Yesterday the kids and I did one of our favorite things--took the train down the market, settled in to our favorite table at The Crumpet Shop, and watched the tattooed, graceful crumpet-maker through the window. In mesmerizing rhythm, he heats up the griddle and lines it with stainless steel rings. Then he pours crumpet batter into each ring, flipping them after they've developed beautiuful little bubbles. When they're done, he lays them out symmetrically on a prep table. After they cool, he flips the rings off onto an offset spatula until, by the end, he's got a row of tinkling rings running down the length of his arm. And he does all of this with perfect, intentional posture, smiling at the kids and doing a few extra tricks.
I've never talked to him about his job. It's possible he is bored or disgruntled. But it sure doesn't seem like it. My bet is he enjoys crumpet-making, taking great pride in the finished product AND the process. And we get to witness him creating something, that alchemy that happens when we're putting something new into the world, even if it's the 1000th crumpet of the day. We always buy a pack to bring home, too, and I was grateful to him all over again this morning.
I also took the kids to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) yesterday, then ended the day at a Patty Griffin concert with Emily, Rebecca, Julia, and Sue. So I had lots of opportunities to think about creativity. I didn't set out to craft some sort of meditation on the subject, but you know me. Many days, it feels like I wake up with one bent-up puzzle piece, randomly colored. By the end of the day, I've spotted other interlocking pieces, and the picture that develops ends up here. Other writers or artists of any kind will know what I mean. We create to make sense of things.
SAM is at the end of an Alexander Calder exhibit--the great late sculptor whose Eagle rises into the Seattle skyline at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Rushing through the museum, imploring Loretta, "Don't touch! Just look!", there was a photo I can't stop thinking about. It was a black-and-white print of Calder in his studio. He was sitting amid countless tools, scraps of wood, and little metal pieces in what looked like an old barn in the middle of a field. He wasn't looking at the camera, but he wasn't working, either. Maybe he was taking a break before he kept sketching. Maybe he was wondering where the Eagle would end up. Maybe he was mad at his wife and came out to the studio for a stiff drink. Whatever the case, I was struck with what lonely, hard work creating things can be, and glad he stuck with it. (Check out this sketch of the Eagle from my sister at Spill Studio. It's pretty great to have our own Calder in the family.)
Then Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller last night. God. Loved every blessed minute of it. And thinking, "This is what it means to be human. Making music like everything depends on it." There were lots of songs about death --some mournful, some with a bluegrass twang. But listening to them made me less scared of death, more inclined to make the most of this time we have. I've always wanted to play the mandolin. I'm not going to take that one off the list.
Today, Yancey's on shift and it's Wyatt's last day of spring break. Yancey's taking his one-year probationary firefighter test and feels the pressure keenly. I have to pay bills and do some work during Loretta's nap. And finish cleaning out the stupid bathroom closet. But I carry with me the crumpet-maker, sculptor, and singer. We are together, making sense of things in whatever ways we can.