A Paean (to IKEA) and a Pradakshina

July 25th, 2008 | Uncategorized

Gustav IKEA

I’m almost done with my office reorganization, which I began a month ago. The last stage was putting together this desk I ordered from IKEA. When I got the box open, I was a little dismayed to find about four hundred baffling pieces of hardware inside.

But thanks to the ingenious instruction manual, I put the whole thing together with nary a hitch in a little over an hour. IKEA instructions are things of great and wondrous beauty. They don’t even have words, they’re all visual.

desk manual

Today I performed a Pradakshina, or ritual circumambulation, of a local mountain called Camel’s Hump. I try to do this at least once a year. I only just learned the word Pradakshina when I was researching my essay about Vermont for the upcoming anthology State By State.

I guess I shouldn’t say circumambulation, since I’m on my bike, not walking.

Camel’s Hump and hills in general figure largely in my Vermont essay. So I was researching mountains, and learned about this Hindu ritual of walking around a mountain in a meditative, devotional way. I’ve always felt a quasi-religious thing about my annual ride. I love that mountain, and it looks different from every direction. So riding around it is a way to really see it.

Actually, it’s only visible for a few brief moments on the 56 mile, 4 hour ride which goes up and over the spine of the Green Mountains. I didn’t have my camera today but I had my cell phone, and just now I figured out how to email photos from it. (Who knew?! And I wonder how much it’s gonna cost?)

hump from my cellphone

This is Camel’s Hump from Moretown. I like the hazy quality of the crappy cellphone photo. It looks like one of those old tinted postcards. Or like a dream.

43 Responses to “A Paean (to IKEA) and a Pradakshina”

  1. Aunt Soozie says:

    or an impressionist painting?

  2. Aunt Soozie! Do you mind if I post a link to your Beaver Queen Pageant performance?

  3. Dr. Empirical says:

    As much as I adore our Auntie, I have to say that the NEW Beaver Queen is a Smokin’ Hottie!

    AND a Librarian…

  4. jfruh says:

    It never occurred to me before, but IKEA assembly booklets are really like instructional cartoons. There are even human figures in them, sometimes…

  5. Ellen O. says:

    Very Victorian, that image.

    For what are you going to use the desk?


  6. tiredlitmama says:

    I used to let my ex-wife think I was a genius because I could put together all of our Ikea furniture so quickly. Now my secret is out! It’s really the instruction manuals that are genius. I actually saved the manual from my daughter’s (now very broken from excess jumping) Ikea crib. I put the thing together before I was even pregnant just hoping, and that manual was particularly lovely in its portrait of the “safe” and “unsafe” cartoon baby.

  7. Aunt Soozie says:

    No Alison… I don’t mind! I’m a little mortified by the combo of my ass and my tail when I dance but… it’s already out there on you tube so… I’m happy for you to share it with your readers!
    And yes, Dr. E. the new Queen is not only a librarian but a children’s librarian!!
    (and a smokin’ hottie)

  8. Debs says:

    I like that your desk is named Gustav. The names are half the fun of Ikea furniture. I think the bed slats I bought once were called Lade, which led to many a laugh.


  9. Ian says:

    But which bit of Gustav was missing? IKEA have a rep for missing a screw or bracket somewhere in their kits. Looks like a nice desk though – are you going to paint it if it’s not already varnished/painted?

  10. There didn’t seem to be anything missing. But I did end up with one extra wooden peg, and one extra screw.

  11. Kassie says:

    Ikea instructions remind me of “Wordless Workshop” by Roy Doty, a cartoon feature I used to read in my dad’s Popular Mechanics magazines way back in the day. [We were not allowed to read comic books, so between this, the newspaper, and MAD, I was able to cope] Just needs a perky person shown getting bright ideas!

  12. June says:

    I know the IKEA instructions are a thing of beauty–someone I know has several framed in his office–but, as much as I love comics and have read them all my life, I CANNOT understand visual instructions. I have to hand them to my girlfriend while begging, “What does this say in words?”

