Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Hand-Crank Egg-Beater Approach to Story

 You have a long history with gadgets, whether the simple, straightforward ones such as can openers or cigarette lighters, the one-off gadgets, and the more complicated, multi-use ones.  Of all these implements, the one most outstanding in your your memory is the hand-crank, gear-driven device with two rotating bulbs your mother used for whipping cream or whisking eggs.

Your fascination for the device was not something you could easily put into words, although there were times when you would remove the instrument from its drawer to study the glistening beauty and simplicity of it.  The merest tap of the handle set the gears in motion, which in turn caused the blades to turn.  

Early on, perhaps because you'd developed a taste for whipped cream, perhaps because you associated the device with your mother's baking wonders, or simply because the sound of the device in operation seemed to transport you to places you could barely describe, you let it be known that you were ready to take on such spontaneous chores as cream whipping, egg beating, or any other activity whereby you cranked away, directed to some frothy outcome.

The egg beater is process at work.  Turn here, and these gears and blades step willingly to work.  This time of the egg beater was special because your mother also had an electric mixing bowl that could just as well have beaten eggs, whipped cream, and even, so far as you recall, make custards and even a kind of soft-serve ice cream.  It was no fun for you because you could not see its inner workings, its overall commitment to function, its process.

Lastly about the egg beater-cream whipper device, its use induced in you a kind of hypnotic state where you became aware of being a part of a larger pattern.  In later years, your mother, reminiscing about those days of baking and food preparation, confessed her growing irritation that you were unwilling to stop beating when the cream had reached its proper consistency or the eggs had attained the proper froth.  "I used to think,"  she'd said, "I'd created a monster."  Her final solution was to switch over to the electric mixing bowl.  

These years later, you still have a sense of nostalgia when you see or think about the hand-crank egg beater and your early sense of equating it to a mystical process. You still look about you, eager to see process at work--any kind of process, looking for things you can borrow from it to enhance your own.

Process reveals itself as a straightforward, uncomplicated approach whereby each individual can make the necessary accommodations and adjustments to produce works that run the risk of being useful inventions or Rube Goldberg contraptions that in the long run do nothing.

Being within the innards of your process, feeling it work, you are not far off from that boy cranking the handle of the remarkable cream whipper, hearing its gears mesh, watching the blades cause the swirl and eddy of the cream, watching it thicken.

Of course you have more experience now with which to describe the feelings of being at some kind of unity with the process.  Whipping cream always had a useful and remarkable outcome, including such times as when your mother would add grated chocolate or shredded dried fruits or even vegetable dye to the cream.  

Your own process is outcome oriented, but there are stopovers and in some cases the mere gathering of words which begin often enough with some impetus but which seem to lose energy, then stop.  Rereading these in hopes of being able to add another sentence or two, if possible even a paragraph, you find yourself thinking, If you were to crank harder, with more persistence, then,perhaps, an outcome would begin to emerge.

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