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49 Of tortoises, hares, and future-proofing

Black and white shot of Lilleshall Abbey ruinsBlack and white shot of Lilleshall Abbey ruins

And another week bites the dust. I won't bore you with the whys and wherefores, let's just say that ever since my father's Sainsbury's ram raid parking incident it's all been a bit downhill when it comes to the Aged Ps. This was supposed to be Tuesday's post, and Thursday's post would have featured a spot of knitting ... so far the knitting hasn't happened either.

Failing health isn't a fun topic, and it's one that I generally avoid, but truth be told I'm not exactly in the pink myself. It's just the same ol' same ol' ... blimmin' rheumatoid arthritis, with a side order of fibromyalgia ... I've had it since my thirties. But a decade and more down the line it's beginning to noticeably limit what I can do and the time has come for a spot of future-proofing.

The more eagle eyed among you may have spotted that 'author' and 'artisan' have swopped places in my tag line. A change marking a shift in emphasis that I've been resisting until now. In many ways it's the final step on the road from blogging as knitsofacto to blogging as me. The woolly stuff is still happening but at a pace that a tortoise would find wanting. When writing or image wrangling, on the other hand, I become a veritable hare. Working digitally is just so much more accessible when bits of you have ideas of their own about what's possible without pain. And particularly so if you're able to invest in quality lightweight cameras, and have probably always been, at heart, a photographer first and a wordsmith second.

My childhood home held on its bookshelves both a copy of Aesop's Fables - over-confident Hare loses focus, tenacious Tortoise wins the race - and a copy of Dunsany's Fifty-One Tales, which includes 'The True History of the Hare and the Tortoise'. The word 'true' has a powerful effect on a kid offered two versions of the same fiction. Dunsany's Hare possesses a highly developed sense of the absurd - a hugely desirable quality I thought - and so deliberately allows the Tortoise to triumph. This version of events is not commonly known, the story reveals, because
... very few of those that witnessed it survived the great forest-fire that happened shortly after. It came up over the weald by night with a great wind. The Hare and the Tortoise and a very few of the beasts saw it far off from a high bare hill that was at the edge of the trees, and they hurriedly called a meeting to decide what messenger they should send to warn the beasts in the forest. They sent the Tortoise.
Clearly the hare didn't understand future-proofing, but then neither did I back then

I knit to order my thoughts and to free my mind ... why would I hurry? One tortoise-like step at a time I can travel far, eventually. But slow and steady doesn't always carry the day ... blogging is a sprint and a gal who blogs must embrace her inner hare. Digital photography lets me do that in a way the 'analogue' crafty stuff just doesn't ... it's a swift(ish) pain-free route to making stuff to share with you and one that's hopefully way more future proof, for me, than my fibre-y* pursuits.

How about you? Tortoise? Hare? Neither? Both?

In my early days as a blogger I was given some great advice ... think of one or two words that encompass your intent and always blog with those words in mind. I chose 'knit' and 'connect', but quickly realised that 'connect' was redundant - blogging is connecting - and replaced it with 'evoke'. 'Knit' remained until the blog's name change when I replaced it with 'portray'. I know from your comments that a few of you have picked up on a shift that you couldn't quite pin down and I'm guessing that's it.

Etymologically a portrait, be it of a person or a thing (knitting included), 'makes present' or 'brings to view' (OED). Photography that does that can change perspectives. So can words. The woolly stuff in and of itself, not so much so. Currently I'm working on a portrait of the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey Church, a project which may well result in an artist's book, an itch I've been wanting to scratch again for a while. I really like Lilleshall, it's marked by time's ravages but it's still standing proud. As an Augustinian monastery it clearly wasn't future proof, but its remains suggest that unexpected fates can be nonetheless potent.

I thought this might interest you. Artists, curators and portrait gallery staff attempt to describe portraiture. It turns out to be a surprisingly difficult question to answer ...

This post is the last in a series that amount, almost, to a manifesto. A tad self indulgently, since returning as me I've been mapping out in my posts where I'm headed with this space.

These particular images of Lilleshall Abbey in Shropshire were processed using the Oggl app from Instamatic.

* Oh to be American and able to take the 'fibery' spelling option!


48 Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Stylized photograph of flowers.

... the process alone makes the juice worth the squeeze ...
Rick Silvestrini

As a knitter I'm far from prolific, and I'm prone to ripping back. Close friends tease me mercilessly whenever another work in progress progresses back to balls of wool. But truth be told, product isn't what motivates me*, process is. Give me needles and yarn and my default mode is play.

Knitty play doesn't result in much that's quantifiable ... it doesn't add to your Ravelry project totals or up your bloggy ta-dahs. But it's fun. And sometimes it will take you way beyond what you'd thought was the limit of your reach.

Photography's play too. I look at stuff. Then I photograph it. Sometimes I lie on the ground to get a worm's eye view. Immersed in the moment I shoot whatever draws my eye. There's a fair bit of 'What if?' involved, particularly in the editing. Tweaking an image in this or that app, rejecting what doesn't work and starting over uninhibited by failure, "art begins precisely there, where we are able to do otherwise", or so said Gadamer**.

Product emerges from among a myriad possibilities. Process is the means by which vision is refined. And play's all about the journey, destination unknown. It's exploration, it's improvisation, it's imagination. It's discovery. In origin the word 'play' is cognate with dancing and with risk. While the world fixates on productivity and outcomes do you embrace process and dare to play?

* Except maybe in midwinter, when I'm cold!

** Hans-Georg Gadamer, 'The Play of Art'. I'm still not happy with this image ... I've shared it mid process ... it's not art yet.

✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤

Thank you for all your sweet comments on my last post, and apologies for the week long radio silence. I snuck in a little holiday. Normal service will now be resumed.


34 A Broken World

I photographed the various things scattered across my studio desk earlier. Total photo fail. So I'll have to list what's there for you instead.

A skein of Great British Yarns Yomper Lace ... 600 meters of scrummy alpaca and merino in a gorgeous natural grey. I've no idea what I'm going to knit with it yet ... it only arrived in the post this morning, a sweet thank you gift from Claire of Claire in Stitches, who tucked some delicious chocolate into my parcel as well. You cured my Monday blues lovely lady, so thank you. (Steph of Woolythyme also sent me some yarn recently, but more on that in another post.)

Another thank you gift, an absolutely gorgeous crocheted doily, made for me by Sandra of Cherry Heart, standing at the centre of which is a small earthenware jug filled with marigolds from my dye garden. There are plenty more where they came from, all destined for a dye pot soon.

My Year in Books title for this month ... Sebastian Faulks' A Broken World: Letters, diaries and memories of the Great War.

And a theatre programme. We haven't had the easiest of weekends but there was one wonderful highlight ... on Saturday we went to see War Horse at The Lowry in Salford. The date, and the fact that my grandfather, not a young man when he later married my grandmother, had served as a very young Royal Horse Artilleryman during World War One, added considerable poignancy to the experience. I had expected to be most struck by the puppetry, but the singing of Bob Fox, the play's current Songman, will stay with me longest I think. If you're unfamiliar with the stage production this series of short videos may well be of interest, as will the longer video embedded below.

I've already lit my candle and all lights will be extinguished here at 10.00pm as we join with the Royal British Legion's Centenary Lights Out. Lest we forget.

Linking with Laura's Year in Books, August.

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