Do you ever feel like the whole world is made up of a bunch of people like the little brother on the 1983 movie A Christmas Story? On Christmas day, he runs around grabbing every toy in sight yelling “This is mine! This is mine!”
I’ve seen posts on my newsfeed lately about how the “government” – i.e. our corporate-owned leadership – is grabbing up Native American land left and right. I knew they would do it at some point, but I wasn’t expecting it now. I wonder how the Native Americans feel about ownership? Is anything really theirs?
This month I stopped at a nearby pond. The land is privately owned, but the pond has been opened to the public. The spot has been there for years and many people have visited, but I only just learned of its existence.
Living in town, I thought the pond would be a nice place to go, a place to sit quietly and contemplate my own life and dreams, maybe clear my mind and come up with some new ideas. Perhaps I could write there…or do some stitching. The day I went the weather was lovely, just turning cool at the beginning of fall. I passed a small wooden donation box on the way in, having every intention of depositing an offering on my way out.
The place was quiet – and pristine. The owner had done a good job of manicuring the perimeter of the pond where possible so you could walk around and look at the water from all viewpoints. The owner had also planted a number of trees and staked the young oak, pecan and redbud starts securely at various spots surrounding the pond. Where the path wasn’t mowed there was thick, lush overgrowth in which birds twittered and fluttered. A lone cottonwood towered over the far end of the pond, but it was close enough I could still hear the tinkling of its leaves as a gentle wind pushed through its branches.
I was more interested in the dock, which was sturdy and sound and built with new lumber. I admire people with carpentry skills, as that’s something I lack. I walked to the edge and sat down, kicking my shoes off before I did so. The water was perfectly clear. I could see painted stones on the bottom and lengths of wild weeds undulating slowly in rhythm with the pond’s gentle lapping. I took a deep earth-scented breath and every speck of tension in my body disappeared as I let go and exhaled.
The waterline was just high enough for my feet to touch. As I relaxed and let my legs dangle towards the water, my toes dipped into the cool burst. At the same time, a slight movement below the surface caught my eye. Instinct took over and I jerked both feet up and out of the drink, just as a large and ancient-looking snapping turtle surfaced, mouth agape. I had barely missed losing a toe.
Heart pounding, I scrambled away from the edge. My feet felt cold as the air hit my damp skin. I looked down. All ten toes were accounted for. But there, on my left foot, blood ran from a small nick in my flesh, mixing with water and running so the wound looked bigger than it actually was. The turtle had barely scratched me. I knew how lucky I was. As a child I once saw a snapping turtle cut through a man’s hand like a knife through butter.
I’ve lived roughly half my life in the country. I am respectful and keep my distance, but generally am not afraid of wild animals. But the turtle’s attack shocked me. I had felt safe at the water’s edge and let my guard down, but now that sense of peace and calm had flown from me. In that instant, my interest in the place had waned. I slipped my shoes back on and made my way back to the car. The donation box stood like a silent sentinel. I didn’t feel like donating now. Perhaps that was unfair, but I would leave it for another time, another visit, if I felt like coming back.
As I drove home, I realized I had probably encroached on the turtle’s territory and she had felt threatened. Maybe she thought “This is mine!”
What does this have to do with stitching and making things? A lot. I’ve lost track of how many stitching ideas, photos, tutorials, etc…I’ve released out into the world. I have no idea what people did with them, if they even used them, if they were inspired by them, if they “stole” them and used them as their own, if they ever gave me “credit.” I don’t know, because I never tracked any of them down and said “Hey, wait a minute! This is mine!” I take that back, I did once when someone posted one of my photos as their own. Did they take the photo down? No, they didn’t. They posted it as their own and didn’t give me credit. And, there was nothing I could do about it.
The other day I read a squabble on a group I’m following. The whole conversation was about ownership of created things, yarn things. What if someone steals my idea? What if someone is now copying my work and selling it? What if this is my livelihood and others start making it too? The group administrator was very upfront about the realities of making things and owning them. She said anyone has the right to create anything from something else they see. Legally, that item or project must be 20% different in order to be called someone’s own work, otherwise known as “Mine.” 20%. That’s not a lot of difference. And, I have seen this many, many times.
There is one young lady online who creates some magical garments with yarn. I saw her work and was inspired to make something of my own. I went back to her page and posted a photo of my work, thanking her for the inspiration and giving her “credit.” Other than basic components of a garment – sleeves, zipper, hood – the item I made, in reality, looked nothing like hers. When people started liking my photo and asking if I sold my work she sent me a private message. She said she would appreciate it if I wouldn’t market my things on her page, as others had tried to use her page to launch their own businesses. I didn’t have a business and my garment was not for sale, but, suddenly, I was lumped into the category of “others” who had taken advantage of her. Like the turtle, I suspect she felt threatened.
What is ironic to me, about this yarn girl, is nearly Every. Single. Motif. she used was taken directly from video tutorials on youtube! Tutorials of items created by someone else, someone else’s work, i.e. not Hers. I know because I watched the same videos and made a few of those motifs myself. It didn’t matter that she learned everything she knew from someone else. What mattered is what she thought was hers. “This is mine!”
So, here I am, sharing my work and ideas, my photos, my thoughts, my words. Any of it could be taken by someone else and used at any time. One thing I learned in my twenties is you cannot control other people. They are going to do what they want. I can put on this blog the words: all rights reserved, copyright, ownership, “This is mine!” but I won’t. I don’t like the way ownership makes me feel. If I have something that is so precious I can’t share it freely here, then I will just keep it to myself.
In the meantime, I’m not going to worry about what is mine. I’d rather spend time thinking about the women in my life who taught me things, freely and with generosity. My step-grandmother, who I didn’t really like, but who graciously took the time to teach me to embroider at age 8; my mother who taught me to use a sewing machine and allowed me to sew with a needle and thread (per my request) at age 3; my late quilter friend, Judi, who shared her own knowledge freely, even though she was running a business, just for the joy of sharing and teaching others.
I will continue to give credit where credit is due, as I have done in previous posts. Maybe I haven’t done this perfectly, but I certainly like to direct people to appropriate sources whenever possible. If I haven’t in the past, it’s been an oversight.
Maybe I will go back to the pond again, while I’m still mildly interested and while the weather is still good. But, for now, I will observe it from a distance and not get too close. I’d like to keep all my fingers and toes.