In our family we give extra points for Good Use of Existing Materials. Mostly this means stuffl like utilizing a paper towel when the coffee filters run out, or opening a wine bottle with a screw and a hammer when you can’t find the corkscrew;
pajama bottoms that double as capris, an old sweater sleeve that makes a good winter hat;certainly duct tape and bungie cords put to inventive use qualify.
I appreciate make-do ingenuity in the outer world, too: a handyman’s trailer fasioned from the detached back of a truck,
a log-house style tower built of bananas for display at the cash register at Starbuck’s.
In November our family lost our beloved Aunt Norma. She was a model of economy and ingenuity. Consider her reuse of milk cartons, for instance. Like many, she used empty milk cartons as containers to freeze soup. But she also cut them lengthwise into longboats to hold chicken breasts as they defrosted. She’d line these up on the floor in the front of the refrigerator to take advantage of the warm fan there to hurry the defrosting process. On her kitchen counter, flattened milk cartons found new life as cutting boards. In her storeroom, she organized stuff into more empty milk cartons. To celebrate the Fourth of July, we staged a Milk Carton Regatta, motored and non-motored classes, racing across her swimming pool. No milk carton went to waste at Aunt Norma’s.
As a writer, I value Good Use of Existing Material in my own work and others’, too. It provides the authentic stuff – like Aunt Norma herself – that is given to you to shape with zest and ingenuity. There is an economy that applies, as in a reduction of balsamic vinegar, where the flavors are reduced to their delicious essence. You get down to the metaphors, details and even the words that carry the most story; the material and language that take the story deeper.
~ By Laura Kvasnosky