48. Unfillable bag of tricks

One of Benny’s friends, George, came from a large family and the oldest of the children was a sister named Aris who lived an hour or so out of the city, not far from where a monthly farmers’ market was held. If he was available, and keen, Benny and maybe some others might occasionally go up there. Aris, through her younger brother, was why they had found out about the farmers’ market, and on the occasions when they were there George would drive himself over to his sister’s place at some stage to visit while the rest explored the food and the bargains, or they might go along as everyone was always welcome.

She had taken up doing pottery classes at a whim years ago, even before her little brother met our Benny at college, with evidence of her successful creations (mugs and a bowl or two) at George’s place, and had kept up her efforts with it since. In fact the industrious Aris grew something of a reputation (by way of her brother’s banter about what she’d been up to whenever he came back from a visit) for trying all sorts of activities, not just crafts and the like, but new food trends, learning another language, elaborate cakes, some leather work, spinning wool, joining a local choir, making ginger beer from a recipe found in an old borrowed book, some woodwork creations, and assorted other ‘projects’ as she called her efforts.

“I had the idea that all these sorts of activities started with the pottery, but I suppose this could have been because impressionable-me back when I’d first met her saw this as a different sort of skill to want to pick up. But then another really different side-project of hers that George mentioned once was when he had his long hair cut short after his first year of college, which was done up at her place by one of her friends. Apparently she kept his cut hair and spun it into a rough sort of yarn and knitted him a beany out of it. We thought that was hilarious — at least he’d have something to wear if he ever went bald. But George said she’d always been more ‘out there’ and tried new things, even back when he was a kid and she was the big sister (I mean, they still are, but I guess he was meaning that the difference seemed a bigger deal back then… I knew what he meant).

“He remembered scrapbooks, sewing dolls clothes (more or less), making bird feeders and hanging them in one of the trees in the front yard, making their own play dough. He said she had a pen pal in New Zealand for a while, and one year she even tried to make easter eggs — and George thought they were great. He remembered this was done by making a hole at each end of a real egg, blowing out the insides and filling the empty shell with melted chocolate. It wouldn’t have been like a normal hollow easter egg, but George thought it was better because that year some of them were solid chocolate, not just a thin shell, even though they were smaller. But he said he remembered thinking the idea was a winner, because it meant more chocolate.”

The invigoration that rubbed off from this energetic older sister, in reputation as well as Benny’s own occasional memories, made a stirring kinetic impression on a lot of the people who encountered the ‘try-anything’ Aris. What Benny didn’t realise out loud, as it were, was that this approach to the world made an unstated impression on him, that a fair proportion of that try-anything view had already soaked in, had got under his skin, and became digested into the way he viewed the options available to deal with whatever comes up in his own encounters. Not that Benny’s view was the result of the influence of just one person of course, but there was a recognisable ring to it, a mirrored correspondence with an enthusiasm he had experience with himself. By now, for example, in a lot of the instances where a conclusion is reached, naturally or otherwise, the direction he finds himself facing is the go-to, shaken-down reaction that has been settled on over many encounters.

In fact, stand back from this string of events and consequences, take a long view, and it might seem that this has been a long road for that Ben Yoskin out there. I’m sure he gives the general impression of being just an everyday person to most of the people he comes across, maybe a little quieter but not always, but I (or we) know that there’s a lot going on under the surface. His taking up of certain viewpoints, or his absorption of them rather, seems to have been conducted over one of the longer gestation periods we’re likely to witness, and it’s not done with yet (then again, as with everything, it’s all relative). And it seemed to me in here, or uncovered to himself when he allowed for an unguarded moment, that all situations provided fair game.

So while the busy Aris and her circle might end up with some cups and vases, a car key or letters rack, a belt or some ginger beer, our boy’s efforts had different results. And rather than reaching each result out of a lesson or other training session like she had, Benny came upon his lessons or even inferences through seemingly inconsequential happenings — although I could have told him that there is nothing inconsequential; it’s all consequential.

His, however, has been training that was not sought-out but rather stumbled-upon (which can be preferred). As such, there was also no picking and choosing, no partiality. And in that way the basket of raw materials for Benny’s projects held the tails side of coins, a wet sparrow, a friend’s breakdown and anguished choice, a pine branch teepee, good old Milo, an egg (and some thrown ones), tedious spreadsheets, a rogue shopping trolley, old peeled off wallpaper and much much more. And the projects (or rather the ramifications of them… improve, apply, ponder and conclude) were still being accumulated. In fact, the spread of experiences was all-inclusive. And his leaning (with prompting) to pervasively include whatever came along was a heartening trait.

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