visible repair

January 8th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.”

Leonard Cohen

Two posts ago, I had just left the boat and had just arrived home. Home was Pittsburgh, New York and Georgia, which is to say that arriving home was no simple feat, and is still, in a way, happening.

In an attempt to think things through and hear some type of inner voice (and also, quite frankly, to absorb a portion of the sudden homelessness I was experiencing), I did a work-stay at a retreat center in upstate NY. The first snow of the winter came the day after I arrived, and I spent my time there shoveling snow as an “active meditation”. Between shoveling shifts, us workers could attend the meditation and mealtime activities, and co-mingle with the visitors, staff and full-time devotees. I was an interloper, just blending in, and I sat my cafeteria tray down in the rustic dining hall to a new group of stranger-comrades every day.

If there is one thing I can do, it is strike up a conversation with a stranger. It’s really just as easy as asking a question and then letting the other person answer for awhile. One evening I asked a dinner companion about his jacket – it was a heavily embroidered denim coat, tidy but also heavily worked, practically rendered. My hands drifted to my knees, feeling the satin patches on my jeans, stitched and re-stiched over the years with golden thread.

He appreciated my noticing the coat – “It’s visible repair!”, we said in unison. I showed him my jeans.

Visible repair is what you do when you are too stingy or nostalgic to let your belongings die of natural causes. On the boat, we were both. In Japan, sashiko embroidery in the style of high-contrast “little stabs” is used for boro, the patching up of tattered but valued material. On the Indian subcontinent, saris are recycled into blankets and cushions through kantha. Closer to home, industrious folx convert favorite scraps into quilts. His jacket was a calico denim blazer, in the sashiko-boro style. I remember the texture, as I ran my hand down the sleeve.

Your favorite soup bowl, accidentally dropped, may be repaired with gold powder, the walls around you with mosaic, colorful plastic blocks, or a lovely hunk of nature within reach. Accidents and erosion become the opportunity for artful care-taking.

So much of me right now is under repair. Sometimes I don’t know if there is enough textile for the stitches to bite. How much of me is me vs. the repair? Will I come out rough or smooth? In the groggy meanwhile I float above the operating table, hoping for this extended surgical procedure to take. If there is any lesson from my time under fiberglass, it is that everything is fixable.

sardine hypnosis

May 20th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Sardines are a perfect food. They are easy to catch, low in the food chain bioaccumulationaly speaking, and live everywhere. They *can* be caught easily and with minimal waste, or you can find them canned in nice oil or sauce in any tienda. I have a lot of stories that center around sardines.

View this post on Instagram

Sardine hypnosis. #sealevelliving

A post shared by kate zidar (@plankton_every_day) on

My first positive sardine memory is during planning school. Our studio project, a greening plan for a section of the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, was doing our final presentation during a full on community board meeting. I was supposed to do the speaking part for my section, and I was nervous before the talk. My classmate Anthony Gelber, who was a little older than me and knew some stuff, pulled me aside to run through the talk one last time.

From a deli bag he retrieves a carton of OJ, a loaf of Italian bread, and a can of sardines in tomato sauce. I´m running through my note cards, and hes listening and pouring out cups of OJ, scooping out the center of the bread and layering in the sardines. He hands me a sardine sandwich with sauce all over, which forces me to put down my cards and run through the talk on memory, with sauce all over.

This story gives me so much nostalgia – for the camaraderie of school in the city, for the Bronx, for bodega meals. Also for the practice of balancing expertise with real communication (asking, listening, not just talking), being and sometimes staying nervous, and trying things for the first time. Over a decade later, living a very different life, I find daily use for all of this training.

View this post on Instagram

Another day, another sardine. #mandalatogo

A post shared by kate zidar (@plankton_every_day) on

A few nights back a friend broke out a cast net, and we applied it – with the help of a local who had the rather tricky deployment of a cast net on lock – to the roving schools of sardines that thread around the docks. In a few moments we had more than we could possibly eat, and we fried up batch after batch, stuffing our bellies and looking for more people to feed.

So maybe I am elevating the sardine a bit. Maybe this is a more general post about how sharing a meal builds community. Maybe its an even more general post about seeing abundance where it is. Pretty sure this one is not that deep. I just woke up thinking of my next meal, which F can attest is a pretty regular day.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the minga category at plankton every day.