Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thank you, Dr. Zizmor!

I have had so many wonderful things filling my life lately that it's hard to pick and choose what to write about. They all try to get through the doorway at once, and get stuck. I suppose there are worse things that can happen than a paralyzing overabundance of choices.

One of those things was a 2 week trip out West. We went to Wyoming and Montana, visiting Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Glacier National Park. It was an amazing trip full of staggering beauty, and I will post a link to the full set of photos once they're all up and organized on Flickr. Here's a teaser:

herd of bison

Too bad I'm writing this post before I've uploaded the SHEEP photos! Well, that will get you to read my next post, eh?

Another thing that's been taking up a lot of my time is the cello. A few months ago I decided to start playing the cello again, which for me was basically starting from square 1. It's an incredible challenge, and very rewarding, and I plan a more thorough blog post about it at some point. (One of those things jamming the doorway, I tell ya!)

There are times when I feel that I'm in over my head with good stuff, and there are times when I question why I try to do all of these things when I could probably be satisfied with fewer projects. Usually I suppress this question to the dark recesses of my mind when it pops up, treating it like an annoyance. Kind of like those people who tell you you can just buy a package of tube socks for $5 at Wal-Mart. There is a reason why I do all these things (and goodness knows there are people who do a lot more than I do!), but sometimes it's not so easy to articulate.

The other day I got some insight into how to frame an answer. Stick with me, here, because the path my mind takes isn't always straightforward. I saw a sign for some business that seemingly randomly brought back memories of Dr. Zizmor. Any of you who have spent time watching commercials or riding the subway in NYC in the past 20 years or so probably know who this guy is. For those of you who don't, you can click on that link (and watch that classic commercial!) if you want. In short, he's a NYC dermatologist who had (has?) cheesy but catchy TV ads, and print ads that are frequently found in subway cars. I grew up in Brooklyn and took the subway to/from school every day in high school. I'm sure I've seen his subway ads thousands of times.

Here's where the ride though my mind gets a little twisty-turny. When I saw that sign that reminded me of Dr. Zizmor, I thought that I should google him, to see if there is any NYC nostalgia online about those old dermatology subway ads. Then I thought about how when I was growing up, there was no such thing as google. The internet was in its infancy (at least for the general public), and I didn't have access to it at all before college. Back when I was in high school one of the other things you would occasionally see among the ads in the subway was something called Poetry In Motion. These were short poems interspersed among the ads, and I loved them. My absolute favorite Poetry In Motion poem was Blackberry Eating. (In fact, it's still one of my favorite poems.) I remember that one day I decided that I just needed to have that poem for myself, and searching for it ride after ride after ride, until I finally saw it and was able to scribble it down.

And here's the thing. In 1994, waiting and hoping was my only option. It took work to find information. Nowadays, I'm sure that a simple google search would get me that information in seconds. (In fact, it's among the first page of hits if you just google "blackberry poem" without the quotation marks.) While I greatly appreciate how accessible information is thanks to the internet, I do have a lot of nostalgia for the days in which it wasn't so easy to find what you were looking for. I think that having to work for it, and having to exercise patience as well as vigilance, made the information all that much sweeter when you finally got your hands on it. There is something special about a Galway Kinnell poem hurriedly scribbled in my own writing notebook, next to my own poetry, that is more satisfying and pleasureful to read than typed words on a screen found in mere seconds through a Google search.

And here we are, getting very close to my point. (I know, can you imagine! Yes, there is a point.) While I celebrate the openness of information that comes with internet access on a daily basis, and recognize its grand benefits for education and quality of life, I think that it has affected many or most of us. I have a theory. (No, not bunnies.) My theory is that the reason we see this "trend" (I hate that word, but there it is) in hand crafts is that we crave a type of information that can't just be googled. I feel that with the internet, if you want to know about something you can know about something. Information flows so freely that it doesn't always feel as special as it once did. There is no challenge. And I think that pushes many of us to find a challenge; To find chase a kind of information or knowledge that can't just be googled. Why am I playing the cello? Why is there a raw fleece on my porch? Why do I have 2 dozen (at least) pairs of hand knit socks? Because these things are concrete. These things don't exist unless I put in time and effort. These things come from and provide experiences that I can't get just from staring at a computer screen.

I know this isn't true for everybody, but I suspect it's at least somewhat true for the people who choose to read about me on a computer screen. Our lives have become virtual in so many ways, and connecting with people and information as become so effortless, that we need more concrete things in our lives. So the next time someone asks me why I bother, I think my answer will be "because it's real."

