Art, Influences, and Pancakes
by Robin Criscuolo
I am sitting on my floor reading this book, Share Your Work by Austin Kleon.
I am a third of the way through and I want to jump up and knock on my roommates door, the one who is making it working for himself with his photography and film editing, and give the book to him, but I’m only a third of the way through the book and I am selfishly going to finish it first.
My thought process: “I must give this to him as soon as I’m done. I must email my writing buddies from college. Remember the lapsed blog we started together? Remember Hilary’s offers to help me with a website. Oooh, I must share this book with my new writing group!” And so on.
Austin Kleon says share what you truly like, what you are inspired by. Shout it from the rooftops, he says and you will find your people, your following, your scene. Anne, from Anne of Green Gables, calls them “kindred spirits”
Today I am inspired by this girl.
She is on my list of top ten childhood influences and what kind of person I want to be when I grow up. I’ve had this image saved to my desktop for weeks now. This girl is at her stove, pot boiling over and splatters on the floor as she leans back, all her focus on flipping that one pancake. The motion of her wrist. It feels so right to be this girl, in this moment, in front of this stove, flipping this pancake.
“And then she got out three eggs and tossed them high in the air. One of the eggs landed on her head and cracked open, making the yolk run into her eyes. But the other two she easily caught with a saucepan.
They smashed into bits in the pan.
‘I’ve always heard that egg yolks are good for your hair,’ said Pippi, wiping her eyes. ‘Just wait and see, my hair is going to start growing like mad.'”
Her constant companions, Tommy and Anika, look on goggle-eyed, but Pippi is oblivious to their judgement because she is flipping her pancake, which is, at the moment, her life’s work. Everything (plucking the egg shells out of the batter, beating the batter with her bath brush, singing a pancake song made up on the spot) has lead up to this moment: egg yolk dripping down her neck, pancake in mid-air about to land with a hiss and sputter of hot grease. It will sizzle to a golden tan and then she will throw it across the room onto plate and urge her incredulous friends to “Eat! Eat, before it gets cold!” They will gobble it up and declare it the one of the best pancakes they’ve ever eaten. She is sharing what makes her happy and she is doing it just as it occurs to her.
I want to be that girl.
I keep a card from my dear friend Zach Danneman by my bed. Zach spent Christmas week with me a couple of years ago and we stayed up late talking long into every night. One drizzling evening, we talked about doing what we loved. He shared with me a favorite phrase from one of his friends or relations, an aunt or grandmother, perhaps: “Do whatever flips your pancake!” Used like the phrase “whatever floats your boat” or “whatever turns you on.” When Zach left, he gave me this card: on the front was a photograph of a majestic waterfall with water splashing down over rocks smoothed from centuries of moving H2o. Next to the image of the waterfall, he had written “Dat shit be flippin’ my pancake like ten times!”
Here’s to what is flippin’ our pancakes today. Here’s to giving our pancake flippin’ our all, just as it occurs to us. And here’s to sharing the process, messy and eggshell-y and all.
And read this book.
Get it from an indie bookstore:
1980’s edition of Pippi Longstocking from Buccaneer Books, illustrated by Louis S. Glanzman.