  13. Hoot says:

    We recently assembled some night tables and as we stepped back and admired the results of our efforts, I noticed a few pieces of hardware on the floor. Extras, I hope.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Most companies that sell furniture-ready-to-assemble err on the side of including extra hardware and pegs and such, to assure having ‘at least’ as many as you actually need. The machines that count out screws and such sometimes have a margin of error, so they’ll adjust them high rather than risk skimping you an item you need. So leftovers are common.

  15. a lurker says:

    my favorite part of the Ikea instructions is how they show you (without words) how to call customer service if you have questions.

  16. Daña says:

    a lurker Says:
    July 26th, 2008 at 2:51 pm
    my favorite part of the Ikea instructions is how they show you (without words) how to call customer service if you have questions.


    Couldja show us what “a lurker” is talking about from the Ikea instructional graphic manual…? Thanks–

  17. Dale says:

    Love the Beaver Queen Sing-a-long! *runs off to google Beaver Queen*
    Daña – this is kind of what an Ikea manual is like: http://tinyurl.com/6augwc. No words, just pictures.

  18. Laura Lynch says:

    I like your “crappy cell phone” photo. I have a blog I write for my friends. All my pictures are crappy cell phone photos taken while bicycling around NJ. I think the bad quality emphasizes the on-the-fly nature of cell phone photos. I can’t seem to keep my hands still enough to get good, clean shots.

    (http://perpetualheadwinds.blogspot.com — deadly dull unless you’re an amateur cyclist)

    P.S. Thanks for the Daily Distress, Alison!

  19. notmyusualhandle says:

    Gustav, eh? A Mahlerian name and experience, all of it. What’s yer bike?

  20. Uh…I don’t have a name for my bike. But it’s plastered all over with Francesco Moser’s name. Some famous Italian cyclist.

  21. Laura, your cycling shots are otherworldly!

  22. notmyusualhandle says:

    I’m trying to make you post bike porn, but you’re just not biting. Ah well.

    –> personally shilling for Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, and Sears

  23. verbalathleticism says:

    Does that desk have a keyboard tray? I remember looking at it on ikea’s website when I was desk shopping… ended up with something different.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Yay beaver drag queens! Makes me want to tape a giant peace sign to my fanny and stroll around town tomorrow. Let the beaver swim!

  25. Pam I says:

    Having cracked the Ikea code a few decades ago, I get called on to perform the Ikea dance for friends who haven’t got it/ believe the propaganda against flat-packs. (I think it’s brilliant design meself, especially that little turny-screwy thing that makes chipboard joinable.) One last memory I have of my mother is when I put together a chest of drawers before her very eyes in 45 minutes flat. She was suitably impressed, always a result we need from our mums.

  26. Pam I says:

    And hey a 56 mile bike ride in 4 hours, including up and down bits? That’s like from here to Brighton. I’m suitably impressed. I just splashed out on a very whizzy as a present to me for removing 30 lbs of myself over the past few months, but I’m too scared so far to get on it, it’s too shiny.

  27. Pam I says:

    new bike

    Has that fixed it? Sorry this is a new toy.

  28. Pam I says:

    YAY !

  29. notmyusualhandle says:

    Pam I, that’s what I’m talking about. Beeeauty! As for the shininess… if the grunge of riding doesn’t get you, the dust and cat hair will. Unless you’re some bicycle-museum curating freak who can afford to hang your pretty unridden rides(?) up on the wall and sacrifice to the grease gods. I admit I have a couple bikes sitting around–well, all of them, now that I’m disabled, ha–that I’d like to enshrine, but that’s after a lifetime of service. Before-and-after photos, at least, of course.

  30. Leda says:

    I just rushed to look Laura Lynch’s photo’s – I misread Alison’s comment and I thought it said that Laura Lynch’s cycling shorts were other wordly…..

    I should add that they are great pictures Laura, even if there is no alien cycle wear!

  31. Catherine says:

    I laughed out loud when I saw your picture with the Ikea instructions. My wife and I spent two and a half hours yesterday building “Expedit” this giant media center thing. As it grew we had to move more and more furniture and our six year old and her legos, again and again. DD ended up on the porch with her legos for a while. we finished just in time for the folks to deliver our new tv we got as a 10 aniversary gift.
    the pictures were wonderful but I did find one tiny flaw because of perspective.

