Thursday, December 28, 2006

Perfection

Attending Wilmot Church allowed me to understand Fredericton better. We gradually came to know the people in the university and those in our neighborhood, but they weren’t usually from Fredericton. The Wilmot men were silent but pleasant and perfect gentlemen. The women were old-fashioned, unblemished by the woman’s movement. Most of them didn’t drive, so I would give them a ride home from the women’s group, Miss Chappelle’s unit of the UCW. Their presentation of food was perfect. When they made “small cakes”, the pieces were flawlessly square, with no ragged edges. I have never mastered that, and now I resign myself that I probably never will. The women wore hats to church.

They quilted. I had never known anyone who quilted although my grandmother embroidered, and one of my six aunts crocheted. Quilting requires a steady hand and absolute patience. The mother of a Japanese professor came to Fredericton, discovered quilting, and went back to Tokyo to begin the craft. She did the designs, but she hired women to do the actual quilting. She didn’t use the traditional designs of log cabin and the like, nor did she do Oriental designs, but she was influenced by Escher. The quilts were so wonderful that the Beaverbrook Art Gallery had an exhibition of them. I heard two women discussing them. The stitching was very poor, they agreed. I felt superior. The stitching might be poor, but the designs were so original and creative, I thought.

But all these long years later, I understand that wasn’t the point. The point was to do something flawlessly from beginning to end, with tiny perfect stitches, and using the traditional designs in a creative, original way. I can imagine Marilynne Robinson writing Gilead (which took many years – twenty?), every sentence perfect, using the traditional structure of the novel.

1 comment:

Poor Mad Peter said...

When we went to Japan for a visit (my ESL teacher cousin in southern Japan), we learned that the Japanese culture values skill, as in skillfully done workmanship in just about every aspect of life.

One of the highest praises a Japanese person can give someone is "Josu!" (rhymes with "Joe's who?"), which means literally "skilled!" As we would say, "Well done!"

It is very strange to hear that a Japanese person would try to present a piece of work, even hired-out work (the stitching), executed in an inferior way. I would probably agree with you that the creative design is what is important, but poor workmanship doesn't jibe with what I learned of Japanese culture.