This life is a wheel, I think, ever turning, sometimes it seems to slow but never stops. Recently there have been friends who have died in their elder stages of life, the wheel turns. Today photos of a new baby arrived in my inbox, smiling tired parents and sleeping baby, I knew this woman when she was just a girl and now she’s a mom…the wheel turns again. We received a wedding announcement for a young couple who found each other at the camp where we work what wonder this turning wheel brings. Is it the wheel of a traveling carriage on a long journey? Or perhaps the spinning wheel, turning fibers into threads to weave into the tapestry of life. I think that might be it, threads sturdy and strong, threads thin and tenuous. All to be dyed and woven into to the cloth of their purpose. A garment, a blanket, a shelter. Worn to tatters as is the way of the turning wheel never stopping, only slowing now and again for us to notice if we happen to be paying attention.
This is a fabric collage piece I just completed inspired by this moment of noticing the wheel. Thank you to Joan and Ralph who have recently died, thank you for showing me a bit of the tapestry of your life sharing your shelter, wisdom and comfort. Thank you baby Solomon and his parents Calen and Myron for reminding me that the wheel that turns to death also turns to life, and thank you Colby and Noelle for inviting us to witness the turning of the wheel once more, the twining of your lives from two threads to one that will be long, beautiful and sturdy.
adjective: scrappy – consisting of disorganized, untidy, or incomplete parts. Synonyms – feisty, tenacious, determined, persistent
This week I sat in with one of the many quilting groups that sets up shop at the Ranch. This group calls themselves “Ranch Hands” – they are an eclectic bunch of traditional, modern, and everything in between, quilters. Usually when I join in I’ll have a project I want to finish or a particular goal in mind but this week I didn’t have time or inclination to figure anything out so I just brought my sewing machine and some thread and decided to make something from the scrap table. For the non-quilters out there – quilters love their fabric, they buy it, store it, save it, use it then there is always some left over. Generally, not being a wasteful bunch, they don’t want to throw out their beautiful scraps, so they bring left over fabric in all sizes and place on the give away table. So the scrap table was my inspiration. Someone had brought an array of plaids. None of the swaths of plaid where larger than about 12 inches square– but there where a lot to choose from so I got busy picking my colors. In the mix there were just a few reds so that became the middle of my wonky, scrappy, blocks. I created 5 improvisational log cabin blocks using yellows and golds, and 5 more using greens all with a red square in the center. Once I had them all laid out I thought I should break from the plaid grid of the whole thing and put in some improvisational curves. The result was 10 squares part gold part green. Now a purpose emerged – I would put these all together in a long autumnal table runner. Going back the the scrap table I found strips of green with a circle print and they were already cut 3 inches wide! Onward I went backing, quilting and binding all from the bounty of the scrap table. My scrappy improv quilt fits the definition above: a bit disorganized and untidy but also wonderfully feisty and determined to become something from nothing. It was a pleasure to step away from a plan and just let inspiration rule the day. A good reminder that sometimes not knowing what you’re doing can lead you down an interesting path.
I was asked the the Journey Center in Santa Rosa to create a art quilt addressing the upcoming one year anniversary of the Sonoma County fires. Lately I have been doing a lot of botanical printing on fabric so it seemed like a natural fit to use leaves as my central metaphor. For the piece I used leaves from trees native to the oak woodlands that burned and remain a scar on the physical and psychic landscape. My piece starts at the bottom in a gradation of color. Each row depicts another point in the fire and the aftermath. The bottom row shows the green leaves of Valley Oak, Black Walnut, and Bay Laurel engulfed in the red and orange of flames, the next row the leaves and surround are all flames each row a progression from leaf to flame to ash to leaf again. If nothing else the fire have taught us that nature is persistent she does not give up easily the green shoots and leaves push up through the charred earth, scorched black trunks put forth new shoots. The human spirit is equally on display – a will to rebuild with a new deeper knowledge of the importance of home and community.
My work and the work of many others will be on display at the Sonoma County Strong Quilt Show at the Journey Center1601 Fourth Street Santa Rosa, CA 95404. The opening is September 21st from 5:30-7:30 and the show runs til November 2nd.
