In my zeal for taking on a more sustainable life, I sometimes acquire things. These things tend to include books, tools, pots, pans, jars, yarn, knitting needles, bike trailer, blankets, and all manner of other things. But lately, I’ve been wondering if I’ve been more focused on the having rather than the doing, and if I’m far more focused on acquiring these things than figuring out what to do with them and how to use them effectively.
Clearly, tools are important. It’s necessary to have knitting needles and yarn to be able to knit something. It’s just as necessary to have a canning kettle, jars, and lids to preserve food. But without learning the skills and practicing, it’s going to be hard to turn out some socks or a nice sweater, or to produce healthy pickles and flavourful jam. But despite their importance, tools don’t always have a lot of use without the knowledge and the skill to go with them. And, as with many other things done by hand, the skills are those that usually require practice. They don’t just develop overnight, and they certainly aren’t conveyed simply through owning a particular object.
I’m acutely aware that although I have quite a few useful tools, my skills aren’t all where I want them to be. I can cook a great meal, sure, but if we had to survive next year on my gardening skills, we’d likely be in trouble. I can knit a sweater (probably still with a bit of swearing involved), but a bike repair is almost completely out of my comfort zone. There are many skills in which I am significantly lacking, and all the tools and supplies and books in the world just won’t get me there on their own. I can cook, can, bike, run, hammer, saw, and do all kinds of other things that I’m sure I’ll forget about until I’m reminded that they’re needed. But at the same time, I know there’s a lot of knowledge that I should have, and some that I would like to have, that I just don’t.
I suspect that sometimes I get seduced by the the idea that things will somehow magically change me. It’s easy to believe that by having something, I will be transformed, with little to no effort, into something else. Of course, it’s not that easy, and it’s high time that I actually use the things that I own in order to work on developing my skills. With the end of the semester, I’ve been pondering what I want to accomplish this summer, and I’m sure that working on reskilling will be one area of focus. But until I figure that out in a bit more detail, I have frozen cranberries waiting to be turned into sauce and canned, and we’ll be trying a new recipe for dinner tonight. I also have some lovely sock yarn that I’ve just started casting on, and a guide to bike maintenance ready to go. Although it won’t happen just yet, I’ve been looking at quilting patterns that I might like to try.
Sure, it’s better to have the stuff than to not, but the point is to actually use it. Having is not the same as actually doing, and now is as good a time as any to rectify that.