Thursday, September 24, 2009

Square 62: Light box

Square 062

I have decided to buy a light box, but with ambivalence. I hate how medical science calls this condition Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is perfectly natural (not dysfunctional) for people's energy to go through cycles over the course of a year. Many animals in these latitudes hibernate. A few generations ago our own ancestors conserved essential resources by eating differently and sleeping through long nights in a warm cave. Many of the behaviours psychiatry calls mental illness are merely variations, our brains experimenting in order to adapt. Some, like the depression that afflicts some individuals in winter, are reasonable responses to social pressure that runs contrary to nature.

The primary yarn in this square is something from Dye-Version I bought at Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters' Fair earlier this month. These fiery colours evoke an Ontario landscape in autumn. This is one of the most beautiful times of year, but also a perilous one, when my moods and energy respond to the loss of daylight. Some years in October and November I have found my inner landscape eerily out of sync, disconsolate, bogged down, unable to celebrate the vividness around me.

Why am I buying a light box? Why do I submit to manipulating my own environment in an attempt to conform to societal standards I disapprove of? Why do I take a pill to treat a sickness that isn't sick?

The only answer I have is that when I am out of pace with the world, I suffer. No matter how misguided the system is, I have to live in it. And as long as I'm depressed, I won't have any power to change the system. We have to make some sacrifices, waver on our principles occasionally.

So I plan to purchase this thing. Maybe it's like sending my brain for a little vacation on a tropical beach, every morning of the winter. That, too, is something my caveman ancestors could not have done, but I have to admit I like the idea.

The four other other coloured yarns represent states of mind that pertain to this problem: grey for depression, gold for light, violet for creativity, and pale peach for peace.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Square 61: Kettle Creek bag

Square 061

For years I have carried a small red canvas backpack my mother gave me, made by Kettle Creek Clothing Company. The name is embroidered on it in golden-brown thread. It is rugged and has already been repaired once by a friend, but is finally wearing out. Kettle Creek closed years ago, and cloth bags like this one are becoming hard to find. It is irreplaceable.

For years after I came out, I used to head into Toronto once or twice a month to visit the gay village, meet men I had encountered online, go dancing at the bars and spend time with friends I had made there. I dated quite a few. I traveled light, and this bag would carry everything I needed for a weekend.

Those were exciting times but also lonely, I suppose. I had lost my social network and was starting over from nothing. I couldn't go back to where I had been, but had to figure out who I really was and what kind of people I belonged with. I was doing what every adolescent needs to do, twenty years late. Few relationships I made in those days have endured until now. I came out in 1996, and it was five years before I started to figure out where I fit in. It turned out to be Guelph after all, not Toronto, but the big city offered a quick fix. That sounds cheap, but you need something when you're on your own. Toronto kept me busy and allowed me to experiment, and that was valuable. I had few constant companions, but the red bag was one of them.

Later I used it more often for carrying my writing things to the E-bar above The Bookshelf, where I liked to hang out and work. Since I moved seven weeks ago and could walk to pick up groceries, the bag has proven useful but suddenly started to show its age.

In one patch on the bottom the threads are wearing bare. I am afraid to carry anything heavy in it. Soon it will become useless.

I used to keep old, broken, lovely things that had sentimental value attached, but I am trying to overcome that habit. In striving for a simpler life, you can't afford to hold onto clutter. One day soon I must let go of this bag, but I need to retain the stories that hang from the fabric. They are part of who I am.