Archive for September 21st, 2009

Hands: “On”

amywink September 21st, 2009

I spent my morning today in an “hands-on” workshop learning how to use the education software known as “Blackboard”. It’s not really very difficult if you are able to read instructions and click “okay” as needed. And I think it will be very helpful for my students when I get everything set up for my classes. It’s the kind of hands-on work I do every day, sitting at the computer, brain in charge, type-ity-type-type, click-ity-click-click.

After my workshop, I met up with a longtime friend, a fellow Southwestern graduate and colleague at Austin Community College, for lunch. We ran into, almost literally, each other last week, rounding a corner near the elevator, both of us rushing to get somewhere else. Over e-mail later, I sent him my blog and he sent me his and we entertained each other with our obsessions: carriage driving and knitting.

Who would have guessed?

These new hobbies befell us both about the same time, the magical age of 39, though I think it took longer for me to move my theory into practice. After reading his blog, Knitting Sweaters and Sitting Still, I looked forward to our lunch together and a discussion of how we’d both learned our “hands-on” hobbies.

I have a great deal of respect for what’s required in hand work like knitting, crochet, tatting, and lacework. I once tried to learn how to crochet. Dis-Mal Fail-Ure. My hands refused the instructions. I might as well have been trying to work with oven mitts on my hands. But I do collect antique linens–doilies, table linens, etc, etc–and have written about the appreciation I have for the hand-created items of our history. I have friends whose skill at this type handiwork is astounding to me but it is not work for my hands.

Or perhaps, I did not want to learn it enough. Because my hands have learned new work, without pen, without computer.

When I came to driving, I had long since decided I was not a very good “physical learner”. I had spent years in intellectual work, knowing my aptitude for physical dexterity was limited–though now I think that really just something I was telling myself because I couldn’t do it perfectly the first time. Perhaps knitting was something I just wanted to do, but not to actually learn. Driving, on the other hand, I wanted to learn. I wanted to drive and I wanted to drive well (sometimes too well, too soon!). It took my brain a few months to decide that I really did want to learn and perhaps it should open up some new neural pathways and turn those hands “on” instead of letting them flounder alone with the reins. I’m still working on those connections, getting my ‘good hands’ working well with my ‘good brain’.

Steve had similar story and now knits “continental” style, or left-handed, because his right-hand simply refused to learn the ropes–or yarns, I should say! har-har. We had a delightful lunch catching up, talking about our new handiwork and where it’s taking us. It’s the sign of a truly good hobby when it leads you to renew old friendships, find new ones, and head forward into unknown adventures of creation.