This past week my extended family gathered to help pack up my mom’s life in the sprawling home she built with my father some 30 years ago to move into a two-room apartment at the back of my house. Needless to say, this means things need to be let go. This wasn’t a sudden decision, so my mom has had over 6 months to start sorting into three piles: keep, give away, dump. At the beginning my mom was reluctant to let some precious items go even though she knew she wouldn’t use them because frankly she didn’t use them now. Things like a porcelain tea pot my grandma made that was shoved in the back of a cupboard for 30 years since the last move, old photo albums with unidentified pictures, my dad’s report cards from middle school. When you have space you just fill the void but moving forces a cleansing especially a move like this one. My Mom read “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter”. This book helped her a lot to let things go, she tried to pass things on to family but there are just some things nobody wants and those just had to go.
I even had a reckoning of my own in this cleaning process. When my parents moved to this past home they told we three children that they would store a foot lockers worth of items in their attic. They give us each a small trunk and at 18 looking at the precious items in my bedroom I chose the things that were sacred and special to me then. The pile of dolls pictured above is a collection from my sister and I’s trunks. I also saved a vast stack of Cricket Magazines, for some reason the stories and art in those magazines were prized to me at one time but for the life of me now I couldn’t fathom why I’d kept them for over 35 years. There were the a bean bag dolls called Larry Legs that my Grandma made and a red metal cash register. In the end I only kept the red cash register and even that I’m not sure why.
It’s interesting what we save. Some things out of inertia – it gets put on a shelf on a whim and never touched again till moving day. Other things we wrap in velvet and ribbon a put in our underwear drawer for safe keeping- love letters, old photos, wedding garments – proof of our youth and wild ways. But mostly it’s just stuff, pretty stuff, interesting stuff but in the end just stuff. One day to be put into three piles: keep, give away, dump.
I’m grateful my mom is coming to live with me. It will be a beautiful, joyous, maddening, wonderful, difficult transition. But she and I are both up to the challenge, both ready to hold on to what really matters – love of course – the rest, as we all know, is really just stuff.
I was talking to a dear friend this week who is on sabbatical for three months from her highly demanding work as an episcopal parish priest in a large parish on the east coast. When I asked her what she was doing on her sabbatical she said jokingly but somewhat wistfully said “waiting for a vision”. She is ready for a change but not sure what or how or where. I know that feeling. We’ve all had it and always the question is what is the right next thing? I’ll tell you honestly I have never had a vision, I have never been totally clear of my next step, I have never been 100% confident that the path I’m on is the right one and yet I continue to wander on. I guess I’m comforted by the fact that every time a wander down an unknown path there is always another fork along the way. That this path I’ve chosen today has side paths and loops and other meanders. That’s all to say I just keep walking, sometimes it feels like I’m totally in the dark but I keep walking – vision or no vision.
I know I’ve talked to you all before about my rejection therapy approach to career development but it’s worth repeating here. I set a goal to be rejected every day in big ways and small ways. Start with the small ways like in the grocery store parking lot instead of walking the cart to the rack ask the person who just drove up if they want it… that doesn’t seem like much because it isn’t the worst thing that happen if they say no thanks or look at me weird and I have to walk the cart to the rack. But that little rejection therapy session just got me ready to submit an article to magazine for publication I ask myself “what is the worst thing that can happen?” well the answer of course is nothing happens -literally nothing- they don’t publish my article and guess what if I don’t send in the article they can’t publish the thing I didn’t do…. you get the idea it’s a bit of a “just do it” mantra. No visions required – say yes to yourself even if you don’t know how it will work out. Wander down a path even if you can’t see around the next bend, there is something there – just keep moving!
Here are a few rejection therapy things that have I’ve got in the works: continued freelance writing for Quilting Arts and Cloth,Paper, Scissors Magazines. I have a wonderful 5 page spread in the latest issue of Quilting Arts and an another article coming out in the Fall. I’ll be teaching at Craft Napa again in 2019, I’m in conversation with the Quilting Company to develop an online series of courses for them. I’m opening a gallery with three other women in Sebastopol, teaching at quilt guilds and retreat centers on and on…. I just keep moving I’m looking forward to seeing what is around the next bend.