And yes, I think this is also why Alex and I choose to spend our vacation time climbing mountains and seeing the country for ourselves. Photos in National Geographic are great, but feeling the ground under our feet is better.

Oh yeah. You came here to see stuff I made? I know my last post was about socks, but I'm going to share more. I have been knitting a lot of socks recently, in part because they are a good side project while I'm designing other things and working on bigger but slower projects. There will be bigger and different things eventually, I promise.

Kai Mei
Kai Mei socks, designed by Cookie A, in sock yarn from Julie Spins. Bonus cormo fleece in the background!

Papaver Sok
Papaver Sok, designed by Anne Hanson, in Araucania Ranco Solid sock yarn.

Handspun Retro Ribs
Retro Rib socks, designed by Evelyn Clark, in handspun BFL.

The yarn I spun for these retro ribs was dyed by David of Southern Cross Fibre. The colorway is called vigilance, and I decided to split it up before spinning it for these fraternal socks.

Vigilance BFL
With cello music in the background! I am happy to say that I'm well beyond those pages, and it's nice to see visual confirmation of my progress.

That's enough for now, I think. Off to do some swatching and vacation photo uploading!

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Blogger Pumpkinmama said...

Wonderful thoughts, beautifully expressed. I think your theory is very sound.

7/26/2009 9:00 AM  
Blogger knithound brooklyn said...

Good thinking. I'm with you 100%.

7/26/2009 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Jess said...

I agree with you, sometimes the craft choices and good things in life are overwhelmingly abundant! Beautiful socks:)

7/26/2009 9:24 AM  
Blogger Shepherd's Loft said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about our virtual lives and your own real life as well.
Aren't we so fortunate that we have time to indulge in both?
My poor grandmother after feeding her brood (husband and 12 kids)their breakfast would go outside to select and kill the chicken that she then prepared to feed them again later in the day. She still found time to quilt and to hook rugs (because her family needed them) and mend torn clothing.

7/26/2009 10:09 AM  
Blogger Becki said...

For me, I think my perspective on this issue is similar, but different. I think I wouldn't be a knitter without the internet. The blogs I read provide me with an overabundance of ideas about what to do in my free time. I did a lot of crafting before the internet, and I would expect that to be the same without it. But, the internet has totally changed the way I craft by making so much knowledge immediately available. Thanks for the interesting post; glad you had a nice trip west!

7/26/2009 11:00 AM  
Blogger Kathleen C. said...

Those are beautiful thoughts, and beautiful socks. Thank you for sharing... both of them.

7/26/2009 7:19 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

"Because it's real" -- isn't there a children's book about a bunny that asks about being real? Your argument reminded me of that. (I could google it, but I wonder if that would defeat your point. I think I'd rather search within my mind for the answer, or perhaps in my library for the book.)

I actually have trouble with Google sometimes; when I have an open-ended question it's really hard to figure out the answer. Not as easy as finding a book on the topic and reading. Which is why I can't believe the Internet will replace libraries. It's so much easier to find complete knowledge in a book than in a web site. This is why as soon as I came home for summer vacation I went to the library and found lots of books I wanted to read (came home with 7, thought about many more). I missed acquiring knowledge. I guess that's my version of your cello playing and knitting.

The more I see of Kai Mei socks, the more I am convinced that I need to knit a pair.

7/27/2009 1:01 AM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

Isn't that funny? I was just thinking about the ease of knowledge acquisition the other day. We're all amazed by how it's changed our life but kids will never understand how different life was just 15 short years ago. Strange to feel like such an old fogey.
Is that "Bach for the Cello?" I still use my 1976 copy to teach my students from!

7/27/2009 3:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your idea and agree in many ways, but like Bex, I think I wouldn't be the knitter I am today (or anything like it) without the internet as a vast source of knowledge about the craft.

Beautiful socks, and beautiful yarn, as always.

Hey, is that a Suzuki cello book? I think I recognize the piece you're playing (assuming they have similar pieces in the cello books as in the violin ones).

7/27/2009 7:03 AM  
Anonymous Kym said...

I just stumbled onto your blog, and I'm so glad that I did! I enjoyed reading your thoughts (and seeing your gorgeous socks!), and find I have much the same point of view. I have been searching for a certain. . . "real-ness" . . . in my life, and find I'm connecting "real" to being present and creating something in the moment. Knitting. Pottery. Gardens. Music (I play the flute). Thanks for sharing.

