Monday, November 3, 2014

The importance of Skill... knowing what you're doing instinctively and nailing it in a critical moment

I suppose we all have moments that we wish hadn't happened. We wish we had taken a different turn or decided to do something else that day. A Friday a few weeks ago was one of those days for me. It was, all in all, a brilliant afternoon. Beautiful fall weather, a nice hike in the high country, a drive through the Colorado mountains to a weekend family retreat. But then that one thing happened. We came around a corner on a two-lane mountain highway and saw a couple cars pulled haphazardly to the shoulder, several people running fast toward a person lying face down at the edge of the road, an SUV on the shoulder, and a motorcycle in the ditch... debris spread for a 100 yards along the road.

First on the scene of an accident is not on the list of happy events in any day, especially when you have medical training and know you can't just drive by and feel okay about it. That moment when I was running toward the guy on the shoulder and 5 people stood over him asking who had medical training and I heard that there were two paramedics and an RN there, I was very very thankful. I would have done my best, but in this situation, paramedic and RN trump OT every single day of the week.

Skill is something that takes a long time to acquire. The off-duty medical personnel at the accident had tremendous skill. It isn't just knowing what to do, it is having the experience to be able to do it. This also true in tapestry weaving. Creation of a tapestry involves a learned knowing in the muscles of your body. That doesn't come just through intellectual understanding. It comes through years of manipulating warp and weft and through the doing of it, gaining understanding about the material, the color, and the form.

My tapestry students frequently are people who want things to be correct. I find that many weavers are like this. They want order and they want it to happen quickly. I struggle with communicating to them how long it takes to learn the nuance. It takes repetition over years and years to make the skill flow from your fingers and perhaps even bypass your brain. This is important and the only way to get to it is practice.

Sam's injuries were extensive. I don't think any of us who have medical training and faced each other over his body in that first moment thought he had a chance of leaving that road alive. He was pronounced at the scene. He was 50. That RN in her purple print scrub top and white white pants had skill. She was a bad-ass who called the shots and did everything exactly right. Those pants were so white even while everything else was covered in blood.

7 comments:

  1. I'm always surprised when something does become somewhat habitual. This past weekend I warped a new 22" Mirrix loom at 10 epi for 12 inches. Even though I did put the "warping" bar a little too high to be comfortable I did it with no mistakes. Then I set my heddles, with no mistakes. I've probably warped my other Mirrix looms more than 20 times and always had mistakes, always learned something by my those errors. I'm sure I'll have some mistakes in the future, but it was really nice to do it once and be done. Practice may not always make perfect, but it does make better.

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    1. Agreed! I still make plenty of mistakes (who doesn't?), but the more you practice, the fewer they are... except the mistakes you make at all the new things you're trying.

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  2. Artists, of all types, have a way of making their skill look effortless. A beginner, like me, doesn't see the years of effort required . Yep, perfectionists can be pretty hard on self.
    It IS best to give Jello time to gel.

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  3. The older I get, the more I appreciate the time it takes to develop such skill and yet the less patience I have for it in my own life. This is a good reminder that we all really only have this moment so making peace with where we are in this process would be wise.

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  4. Sorry to hear you had to have such a sad experience in a rather lovely day. That's the way it goes most of the time. Those times that are clean and clear, I appreciate more and more as I age. I love tapestry because it's slow and tactile. I try not to worry about the end result and when I'll get there, I just enjoy the moment and the process, the whole process. Yes, even the warping of the loom. I do get excited though, when I actually see what needs to be done ahead of time and that happens more and more with each practice piece.

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  5. Touching and well said, Rebecca. I often need to remind myself of my fave Bill Withers quotation:
    On the road to wonderful, you might stop in all right and while you're there, take a good look around, you might be there for awhile!

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    1. Great quote Tal! Thanks. "All right" is fine with me most days.

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