Saturday, April 9, 2011

On your marks, get set, SLOW!

I was recently in New Orleans for a conference, where I won a race by coming in dead last. It was a slow bicycle race, where the object is to take the greatest possible amount of time to get to the finish line without falling over or touching the ground. After many years of intensifying focus and improving balance through the practice of yoga, it would appear I am now a NATURAL GENIUS at slow bike racing. What a splendid moment that was, when I crept wobblingly, and well behind the competition, across that chalk mark on the pavement! And what a splendid metaphor for everything that's been going on in my life lately. Almost everything I've lost in the past few weeks has turned out to be a win, one way or another. And it's definitely involved some very slow progress toward goals that were pretty humble, but still counted as triumphs.

The most significant loss was of my little green sketchbook, which I take with me everywhere and fill with notes and drawings and incomprehensible-to-everyone-but-me scribblings on various knitting projects in progress. (I posted a scan of one sketch here a few months ago.) One minute I was knitting and taking notes while I waited on the Aviation Blvd. Metro platform in Los Angeles, then the train came and I was seated on it with my suitcase and my knitting and my handbag...but no sketchbook. I looked around under the seats and asked if anyone had seen it, but it seems all anyone saw that day was more of my badonkadonk than they were expecting to while I crawled around looking for my little book. Poof, it was gone. With all my meticulous stitch counts for the project I was right in the middle of inventing, and everything. Such a bummer. I called the Metro Lost & Found number and discovered I'd need to wait at least three days before coming in person to their office to inquire about any lost item.

A week later, when I was back in town, I took the airport shuttle back to the station where I'd lost it (and risked a hefty fine by going back up to the platform without a valid ticket) to see if by any chance it had fallen between the train and the platform, and was still down there on the tracks. I was seriously willing to climb on down to get it if it was there, too. Although I'd bought a new notebook the day after I lost it, the green one had over a year's worth of ideas and notes in it, and I'd had time to realize how much I wanted it back. Enough to jump in front of a speeding train! (Well, almost. There's a schedule for the inbound trains, so I'd know if I had time to get back up or not, and anyway, I figured I'd at least try to find a Metro employee and ask for help first. A fine I could probably talk my way out of, but getting arrested is another matter.) No such luck. The next day, I checked at the Lost & Found office; no luck there, either, but the woman I spoke to was extremely nice and put my name and number on a list of people who'd lost stuff, just in case it did get turned in later. Meanwhile, I tried to forget about it.

Here's where the loss turns into a win, though: Out of the blue, about a week after this (and almost three weeks after I'd lost it), Jared Flood emails me and tells me someone got in touch with him via Facebook to report a lost notebook. Jared's name was the only one in it--on the page where I was laying out my idea for the Hill Country Weavers SHELTER pattern collection--and obviously, he's easy to Google, so the person who found the notebook got in touch with him. Jared figured out, based on the description of the page with his name on it, that the design was probably mine, and put me in touch with the finder. (Jared also noted that the person had said "that the book was full of good but time-intensive ideas, which I had a good laugh about. He's clearly not a knitter.") I emailed the dude, whose name is Darren, and he got in touch pretty quickly and sent my notebook back to me, politely demurring at the suggestion of any kind of reward, even though he just moved to Oregon and I'm sure he could use stuff in his new place. He's gonna get a hand-knit Koolhaas whether he likes it or not--HA! Take that, super-nice-guy Darren!

All of which is to say that a loss isn't always permanent; nor is it always a bad thing. A slow bike race, furthermore, is a much-needed reminder of how HARD it is to slow down--to NOT go barreling toward a goal that, most of the time, is as evanescent as a chalk line on the pavement. You're probably just as likely to crash a bike going fast as going slow (well, I am, anyway), and it sure hurts less if you're going slow. As for "good but time-intensive ideas" I ever have any other kind?? Isn't knitting just the hugest, best, most time-intensive idea ever--a slow string race, if you will? And if knitting isn't the most time-intensive idea ever, then getting a PhD surely must be. So I'm win/losing every which way here.

Samuel Beckett wrote: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better." In that spirit, I have now written my email address and phone number and "reward for safe return!" in the front of all of my sketchbooks, so I can fail better the next time I lose one. (Or win. Or whatever.)


Erin said...

Awe! Gotta love it when people are so great. I'm so glad your notebook found its way back to you!

janna said...

What a great story! But will you now put your phone number in the front of your notebooks???

MB@YarnUiPhoneApp said...

Wow. What a good loss story. I lose yarn, needles, shoes forever more on buses and trains. I need to put a name tag on my stuff then I'll get it back.