7/27/2009 5:49 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Thank you for your thoughts - I am a singer, musician and I teach weaving & knitting. My teacher & mentor calls himself a "tradition bearer", and I feel my role is much the same - to carry these traditions and skills on to more people.
It has long been my thought that in a very fast, over stimulated world people need things that are slow, handmade, tangible products of their hands. And the connections to history and tradition is very appealing, as well. We need connections and we need to create. Melissa

7/27/2009 6:47 PM  
Blogger Jodi said...

Sounds like a great vacation! Glacier is one of my favorite places on earth.

Yes, that's something infinitely marvelous about tangibility. I think all the virtual business makes me appreciate it even more when it comes to things I like! At other times I'm thrilled that I don't have to haul my butt down to the nearest library to look up one little thing. I can save the effort for things I really care about.

Beautiful Cookie A socks!

7/28/2009 2:55 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

I was looking at the wonderful photos on Flickr, fabulous place to go and now on my list of must do's! Your socks are gorgeous, and I really enjoyed your post!

7/29/2009 1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd never really thought about these things, but I like your train of thought - I think you're onto something. I may try the "because it's real" answer myself if you don't mind!

Nice socks.

7/30/2009 3:15 PM  
Anonymous Michele said...

As a New Yorker who 'sees' Dr Zizmor almost every day on the 1 line, (and poetry in motion still exists!) and as one who remembers the days before the internet - and cell phones - I really appreciate this post.

8/01/2009 9:56 AM  
Blogger Susi said...

Solo quiero decirte que tus medias,Socks,Son fantasticas.
Cariños Susi

8/04/2009 10:32 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I love your thoughts on this need for somethhing real, built that takes time - I agree so much - it's wonderful to have these resources and ironically I may not even still be knitting without the interknit but it is good to seek and strive for certain things. The hard won prize and all that.

8/07/2009 5:18 AM  
Blogger David said...

hi rebekkah,

i'm david. i sell yarn once a year at NYS sheep & wool fest in rhinebeck. the rest of the year i'm running a small commercial sweater company. i'm wondering if you are ok with me showing a sample of your Francie sock during rhinebeck weekend and directing interested folks to buy the pattern directly from your website. i'm not interested in selling patterns since i only have this one weekend a year as an outlet and i'd rather support pattern designers by having them buy from you directly. so my idea this year is to make a few samples with patterns that can be easily purchased from websites. i'm pretty small potatoes so it may only mean 4 or 5 customers for you but would rather have official permission to do so.

sorry to use this post to reach you, but i don't see how to email you. you can reply by email to:
thank you,
david stensland

8/12/2009 5:06 PM  
Blogger Susi said...

Hola !!!!
Me gustaria leer tu blog, podes poner el traductor?
Gracias Cariños Susi .

8/18/2009 5:50 PM  
Blogger Susi said...

hi! your blog is pretty good and i would like to know if you can install some kind of translator
because i 1dont know anything of english.. thank you very much!

ps: my daughter wrote this for me

8/18/2009 10:39 PM  
Blogger mel said...

What a thoughtful well-written post. I have been on a tear lately attempting to balance the inspiration and information online with actions that move me closer to my goals and concrete fulfilling projects. The inspiration is great, but it only frustrates me after awhile if I can't do something with it, hold something in my hands - and I never could have summarized that feeling or even really been able to draw that conclusion - Thank you.

And I so appreciate your thoughts on feeling the ground under your feet too, I haven't traveled & hiked nearly as much as I want to, but there is just no substitute! Your teaser picture is just that - I look forward to seeing and reading more about your travels!

8/19/2009 9:33 AM  
Blogger MRS MJW said...

Glacier is fabulous! I tell people all the time that its worth the trip. I used to live in Kalispell. Atleast someone knows what I'm talking about. :-)

8/27/2009 2:41 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

I found your site through Mel of Pipe Dreams...what a post to introduce me to your space! I really appreciate what you wrote concerning that need for something real held in the hands...and how the internet can be a help but also a hindrance in obtaining it! I struggle with that balance on most days.

And your knitting--I think your Kai Mei socks are gorgeous...I've seen a lot of them lately around blogland but I think I'm most smitten with yours!

Finally--I look forward to a post regarding your cello playing. Learning to play the cello is one of my life long goals. Hearing your experiences about picking it up again would be so inspiring to me!

8/27/2009 2:58 PM  

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