By Hand is a monthly prompt that focuses on freeing our words by using our hands. This month, we’re exploring pruning as craeft.
When I downloaded a sample of Craeft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts by Alexander Langlands, I didn’t expect to like it. I don’t craft, in any sense of the word. But I liked what I read.
In chapter 1, Langlands quotes a historian named Peter Clemoes, who says Alfred the Great defined craeft in this way: “the organising principle of the individual’s capacity to follow a moral and mental life.”
What does craft (or craeft) have to do with a moral and mental life?
Over the holidays my daughter returned to a job at a commercial farm, raising flowers and herbs for sale. She brought home poinsettias, ornamental kale, snapdragons, and geraniums. When she got on a plane and headed back to school, she left the plants in my care — I, who am positively immoral when it comes to caring for green things.
To learn how to follow a moral and mental life by keeping these plants alive (aka pruning them), I went to the farm’s website, which had tips for Removing Geranium Blooms and Dead Leaves, complete with pictures. So I set to work grasping stems, removing dead blooms, sticking my fingers into soil to judge dryness.
My daughter has been gone almost two weeks. The plants are still alive. My conscience is clear; my mental state, a bit more organized.
Prompt Guidelines and Options
1. Do you have any indoor plants? If not, fetch one! It may be a while before you can get your hands on outdoor plants currently resting beneath snow.
2. Use your hands to prune buds or leaves that have passed their prime. Stick your finger in the soil and determine by feel whether or not the plant needs water.
3. If you have a plant you can’t identify, get in touch with a Master Gardener. Invite him or her over. Serve tea! Watch how they touch your plants and talk about them. Do what they do.
4. Write a poem, vignette, or story opener that springs from your craeft or pruning experience. Or write about this month of January, named after the Roman god Janus, who simultaneously looks backward and forward. Or write something entirely unexpected. (Haiku to a Hollyhock?)
That’s it! We look forward to what you create when you do it By Hand.