening time, your crocheting time, your kneading or stitching or purling time, to ponder?