Monday, September 20, 2010
thursday will be one year. in 3 days will have fulfilled my 'obligation', both to the cone and to the project. that said, it feels decidedly unlike an 'arrival' (maybe that would be different had i actually updated this blog with any substantial consistency). i'm just on the path, and i'm gonna do my best to stay in the middle of it.
i love playing yo-yo. i love it even more with this string. when i started this journey a year ago, i thought that it would be a challenge, and in some respects it has been... but not in the way that i assumed. i thought i would grow to detest the ritual of winding and cutting and twisting, and that i would get sick of the thick, unwieldy material (and no lie, it can feel like razor-wire on humid summer days). but no... by and large, this project has been a dream, and without a doubt, i will be continuing to use the cone (AND the 'backup' i have for whenever this one has finally tapped out) until i'm positively empty... at which point i'll probably seek for another source.
there is nothing like being in touch with what you're doing. as i've said several times, it's SO easy to yank a string off a skein and go that the process contributes nothing to your yo-yoing. i'm sure some would argue that putting a string on the yo-yo 'need not' contribute to one's play, but it does for me. the 'real' trick begins before the throw down and continues after the yo-yo whacks the flesh of your palm. much like a pianist might say that the meaning is found in the rests and not the notes, there is much more to yo-yoing than the sum of the individual maneuvers that you perform. this process has demanded that i take a minute before i throw. sometimes i have to twist a new string, but more often as i'm creating the slipknot and feel the thick texture of the cotton or the quality of the square-knot i've tied, i just take a moment to silently recognize what i'm about to do. 'cones to balls' has brought a reflective consistency upon which i've begun to rely, and i cannot imagine how incomplete my play would feel devoid of this momentary appreciation for the apparently trivial process of string-twisting.
i've heard a hundred times over that polyester string is superior. a visit to yoyoexpert.com yields this gem, which i think accurately reflects the community's mindset: "Good Yo-Yo string is essential if you want to get the most out of your yo-yo. Luckily we have come a far way from the basic cotton strings your grandfathers had."
i respectfully object to this sentiment on a number of levels. for one, i don't believe that the 'quality' of our grandfathers' play was implicitly inferior to ours. obviously, any number of today's tricks would be virtually impossible, given their materials (or actually impossible - believe me, i've tried rancid milk on wood axle A LOT) . however, with alarming casualty, yo-yoers throw out the suggestion that our play is somehow 'worth more' than that of our predecessors. i think that's a load of crap, and don't believe for a second that the quality of our play is dictated by our materials. as always, it's a product one's of diligence, joy, and commitment to the craft. there's no common denominator to compare, but are we really to believe that the complexity which we've created is more fulfilling and powerful than what barney akers did with his modest tools? in another 40 years, yoyofactory's 'motorized' yo-yo prototype may have completely rewritten the scope of 'what's possible'. but to assume that this development would somehow devalue our efforts in the present would be as depressing as it would be fallacious. good yo-yoing is yo-yoing that complements its moment; that makes it a little brighter, a little more interesting or carefree.
a good yo-yo is a yo-yo that you're inspired to pick up and play, no matter what it's made of or what's inside it. ditto with string. i'm not an eco-obsessed, organic-produce-buying nutri-dad... but i like the idea that the soft, fibrous material along which my fingers slide was once alive - was once effectively a flower. yo-yoing is the practice of creation; of living, growing, evolving. the resonance of a wooden yo-yo humming against a cotton string fills me with an explosive appreciation for that fact. polyester is just dead to me... so to speak.
i don't mean to be preachy, and i don't care what you play. i like to really think about my yo-yoing; to evaluate not only my tricks and technique but my approach and mindset as well. this project has given me an impetus for questioning and for deconstructing myself, and that, to me, is the real 'marrow' of yo-yoing, and growing more attuned to it has been more valuable than any breakout or tutorial could be.
as far as regrets, it's easy to say that i should have spent more time updating this blog. it was a commitment, one in which (in some respects) i've failed... but the real commitment has been in the practice of twisting string; in seeing the 'life' of a string from its source as cotton thread, through its days spent in [mainly] joyful play, and finally its demise, laid to rest among its peers within the ball.
to heft the ball now feels surreal. the once-white threads now clasp the beautiful filth of a year (or 362 days anyway), one like all years, full of laughter and pain. while throwing one of these strings i was agonizing over the details of my return to teaching (which is going splendidly thanks). while solving the chinese calculus that setting this stuff up for loopers has been, i've concurrently watched my son learn to talk, climb, and pee in the potty and listened as my daughter has transitioned from barely coherent knock-knocks to hilarious, biting sarcasm. secured within the ball are strings i've thrown during 3 trips to disney world (we like disney world)... strings thrown by world and national champions and at the home of john higby... strings i've used to entertain 5-year-olds who could not possibly care what distinguishes rancid milk from pure 143... strings i've thrown in one-stoplight appalachian mountain towns and knee-deep in the atlantic ocean... strings i've thrown in anger and impatience and strings i've thrown with momentary grace and serenity to which i have little right.
though i cannot fully explain why, i know that i'm a better yo-yoer and a better person for having participated in this, and it feels good to have seen it through (even if i do like the string enough to keep with it). my thanks to my conical brothers, steve and j-def, and to anyone who ever read any of this stuff and thought for a second about their own yo-yoing and all that it means.
it means a great deal.