Ether-net connections

Since I’ve been doing the blog, I often receive emails from strangers who are reading the blog but don’t feel comfortable making public comments. I received such an email today, and after I read it, I was idly looking at the sender’s name and noticed that the email address was from Hawaii. Hmm, I thought, didn’t I know a girl in junior high with the same name who had lived in Hawaii before and loved it? Could she have moved back to Hawaii later? No way, I thought. No, no possible way. I began to tremble. My mind was reeling.

I Googled her name. I couldn’t find a photo of her, but I found that she was of Scottish-Irish heritage, and that clicked.

I composed a reply, thanking her for reading my blog, etc., and then asked if perhaps she might possibly have lived in Virginia as a teenager way back when. The answer came back in minutes: “Oh man, Lynne!!!!!! I wondered what happened to you!!”

We were thirteen years old, people. Thirty-seven—count them—years ago. I lived there for only five and a half months, and we didn’t even attend the same school. But, however briefly, we were close, and the memories stuck. We exchanged numbers and the phone rang and her voice was the same and she said mine was the same and I had the same laugh and I couldn’t stop laughing. And we’re both professional turners now and what a way to reconnect! I’m still smiling and shaking my head.

Bless Al Gore for inventing the Internet.


Hurray, my first comment! Thank you, Hilary, from last year’s ITE.

I invite all you readers to chime in as you see fit. You will have to register first, but then you can comment all you like—within reason. Remember, I can cut you off if you get out of hand. Just follow the instructions on the page marked “How to comment” (the page tabs are just below the masthead, at the top of the box containing the posts), and you’ll be on your merry way.

“Roll Call” symposium

What a day. My mind is still buzzing so much I cannot sleep.

This morning we began by attending a symposium on “Roll Call,” an exhibition of student and faculty work from eight college wood programs, sponsored by the Wood Turning Center. In attendance were Albert LeCoff and Suzanne Kopko, of the Wood Turning Center; Doug Finkel, of Virginia Commonwealth University; Don Miller and Jane Swanson, of the University of the Arts (Philadelphia); Chris Weiland and Steve Loar, of Indiana University of Pennsylvania; Karen Ernst, of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania; Bob Marsh, of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania; and Mark Sfirri, of Bucks County Community College. Also there (reportedly forced to be there by Mark Sfirri) were turners Jacques Vesery, Merryll Saylan, and Jean-François Escoulen. And then there were we four ITErs: Sean, Siegfried, Jean-François (the Second), and I.

The topic of discussion was what could be grown from the “Roll Call” exhibition (follow the link above to learn more about the show). Along the way, participants discussed the challenges of organizing and mounting such a show, the benefits to the students and the wood programs, the challenges of running university craft programs, the discounting of craft in the art world, the tensions between turning artists and hobbyists, the importance of the arts in the economic (re)development of communities . . . And they brainstormed about ways to foster student interest in turning at the college level and to expose student work to a wider audience. As an outsider to academia, I found the discussion mostly fascinating.

I also found myself envious of the students who get to study turning in a context absent for most of us who are learning either on our own or through venues oriented primarily toward hobbyists. I wonder why there is no contact between our local club, for example, and the art departments of local colleges. I don’t even know what wood programs are available locally. (Note to self: Make contact when you get home! Start a conversation.)

Both the student work and the faculty work were inspiring. You can feel the energy of exploration in the work, and it is invigorating. I felt this kind of energy at Anderson Ranch last year, creative and electric and endlessly self-perpetuating. It’s an energy I look forward to soaking up in the ITE and bringing home with me. It’s an energy that should be cultivated in communities everywhere.

About me and writing

I used to write: poetry, fiction, essays. I had a talent for it, though words never felt easy to me. Nigh on twelve or thirteen years ago, I stopped. Grief silenced me. Editing mediocre writing for pay further numbed my love of language. I also quit talking about myself. Though some of my previous published writing had been quite self-revelatory, I became fanatically private.

Meeting me in person, you probably wouldn’t know any of this. Though I’ve always been shy, I’m quick, and I love to laugh and joke—when it come to puns, I verge on Tourette’s. So when I’m “on,” I can come across as jovial even. And over the years, I’ve learned to converse about the mundane. When I’m not focused on a task or goal, I can actually be friendly. I tend to ask a lot of questions, which keeps conversation flowing. I just reveal little about myself.

Of course, when I want to talk, when I want to connect with someone at a level deeper than the everyday, I revert to being painfully awkward and much too intense. So, mostly, I keep my silence.

My silence used to hurt. It doesn’t much anymore, one of the blessings of age—and art—for me. But breaking it does.

And writing, for me, is the most intense and painful form of breaking silence—so much so that even writing about the mundane is a test of perseverance. Simple emails? Ordeals.

So why the hell am I writing a blog?

Two and a half years ago, I applied to document this year’s International Turning Exchange, thus committing myself to this future task of writing on demand. I had warmed up the year before by creating my web site and writing most of the text that is still posted there. Then I wrote a couple of articles related to woodturning. A year and a half ago, I wrote a haiku. Last weekend, I wrote another seventeen syllables of poetry.

It’s time to begin to break my silence for good. My soul knows it, even if my mind still stamps and rears.