  32. Laura Lynch says:

    Other worldly cycle shorts, eh? Well, I do have ’em in red and bright blues. Basic black gets boring after a while. You’ll have to look deep in the perpetualheadwinds.blogspot.com archives to find a picture of my butt, but believe me, it’s not really worth searching for. 😉

    As for other worldy shots, there will be some more good ones soon.

  33. LEM says:

    Heard our new poet laureate Kay Ryan read from her “Say Uncle” collection, the poem The Will to Divest, and immediately thought of you.

  34. Pam I says:

    Poem for Moving Day
    That Will to Divest

    Action creates
    a taste
    for itself.
    Meaning: once
    you’ve swept
    the shelves
    of spoons
    and plates
    you kept
    for guests,
    it gets harder
    not to also
    simplify the larder,
    not to dismiss
    rooms, not to
    divest yourself
    of all the chairs
    but one, not
    to test what
    singleness can bear,
    once you’ve begun.

    – Kay Ryan

  35. LEM says:

    Thanks, Pam I. I looked but did not find the poem in its entirety.

  36. Aunt Soozie says:

    wow… thanks for posting that.
    eerily apropos to how I’ve spent the last 72 hours,
    with a dear friend, as we both talk about the need to
    “cut off” in Buddhist terms and both divest ourselves of
    “stuff” literal and figural.

  37. Elizabeth says:

    I have fond memories of Camel’s Hump! My first girlfriend and I had a sweaty, mosquitoey weekend of hiking there, full of skinny dipping and sleeping-bag sex. Both Camel’s Hump and the smell of Deep Woods Off are still vaguely erotic to me! (although I learned the hard way that you DO NOT want to get Off on your lips! They go numb!)

    Hope this gratuitous trip down memory lane doesn’t ruin the spiritual aspects of your Camel’s Hump parakshina.

  38. Alex the Bold says:

    Imagine an IKEA manual with Sidney and Mo as the assemblers!

    First step: Sidney holding credit card.
    Second step: Mo dragging box to the curb.
    Third step: Cat traipsing through freshly opened box.

    … etc.

  39. Amy says:

    Hope that pradakshina is performed in a clockwise manner, otherwise it doesn’t count so much. Great word I didn’t know for something I often do.
    Thanks for Fun Home.

  40. Dr. Empirical says:

    Back in high school I lived on a peninsula. My dog and I could spend the entire day walking down the beach and end up a quarter mile from where we started. That was my pradakshina.

  41. Ari says:

    Do you like the desk?

  42. Ross says:

    Random responses to various previous posts:

    I love the pradakshina concept, having just participated in what might be one of the ultimate versions of this: RAMROD
    Here is a link to some photos of this year’s ride:
    The only problem is that the ride goes counterclockwise, so I guess it doesn’t really count. But it felt spiritual much of the time nonetheless.

    I dumped water on my head at a stop partway up Cayuse Pass, forgetting my camera was in a little case on my chest strap. The case filled with water and fried the camera. So no photos of Cayuse or the finish.

    Laura, I really like your blog, it’s bookmarked. I too overtrained this year (getting ready for RAMROD was intimidating to say the least) and your links were helpful.
    I found that using a little point-and-shoot digital in a small case on my CamelBak worked great most of the time for getting photos, even on the fly, although the low-light blowups of the mountain early in the ride are blurry.

    So someday I hope to trek East and ride around Camel’s Hump, among other goals. My brother lives in Rhode Island so I’ll definitely do a ride or two in southern New England.

    We have an actual IKEA store in our area, it’s hypnotic to go there, a very strange mixture of stimuli. Nearly impossible not to impulse buy, nearly impossible not to be irritated by the crowds, fun to critique the decor of the fake rooms, grouse about the low number of veggie options on the restaurant menu (heavy on Swedish meatballs), among others.

    Eagerly awaiting your next book, Alison


  43. Oh my god! A pradakshina around Mt. Rainier is now my goal in life.

    In fact my Camel’s Hump circle was clockwise, so I guess it counts.