What matters

In the middle of October I spent a weekend at the New York Sheep and Wool festival in Rhinebeck, NY. It’s become an annual trip for me over the last few years, one I look forward to a lot — primarily because a lot of my online friends gather there, making it a chance to see people in person whom I normally only get to know via words on screens.

Rhinebeck (as it is informally known) is a great festival for people who love working with fiber and yarn, as you’re surrounded by it. Great shopping and window-shopping opportunities abound, and these are the primary reasons a lot of people go. I spent my share of time wandering the show this year, doing a little bit of shopping and a whole lot of looking and appreciating. But in my last few hours before coming home late Sunday, I found myself standing beside the vendor booth owned and staffed by some really good friends, spinning with my drop spindle.

Even at a fiber festival where yarn-arts are much more common than in ordinary life, people are still intrigued by the process of spinning fiber into yarn. People walking up and down the aisles would pause to watch, and I’d smile at them and keep working. Some people would stop and ask questions, and I was happy to talk about what I was doing, how it works, how to get started. My friend Jess has been developing a new and very interesting type of spindle over the course of this year, and she had a very pretty display of them sitting on the end of a table beside an aisle. I put away my own spindle and picked up one of Jess’s, got out some scrap fiber, and kept spinning — while I was garnering attention, may as well use some of it to advertise a friend’s products, and she makes some lovely attention-getting designs.

In the end I spent nearly three hours, I think, spinning and talking to people about spinning and helping a few spindles find buyers. Amid all of the people and fiber and color and events and everything there is to do at a big fiber-arts festival, that was the time I actually enjoyed most. Hanging out with friends, talking to people about something I love doing and know some things about.

Around the same period of time, my taiji coach and mentor Coach Jose was helping me to work through some personal-development resources and ideas, primary among them discovering one’s own values and setting personal goals in light of them. Via a simple story-writing exercise, we uncovered five words that indicate a lot about what’s most important to me:

Understanding.
Change.
Belonging.
Friends.
Knowledge.

I found these five words just before Rhinebeck, and then went to the festival, and only after I came home did I realize how right they are, how they explained my sheer enjoyment of spending time with friends and talking to people about spinning. It matters deeply to me to have a place where I belong, with friends; it fires me up to learn and understand things, and to help other people understand things by teaching them what I know.

Thinking about my experience this year at Rhinebeck makes it all the more clear to me how important it is to live out of one’s deepest values, to pursue the things that are the most personally important. I wrote my five words on a sheet of paper and stuck it up on the wall in front of my treadmill, so that I look at them every day when I get up and walk. I’m trying to keep them in mind as I think about work and school and the things I may want to do in the world next. It doesn’t matter what is culturally important or important to any other person alive; if I want to live a deeply meaningful and satisfying life, these are my guides and requirements.

I’m still thinking about my words, and others that relate to them. I’m praying about them, and asking to be guided toward my next place in the world, a place where these things that matter most to me will matter greatly in what I do as well.

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