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.
I was out at our house in the redwoods this week for a little respite and of course with home ownership come chores. There are some things that must be done and my ongoing battle with three fierce enemies is a summer ritual. My battle for dominance is akin to the Game of Thrones series. For those of you unfamiliar with Game of Thrones, there are multiple competing forces all vying to rule a fantasy world. I can’t really keep track of who’s who most of the time; and there really doesn’t seem to be a clear good guy, but there are clearly bad guys….any how, I took on my annual battle with the forces of nature like Khaleesi fighting the despicable slavery lords. My three opponents are these: One- the wily Poison Oak, clever at disguising itself – it can be a shrub, a vine and often likes to hide among other plants lying in wait to spread it’s itch inducing oils. Two- the spiny Blackberry, armed from leaf to root with thorns and able to amass a great, vast, impenetrable army of shrubbery to defend itself. Three- Scotch Broom, an invasive species that shoots up everywhere, really everywhere, like the Zombie White Walkers in the afore mentioned fantasy world; and left unchecked can take over a hillside in a year or two. So those are my enemies, and while the weapon of a hoe is honorable and effective, it is no match for these voracious foes. Don’t hate me for bringing out the big guns, Round Up and a two-gallon hand pump sprayer is my bazooka, or to keep the Game of Thrones metaphor going the Round Up is akin Daenerys Targaryen’s mighty flying dragons defending her territory from all comers. Fingers crossed I have kept my rivals at bay for another year, but never fear, season 12 is just one rainy winter and sunny spring away.
Well this week has been a bit rough for my little family. My son Ivan, who is 16, applied this winter to the Untied World College. The UWC, if you haven’t heard of it, is a two-year international program. Students from all over the world are chosen to get a full scholarship to study together, collaborate together, live together all with the aim of creating world peace one person at a time. My son and 119 other kids in the USA were chosen out of 600 applicants for an interview. Of the 120 kids interviewed 50 were chosen. We found out this week that our wonderful, generous, smart, delightful son was not chosen. Of course all of us who know and love him from Bishop Marc of the Diocese of California to his loving grandparents and everyone in between thought Ivan was a shoe in. But of course the other 119 kids who were interviewed had family and friend just as sure of their place in this wonderful international adventure. And so my sweet son’s heart is a little broken and of course my heart is a little broken for him. I know in my intellectual self that rejection is not failure, and that trying is important. I also know that other doors will open and other adventures await; but this week none of that is available to the 16 year old heart. My heart was pinched as well to feel his hurt but also by a little note at the end of the rejection email. The letter stated that there are a few spots left at the Wales campus (his first choice) for those who applied and who can pay $60,000. Both he and I know that is not possible but a surge of guilt for this non-profit life my husband and I have chosen reared up and grabbed me by the throat. We have lived a wonderful life at The Bishop’s Ranch in a beautiful place with wonderful people. This has been a dream job for my gregarious, extroverted talented husband, a wonderful place for me to grow my art and my audience and of course a sweeping open place for our son to grow up. But here we are at the launching place for him and we have very little in our bank account to show for it. The little devil on my shoulder is whispering in my ear that I have failed him, that in my own selfish pursuits of creative living I am keeping him from his dreams. That red-tailed whisperer reminds me that my own parents worked tirelessly at things they didn’t love to make sure my siblings and I could go to college and provide us with opportunities to flourish. Of course I know what you are thinking my little angels out there, you and the white winged messenger on my other shoulder are whispering, “Lisa you have provided Ivan with a creative environment to live and grow and flourish and he will find his way”. I know this to be true but still my throat is clenching and my eyes welling with tears as I listen to the dueling voices in my head.
The good news in all this (I guess this is selfish too) is I get to have my son home for one more year while he completes his senior year of high school. I cannot open all the doors for him that I wish I could, and I know there are other disappointments ahead, but success and accomplishments await too. Through it all my husband and I will be his home, his comfy chair, his warm hug and always his biggest fans. GO IVAN!
I worked on this quilted fabric chair piece this week at quilt retreat here at the Ranch. I used self-made stencils to create the chair pattern for machine appliqué and for the painted details. I’ll put this on my website soon.
I’ve been thinking about what home means this past week. It is a loose thread I’ve been pulling in both art and mental wanderings and this sweater of an idea is still unraveling in my mind, but I’ll do my best to share it here with you. At its most basic definition home=residence. But all of us old enough to have moved around a bit know that ones residence isn’t always home, home needs to be comfortable it needs to fit, to allow you to be at ease, turn off and recharge. Another definition of home is one’s birthplace or place of origin yet another is family group. All these definitions, while true, are inadequate. The struggle of home and self is often played out in the lives of young adults. A number of my friends and family have children who have gone off to college in the past couple of years. Some are struggling with the transition. I think part of that comes from having home (as in your place of comfort) and self in two different places. A dorm or apartment with a bunch of roommates is can be a exciting, fun home base but not home. There is a disconnect, a dissonance that comes from not feeling at home in the place that you live. It’s all a necessary part of becoming an adult, of differentiating from family and becoming ones own self, living your life on your own trajectory and not the trajectory set by your family. It is an essential, uncomfortable, exhilarating time. I’ve been pondering this process in my own life, trying to remember when home came to reside with me and not with my parents. It is not a deep line in the sand or specific X on the calendar, it wasn’t leaving for college or getting my first real job, or even getting married that marked the spot. But somewhere in all that spinning of life and place my residence became my home. Home was with me. The notion of home began to reside in me not outside of me. This of course doesn’t mean that I don’t cherish my visits with my parents or that I always feel comfortable wherever I am or that I don’t get lonely sometimes in my drafty, little fixer-upper of a heart, but the old kitschy cliché Home is where the heart is rings true to me and if you listen real close, you’ll hear your own heart beat repeat HomeSweetHomeSweetHomeSweetHomeSweetHome.
The Little House encaustic collages above will be on sale at my next art sales in November and December. You, my faithful readers, can have first crack at them, approximately 5×7 inches and $20 each with $5 shipping let me know if you want one via email or comment box. Home Sweet Home banners are available also. Each panel is 8 inches square with 3 inches between. You can custom order the length you want, $10 per panel. These are not listed for sale on my website but please check out what is at http://lisathorpe.com/