Today, I tackled the closet of my crochet empire/guest room with as much fervor and energy as I could muster. There was a lot of clearing out to be done, and then the ever important putting back. In between those two steps, I needed to decide what would stay and what would go.
One decision I made was to put all non-crochet books on a shelf that runs the length of the closet. As I was sorting through the detritus of my life and putting like together with like, I came across a copy of Gary Zukav’s The Dancing Wu Li Masters, and was reminded of a much different time in my life.
When I was a much younger and very earnest woman, I went to graduate school to study writing.
For my efforts, I was awarded a Master of Fine Arts in fiction.
This part of my life is firmly in my past, and I don’t often think about it, but the book brought back many memories, one of which was the much terrible and feared “essay semester.”
It was a semester in which the writer’s own creative work took a backseat to examining the work of another writer. In the run-up to the actual onset of the essay semester, there was much discussion with the faculty member assigned to supervise and oversee the writing of the essay, as well as any other faculty who had an interest.
The guidelines for what was an acceptable topic and who was an acceptable writer, were inchoate, and I only learned what was acceptable after several days of arguing over what was not.
Eventually, the powers that be agreed that I could write on the topic of discontinuity and fragmentation in “The Man Sitting in the Corridor,” by Marguerite Duras. Along with that agreement came the warning that if I strayed from the topic in any way, I would not pass the semester.
The program is what is known as “low residency,” so most of the work was done away from campus. It was the early 1990s, in the days before email and inexpensive long distance phone calls, so every other week or so, I would receive missives from my advisor asking me questions about “The Man Sitting in the Corridor.” Is it like a chess game, is it like a cinema?
How could I make that determination? I knew almost nothing about chess other than the directions the pieces were allowed to move.
Was it like cinema? I was at a point in my life where I played Super Mario Brothers and Donkey Kong when I wasn’t reading the fiction of Sylvia Plath and other, sympatico, if not similar writers. If it were possible, I knew even less about cinema than chess.
Eventually, however, an analogy came to me, and not at all when I expected it.
I was living in a home I rented from a professor at the University of Michigan who had gone abroad to do research. The home came fully furnished and included a stationary bike and back issues of Scientific American.
It was while I was on the stationary bike in a fruitless attempt to pedal my way into warmer weather that I came across an article about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, and as I read it, I realized that “The Man Sitting in the Corridor” was just like this uncertainty principle I was reading about.
The powers that be who reviewed my essay, did not initially agree with my assessment, but after some discussion (not unlike the way the semester began) and changing a couple of words (which I have since changed back), they were able to agree that I had fulfilled the requirements of the essay semester.
Had I learned to crochet before i got my MFA in writing, I don’t know that I ever would have gone to graduate school.
Since I have taken up the hook the way I look at the world has changed. I am constantly thinking about how things fit together and trying to figure out how to replicate in crochet the things that catch my attention.
So while the dancing Wu Li masters once ordered my life, now it is the dancing wooly masters, and today I managed to capture these renegade skeins long enough to take this photograph: