Thursday, September 30, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
--from "Little Gidding (No. 4 of "Four Quartets")," by T.S. Eliot
I'm intrigued by T.S. Eliot's idea of exploration. That we keep exploring unfamiliar places so that we can come home and make the familiar new again. More than that, Eliot might be saying that exploration leaves us with a deeper knowledge of our own "place" and ourselves. Perhaps familiarity breeds a dullness of vision, and it is by traveling and encountering new cultures that we fully open our eyes to an understanding of where we live; that the voyage to know what seems foreign is essentially a way to achieve self-knowledge.
As I was walking along the streets of Washington, D.C. on my latest Friday Field Trip--a series of solo jaunts to get to know the Baltimore-Washington region where I'm now living--I could feel something waking up inside of me. It was partly the energy of the city, with people walking briskly and purposefully to their jobs. It was also the jarring strangeness and elegance of Embassy Row, where even the tiniest nations from all across the globe inhabit stately row houses.
Mostly it was the upsurge in memories of exploring other cities when I was younger and alive with dreams of what my future would hold: of getting off at a randomly chosen Metro station in Mexico City to walk around a neighborhood and imagine the dreams contained in each home; of staring up at the skyscrapers in Chicago's Loop and thinking about the great work I could do in each office; of biking along the beachfront path in Santa Monica and feeling the restless creativity of Los Angeles; of admiring the juxtaposition of art objects in a Phoenix museum.
I'm viewing these Friday Field Trips as ways to reconnect with myself, and more specifically with those entwined senses of imagination, curiosity, and wonder that sometimes get squashed as I'm driving carpool, folding laundry, or going about the daily-ness of living. There is wonder to be found in each of those activities (OK, maybe not in folding laundry) if I'm awake enough to see it, just as artisans wove wonder into the objects of daily life displayed in The Textile Museum's current exhibit, "The Art of Living: Textile Furnishings From the Permanent Collection."
There is wonder embodied in the exhibit's woven Victorian wallcovering of scrolled floral forms. In a brilliantly dyed Peruvian wall hanging that juxtaposes European, Asian, and Native American motifs. In the collaborative colored Vs of a rug woven by Navajo women and designed by a Modernist artist. In a massive embroidered wool rug stitched by a Mexican artisan in 1783.
George Hewitt Myers, who bought his first Turkish rugs in college and started The Textile Museum, recognized the wonder of these objects and collected them to understand the techniques, colors, and patterns that formed them. His quest to bring together astounding examples of non-Western textiles is a form of exploration, and one that ultimately helps us understand the textile beauty beneath our feet and all around us.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Another trail winds along the back of the farm, past a grassy meadow that must once have been corn fields. From there the noise of the cars on the road recedes, and the housing developments across the highway seem a world away. I notice the slender plastic tubes that protect the hardwood saplings from deer. In a few decades these young trees will have reforested some of the cleared areas. As those trees grow and leaf out, the pressure of population growth will no doubt continue to put more demands on the land, challenging residents to preserve at least as much as they take away.