The Curve of the Path

2020 is, among other things, the year of the “pivot”—and while I reserve the bulk of my disdain for other business buzzwords (“pain points,” “spend” as a noun, “scale” as a verb), pivot is not my fave. When I hear “pivot,” I picture a squadron of toned Alvin Ailey dancers swiveling in sync, arms angled to one side and chins thrust to the other. 2020 does not feel like that.

The other problem with pivot is that it implies that the trajectories on either side of the shift are straight lines. No business venture that I have ever heard of has progressed in a 100% straightforward path. Even pre-pandemic, this one has had to navigate some pretty big curves—like planning a booth debut at an event that was cancelled the day before set-up due to an unseasonable storm, or having a shipment of goods get chewed up by the postal sorting machine. For starters. Year two started a little smoother, but then, well, you know.

So here I am, sheltering in place (still), figuring out next steps. Upping the social media presence. Developing a new sales model to approximate the craft booth browsing experience at home. Both of which projects involve sorting through hundreds of photos and video clips scattered throughout my hard drive and cloud storage. And so I encountered this enigma:

I remember accidentally finding the “draw on top of your photo” function on my phone camera and thinking that it would be a great tool for jotting textual notes on my photos to jog my memory later. But this techno-ethnographic technique failed spectacularly here, in my first (and apparently only) attempt to use it. Clearly, I had some sort of epiphany about the curve of the path—but I have no idea what it was. Was it an anthropological insight about herding landscapes and livelihoods? Was it design inspiration for a knitting stitch? Safest to guess that it was both, but that still doesn’t get me very far.

And yet, I am drawn to this photo, which somehow encapsulates so much about this project. Not just the symbolically curving path, but also my marginally legible scrawl across it, trying (and failing) to make sense of my surroundings. And everything outside the frame, which is inaccessible to you but comes back to me as a wave of sense memory—the hot sun in my eyes, the distant calls of villagers whistling and shouting to their livestock, the brisk crunching sounds of my hosts’ sickles as they cut grass from the fallow farm plot in which I stood. The smell of that cut grass. The feelings of joy at being back in this especially lovely place with especially lovely people, and of frustration at not being able to help out with this essential chore which shapes so much of daily life in the region.

The approach to the village where I took this photo snakes alongside the Uhl River, hairpin turn after hairpin turn. Around one bend in particular, the whole valley opens up in a glory of water rushing over boulders, crazy quilt farm plots, and centuries-old houses of weathered wood and stone. Every time I go, I spend the bus ride in anticipation: is this the bend? Is it this one? I always try to catch the moment with my camera as far out the window as I dare, and never quite get it.

So here we are at another curve in the path, a path which is nothing but one curve after another. I’m hoping that around one of these bends, the view ahead will open up gloriously. Is this the bend? Is it this one?

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