in good company

For a good part of the time I was in Casper, I was lucky to have knitting friends, and friends who didn’t knit but who liked to get together with good food and conversation who weren’t bothered by the constant twitch of yarn and needles. Still, I did—and do—most of my yarn-based pursuits in private, usually in my living room, while watching baseball and hockey. It’s something to do with my hands that simultaneously justifies the act of watching and is a pleasure in and of itself. I don’t knit a whole lot in public, though, and while I love to talk about it, I don’t tend to do so unless I know I have a like-minded conversation partner.

On Saturday, I attended a meeting of the Cocoa Area Fiber Enthusiasts at the Hershey Public Library, where I had the distinct pleasure to spend nearly three hours in the company of people who are not only knitters but also spinners, dyers, felters, weavers, crocheters, and so on. Many of the participants also expressed interest in other creative pursuits: paper-making, historical crafting practices, dichroic glass-making, quilting, and on and on. Through the midday, we worked on our projects and talked pretty exclusively about similar creative pursuits, showing off current projects and older ones.

It was, unsurprisingly, pretty wonderful in a way I somehow forgot. I’m lucky enough to love what I do for a living, to conflate career and calling in a way that is simultaneously self and work, writer and teacher, but I recognize that it’s incredibly easy in fields like mine to never actually leave work. Talk of personal passions are often still talking shop. I love it—but it’s also good to get reminders that there are other topics, especially ones that come without semi-permanent moral crises.

Voluntarily attending a public crafting group is also something of an attempt to get back in the proverbial community saddle. As a newly junior faculty member on the tenure track, being more community-minded is crucial. I’m not talking specifically about community service; I’m thinking more of remembering myself as a member of a specific community, in the way that newness creates them. I am formally a member of the junior faculty group on my campus, and that manifests in social gatherings and professional events. I am a member of a guild in the HabitRPG world for junior faculty, too, and thinking about myself in that way, more intentionally, so I can eventually become not-junior faculty, is something I’m doing.

Creating  community is important, and some people, like the Cocoa Area Fiber Enthusiasts, and so many friends and colleagues I have and have had, make it incredibly easy. But it’s also frightening in a lot of ways that I continue to find hard to admit to myself. Communities of these particular types are often predicated on asking questions and seeking answers. At the meeting at the library, everyone was asked what she or he hoped the club might do or assist with over the course of the year: technique demonstrations, guest speakers/artists, outings—anything. Questions like that are easy, and for me, all answers are good ones.

For the professional community, as a writer and a tenure-track faculty member, the questions about goals and hopes are maybe still easy to answer—publication, fulfillment, and the other typical measures of success—but the process of arriving at them is much harder. I have no pride bound up in whether I know how to do a certain cast on or cast off from memory. When I want to get things right—and I do—pride gets out of the way of sense. As a professional, it’s harder to ask the questions when it’s something I feel I should already know. Or I know how it was somewhere else, sometime else, in a somewhat different situation. Asking again becomes the point of pride much more difficult to defeat. Where I know some things, it’s harder to admit not-knowing others.

But, of course, knowing is half the battle.

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