One of my rediscoveries, this first summer sans paid employment in a couple of decades, is the pleasure of working with my hands.
Every day when I walk down to the garden, I experience momentary amazement that the theoretical garden patch I'd plotted out in my head back in March has become a living reality. It tickles me to nurture the plants one day -- water them, weed them or loosen the soil around them -- and see them respond positively the next. It frankly also stuns me, one of the more untidy individuals on the planet, to have created a tidy garden -- it isn't antiseptically free of weeds nor is every row precicely straight, but to borrow a phrase from my Presbyterian friends, it's growing decently and in order. Even my garden failures haven't been that devastating to my sense of competency in agriculture; I learn, make adjustments and move on. The first two rows of bush beans ravaged by wet cold and cutworms? Plant succession rows. The fingerling potatoes that for some reason didn't come up? Great space for transplanting some of my rapidly growing Savoy cabbage. Too many seedling tomatoes? Keep them around to fill in spaces. Patience; perserverence; problem-solving; it all happens in the vegetable garden.
My stained glass classes are also stretching my sense of manual prowess. I've always loved looking at stained glass -- being a product of the late Sixties and early Seventies, when the Victorian and Edwardian periods influenced everything from fashions to posters to homecrafts, I've always been fascinated by the glass arts; always wanted to live in a house with fancy glasswork transoms and door windows and suncatchers. But I never envisioned myself making such things myself. And when Fellow Traveler first expressed her desire to pursue this as a serious pastime, I saw myself as more of a drag on her progress than a true partner. But our hands-on coursework -- and our instructor is of the "Just do it and ask questions later" school -- is helping me lose my fear of not being perfect -- "perfect," of course, being the enemy of the good. I'm finding out that if I do mess up in certain ways, there are other ways to finesse it; that there's a lot of grace in the process. And after getting multiple stitches and a tetanus shot in my hand a couple of years ago when a frame slipped off my storm window as I was hauling it up the stairs, there's a feeling of regaining power over a potentially hazardous substance as I score it, cut it and grind it to my liking.
I also pulled out the bread pans this weekend and loafed my own homemade bread for I think the first time since I bought my first bread machine. I made challah; mixed it and rose it in the bread machine, then braided it and placed it into my pans. (My grandmother's cheap-but-useable way to get a decorative loaf while still maintaining sandwich-sliceability.) It turned out great. It felt good to knead the dough, to work out the various design problems of braided loaves, to watch them slowly rise under a dishtowel on the kitchen counter. "I've still got it," I thought.
I'm truly feeling a sense of detoxing from my past job, all its frustrations, all its assaults on my self-confidence. Getting my hands into things -- whether bread dough or glass tools or dirt -- is, I think, becoming an important part of grasping onto my true self and pulling it back into me.