365: “Something That Incorporates Everything” (Becky Chambers)

                “Eyas sipped her drink. ‘You’ve found something that incorporates everything else you tried.’” -Becky Chambers, Record of a Spaceborn Few

                A few days ago I went to my friend’s house to learn about making woodblock prints. Along the way we talked about music, video games, gardens, seasons, career paths, how lovely it is to go wandering off the path, mead, cooking, and dark-eyed juncos. Our conversation left our two glasses on the window sill, catching light, and wood shavings scattered across the floor.
                The block printing itself was not only ‘itself.’ We also sawed our blocks, and sanded them, which meant sitting outside for a while in the shade, and sharpened the chisels. At one point my friend said something like, “I like tasks that are so involved.” Printing that involves carving that involves sharpening that involves looking at references on our phones, sanding, sawing, and our two glasses on the windowsill.
                In Record of a Spaceborn Few, Eyas is talking about careers. Or vocations, I suppose— her culture practices an extensive version of universal basic income, so people work largely for a sense of giving back. (At one point a character says something like, ‘What do you do?’ becomes a way of asking ‘what do you do for everyone else?’) Eyas is talking about what her friend does. He sees all his different fits and starts and ideas as separate. Eyas sees them as coming together in what he does now. There are certainly moments in my life—emotionally overwhelmed while driving, but I just have to watch the road; an upset student, and I’m upset too, but I’m trying not to let my upset direct my response—where my life seems to turn toward a kind of separating, compartmentalizing. I think those moments are important. And as a way of thinking about who I am and what I’m doing, I like the idea of involves. Of incorporating all my different confusions and fears, my talents and practices, my curiosities and silliness into the kind of work that takes me outside and inside and outside again, with our water glasses on the windowsill.

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