Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tie Dye, Poetry, and Scraps of Time

Yesterday at work was our quarterly tie-dye event that has transformed into a festival. It began life as an event that one of our English faculty envisioned as part of a Composition class. She wanted to have her students tie dye, but that's not exactly an activity that can be done in a classroom. Since we were going to be outside anyway, we opened it up to the entire student body. My department chair got permission to give away hot dogs and chips, and the Red Bull people gave away free Red Bull.

Over the past 2 years, the tie dye event has expanded to include jewelry making, quilting, belly dancing lessons, and urban art. Yesterday, for the first time, the student-run Culinary club was the one selling food. We had students in a newscasting class roaming around with their cameras, doing local focus stories. The Green Committee sold T-shirts and muffins.

As I tied and dyed shirts, I said to the colleague who originated the whole idea, "I really love doing this. Maybe I should have been a kindergarten teacher."

She said, "It's not too late."

Well, I'd probably have to take a pay cut. And kindergarten probably isn't the fun place that I remember: various craft projects interspersed with naps.

I think tie dye is a fun medium, where you can plan and hope, but you can't be sure of what the final look will be.

This morning, I had a similar experience with poetry. I had that brain-addled feeling that comes from trying to make the computer do something that I only vaguely remember how to do. I wanted to take a picture from our pastor's blog and save it as a jpeg on my desktop. I used to be able to do that, so it was just a matter of trying things with my not-intuitive-to-me photo program to get the image to be a jpeg that I could import onto the church's website that I help maintain.

It took me longer than I anticipated (and I've written down the steps so that I don't have to do this process every time). Sometimes, when I wrestle with my computer, I feel this foggy brain feeling. Often, that's the end of my creative/writing time.

This morning, I worked through it. I pulled out my poetry notebook and my file of old ideas that I hadn't translated into poems. Months ago, I got to work to find a dead lizard firmly lodged in the printer, an event that I immediately tucked away to be used in a poem someday. Like my tie dye shirts yesterday, the poem went in a direction that I didn't anticipate--not a surprise, since I didn't have a vision of the poem, just that image of the lizard in the printer.

I'm also pleased with myself because I'm headed off to work this morning. The knowledge that I'm going to work soon often means that I tell myself I don't have time to write a poem. But really, it doesn't have to take that much time.

I'd like to do a better job of making use of the scraps of time that I have. I tend to think I need huge patches of time, like the multiple-hour tie dye event yesterday, before I can get any creative stuff done. Yet my experience with quilting should remind me that out of tiny scraps, a huge, comforting, gorgeous quilt can emerge.

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