the critical work of our time is not in grand gestures. it is in what i like to call the small work. the tiny step that requires the most energy, because it is the first.
all the energy bound up in avoidance, in meaning to, in wishing, fearing, procrastinating, it’s more than enough to do the work itself. once begun, the energy of the world carries us along. to decide, and then to make that leap into the first step, it’s the hardest part.
the small work is the tiny steps to make anything. if it were basketry, it is that of weaving the fibre in and out, yes. but the critical task was even smaller, invisible. first, it was to decide to finally give space to a longed-for skill, but most crucially, to make the call to take a class to learn how. to do it now. studying basketry with a neighbour, that’s easy. attending a workshop, the decision is already made. ok, cleaning a neglected kitchen after a long day of intense learning is not easy. our supportive roles ought to be repaid richly.
later, a week, two weeks and the baskets sat waiting, not quite finished. you know this moment? how it can stretch on for months and years? there is the small work again. how to start again, when every other task in our world is calling us.
this is the small work, to make the step even smaller. not ‘finishing a basket’ but the tiniest act possible. before i went off for a nap, i filled the sink with warm water and submerged the fibres in their bath to soften and limber up.
when i woke, it was clear what to do. my meditative brain had no argument save that the bed is rather cosy. then how easy to take small steps that build real things, to settle down with the almost-basket, slip the reed over and under, do the work. it’s a pleasure, then.
the work of repairing a world in converging crises, it’s no different. there are no grand gestures. the courageous action is in deciding to begin, then in beginning each task, then simply to take those tiny steps that flow along with their own energy. to make this small, regenerative work a habit, shared across the world like many, many thousands of weavers and knitters binding and stitching, until the world is mended.
these days i’m taking tiny steps to make new films in the journal of the small work* series, both long-form pieces and their weekly-ish minute-film companions, and transforming these experimental bits of writing into podcasts and books. little by little, bit by bit.