When I was 9 or 10, my friend Kathy invited me to join her on a Campfire Girls outing. That day she needed to demonstrate fire-starting in order to earn the outdoor skills badge.
She gathered kindling and stacked it according to the handbook, lit the match and held it to the tinder. Lots of smoke, but no flame. She tried a second time, and still no blaze.
I knew very little about outdoor skills other than scavenging for rhubarb stalks in our backyard. But I managed to help my friend with her fire. Dried pine needles littered the ground. I added a few and the flame took instantly. Oh they made a satisfying hiss and snap as the fire grew. I found some dried cedar branches and placed them on the pile. More furious flames and sparks.
I was so caught up in the excitement of building my first fire that I did not see the counsellor as she stormed across the field.
“What are you doing?” she cried.
My heart pounded. What a frightful woman! She was pissed off.
“This is Kathy’s project! You aren’t supposed to being doing that. Now get away!”
I may or may not have cried: I cannot remember much after the counsellor scolded me. But I do remember feeling ashamed and confused. Also, I suppose, I felt the shock of the rug pulled out, and certainly of being found wanting.To render an accurate image of this woman, take the picture of Margaret Hamilton as Miss Gulch and overlay that with Picasso’s Stravinsky, paying special attention to the tucked in chin, thick lips, and stern countenance. Oh, and of course, the wicked witch that lies beneath.
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I set out today to write about my hobbies. Not so much to describe what I did, when, and where, but more along the lines of “why?”
When I partnered with the men in my life, I adopted their hobbies. For instance, like many schoolgirls, I went through a “horse phase” but as an adult, I had no desire to ride. Since The Cowboy had a horse, well then, so did I. Yes, I loved acting in high school, but not enough to seek community theaters and audition. That is, not until I was with The Performer. The only time I invoked my love of sewing (Lies! All of it, lies!) was when I walked into the sewing machine store to check out the handsome repairman behind the counter. Bringing us up to date is mineral collecting and photography. This hobby came along with Reiner. I enjoy it. Am I hard-core, over-the-moon, rocks and minerals 24/7 like he is? Uh, no.
This habit of taking my lead from outward prompts goes beyond my hobbies. Mom made sure I was gainfully employed the moment I was old enough to haul a sack of newspapers. It was she who snatched the job posting from the highschool bulletin board before any other student had a chance to apply for the job with Bell Canada. Another friend suggested that I study Developmental Services Work when Bell made staff cuts and offered re-training packages. Sure, why not?
Once again, back to the future: I have one more year with the mining tech program. Never in a million years did I consider mining as a career choice. Reiner suggested it. His company is getting close (as in several years) to putting shovel into the ground. They will need techs. I demurred. Reiner saw an ad for the online technology course. I wondered, do I really have what it takes? I demurred some more. Then our 65 year-old mineral collecting friend announced that he enrolled in a geology course. Well, if he could do it, so could I.
But my heart? Not really into it.
As the years, relationships, and hobbies came and went, I frequently lamented that I wanted something more. Something to “scratch the itch.” Gardening did that for me, at one time. However, one too many uprootings, literally and figuratively, have left me tired and heart sore. I still tend perennial borders and a small veggie patch, mow the lawn, but gardening is a task, not a devotion.
Back to my question: why did I take up hobbies that did not scratch the itch?
In each of the relationships, taking part in activities that were important to the guy meant that we could do things together. No harm, no foul, right?
But what about the stuff that I wanted to do?
What stuff? I asked myself.
I felt that I was disappointing the self-help gurus of the world. The people who urged me to be independent, to find my voice, and speak it. To find my thing and do it. To do what I love. If I am involved in something like minerals, someone else’s hobby that is, then I felt (and still feel) like a fraud.
Maybe there’s a hint in the story up top because as usual, the keyboard had other ideas and the Campfire Girls story leads the way. Why?
Oh hell, I don’t know. Maybe I just need an editor to give me a swift kick. Maybe there is no connection. Maybe I need to rewrite this into two separate posts.
Wait… do you suppose that I learned that I must not involve myself with someone else’s project? Is it as simple as that?
Or is all of this navel gazing so much “new world problems” and I should get over it and attend to the daily prompt and be done with it? Because, yeah, blogging is scratching the itch. Nice and satisfying that. Took a while to get here, but hey, at least I made it.
Put that in your picnic basket and smoke it, Miss Gulch!
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Miss Gulch, who in the real world shall remain nameless, surfaced again in my life when I worked at Bell.
She was my first boss.