I was going to make this post be “C for Crocuses,” and simply have a picture of a crocus, and nothing else, but this is what it looks like outside:
The crocuses I found in bloom last week, before the two feet of snow we had a week last Wednesday (in a winter storm that literally blew some reporters off their feet!), may have survived intact, though I doubt it, but it’s not like I can go find them yet! Oh well, once all this does melt, there will be flowers galore. It’s not very cold, just snowy, slushy, and February-like. Though at least it doesn’t look like it did last week:
Instead I thought I’d talk about craftsmanship and creation. This is a big topic. I don’t know that I have fully articulated thoughts on it, but here goes:
I think creation is a fundamental human need. I think it takes an astonishing variety of forms, from people who find their creative fulfilment in procreation or cooking, to those who make their lives a work of art, to writers and gardeners like me, to those who build houses out of bottles or pebbles or spun sugar. I think people in our society are often lacking their outlet, for one reason or another, and that they would be a lot happier if they could find it. Sometimes they can’t because of external or internal circumstances, or sometimes perhaps because the art form their soul is crying out for doesn’t exist yet — and sometimes because they just don’t think it’s important.
In The Mind of the Maker, Dorothy L. Sayers talks about how the only thing definitely predicated of God’s nature before He creates human beings in His likeness is that he is a Creator — the Creator. She argues that this is a useful tool for thinking about ourselves. I certainly find it a useful concept for thinking about myself.
So that’s one thing.
The other side of it is craftsmanship. There is something utterly satisfying about becoming good at something. Every once in a while I write something (usually just a line or two, a phrase, very occasionally it’s longer; sometimes the sweep of a story, even if not all the details) that I know is good. Most of the time I swing between wild exultation and deep cynicism about my writing, but that’s okay: that oscillation is just a part of it, like changing weather. The trick is to just keep going, keep working on craft, keep on the course that the moments of solemn joy suggest are correct, and ignore the bacchic frenzies and their hangovers.
Craft is built, you see. It’s learning the tools, and having faith that eventually you will be able to use them, will one day be able to approximate the vision, embody the living idea crying out to be thus incarnate. Sometimes that is a very little idea, just a flippant moment, a chocolate-chip cookie, a vignette, a sketch. Sometimes it’s a cathedral that will take generations to build, or a forest that you are planting so that in some future some stranger to you will have good timber for her crafts. (There are woods in Germany that have been managed for centuries — individual trees that have been managed for centuries — so that descendants would one day be able to make organs, cabinets, parquetry floors, palaces out of them.) Sometimes it is ephemeral; the perfect Yorkshire puddings (an art my mother has been working on for years); a single moment in the garden when all the things bloom at the right time, in the right proportions, and glory appears.
Sometimes you can’t see what it is at all, but you have your little piece of the vision, of the City that will come, and so you work at it. You learn your craft, and you build. And sometimes you realise your heart is crying after some other medium and you begin again, humbled by your inadequacies, sitting at the feet of the masters, to learn to try to build the crafts that will carry the vision. They will never be perfect. But they are something.