Sunday, January 30, 2005

Play On!

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for my husband's friend. It was sad, but the people who were there were enjoying their memories of a good man and the talk was lively. Since I knew no one, I sat and talked only when I was introduced to someone. (Anyone who knows me, knows this is an unnatural state for me.) Under the circumstances, knitting would have been inappropriate so I created knits in my mind. When I do that I tend to use garments in my line of sight as inspritation. The turn on a sleeve, the cut of a scarf - all are grist for the mill. As I sat there, sketching designs in my mind, I realized that I was playing at being a designer of sorts.

When we got home in the evening I went immediately to my yarn collection to begin to work out some of my thoughts- and suddenly I felt overwhelmed. The designer was fighting for permission to play, while the practical one wanted to make something useful. I think I'll start by grouping my yarns, I thought. Let's just do swatches, I thought. Only then did the creative side interrupt with this thought: What about making miniature prototypes of those little sketches of yours. Practical reply: How about just tying up the loose ends on the garments in the line marked "Unfinished but knitted" Don't be so frivolous!!!

Guess who won? Miss Practical, of course. When, i could do no more "finishing", I allowed myself the "pleasure" of playing with a cotton yarn and a technique for creating ruffles up the side of a garment. It was gratifying and resulted in a small accomplishment but nothing new was begun - not one of my wonderful ideas was even attempted. It was as if I was rationing my own creativity - and approaching it slowly by trying to build on a solid foundation of practicality.

I will always remember one Tony Awards Presentation when Julie Taymor got up on stage and thanked her parents for giving her permission to "play, play, play". That one comment has stuck with me for years. It's hard to play hard , especially when the play doesn't result in immediate usefulness. Like many others, I was brought up to think of play as something one earned the right to do only after lots of hard "real" work. Work that cleaned a house, work that put clothes on one's back or or a roof over your head. Play could not do that, and therefore was of no real value. The intellectual side of me sees this as fallacy, but the emotional side of me grapples with this constantly. The Puritan ethic of hard work was necessary to physical survival, but survival of the spirit is the ultimate salvation - and for that I need to play.

So play i will - tomorrow, right after i finish an assignment for a client. Right after I attend the Gift Show - looking for more inspiration. Right after I make dinner. Right after I read the last 3 issues of the New Yorker. Right after I pull together those umpteen pictures I've been promising to post. Right!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a lovely and thought provoking post. I too seem to have forgotten how to play - everything I do has to be for a purpose and a good one at that right now.
I too was brought up to believe that play was something earned after work of somekind. I guess I will always have that work ethic, but right now my spirit is in need of some joi de vie - so I will try and just do something and enjoy it whether or not it has a useful end product or not.

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At my kids' nursery school they were always repeating the quote about 'play is the child's work', which goes for everybody else, too. Work is what you do so you can play, if you haven't forgotten how!

Trying to remember....Kay

6:45 PM  
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