I’ve been building my gratitude skills, because things have been working as expected and I don’t want to take that for granted. During my vacation my flights were on time, my luggage arrived in good order, my phone had service, and I found food I wanted to eat (not always a given for a vegetarian). When I returned my estimation of what bills would be waiting was correct and the plan I had for catching up with my deadlines proved to be adequate. These are things I once expected, but now recognize for the miracles they are. No one gets a guarantee in life, so when things are going well I try to acknowledge the gift. I also try to think of what else I might need in the toolbox for when things aren’t going well, which is why the photo above is filled with stuff I use when I’m cursing or weeping or both. Things break, things change, things wear out – that’s the nature of life. I don’t have to like it, but I can be grateful for the moments when I can relax.
My quilting time will be constrained for the next few weeks. The good news is that my projects will be waiting for me in the same condition as when I left them. This is why I love quilting. I took up the art at a time when I had maybe fifteen minutes a day to myself. I couldn’t write in fifteen minute increments. Paint and light change if you leave the work. Don’t even get me started on trying to crochet when at the best of times I have issues with counting. Quilting is stable and patient. The fabric will be delighted to see me when my husband’s shoulder is healed.
I’m reading Dana Gioia’s memoir about the poets who influenced him, Studying With Miss Bishop. It’s a gentle, revealing book that reminded me how much I owe the people who have mentored me. Some were official teachers, some were peers. All of them showed me more generosity than I probably understood or merited at the time. I can’t go back to most of them, so I hope they understood at the time that I appreciated their efforts. In their honor, I will try harder to show the same generosity when it is my turn to share what I know. I will also make a point of thanking my teachers now, starting with Mr. Gioia for writing such a fabulous book. Even if I don’t fully appreciate all the wisdom his words contain, if I’m very lucky, I’ll understand more later.
Yesterday I was sorting through another pile in the sewing room and feeling a little depressed. Although I’ve made many projects over the past months, and didn’t do much shopping due to the pandemic, the stacks are as high as they were at the beginning of the year. Just as I was about to indulge in a full-blown pity party, the sensible angel of my nature snapped her fingers.
“Listen up, kiddo. The best thing that happened to you this year was having an overstuffed studio. You finished projects out of your stash. You learned the perfect fabric doesn’t exist any more than the perfect project. You learned that you can make a quilt, admire it, and let it go. What more do you want for Thanksgiving?”
I sat on the one clear patch of carpet in the room and considered all the gifts the universe gave me this year. Joining the army of mask-makers gave me time to calm down and at the same time whittle down the stash. When I finished my quota of masks, I returned to my own projects and discovered that reshuffling the piles gave me a new view of the fabric, which resulted in creativity. I went through my notes and patterns, and gave myself permission to toss the ideas that didn’t appeal to me anymore.
Since the Thanksgiving gathering will be on Zoom this year, I plan to dedicate some time for quilting. Whether I finish something in progress, start something new, or just putter around until it is a respectable time for Second Dessert isn’t important. I will accept the mess as a necessary consequence of the gift of creative activity, and give thanks that I had the materials as well as the time to make a little art in the midst of the pandemic.
My computer crashed yesterday. It’s not the Cuban Missile Crisis, but as I was waiting for my husband to fix things, I was reminded that on this Memorial Day I owe a lot to many people. To those who put on uniforms to protect us here and abroad – thank you. To the families of those who mourn the ones who never came back – I’m sorry, and also grateful. To those who keep the electricity running, the water flowing, the grocery stores stocked and open, the food chain intact – bless you. To those who take my recycling, green waste, and trash so my city stays livable – thank you. To everyone who has ever given me the benefit of the doubt, a eye roll instead of an eye punch – I’m sorry, and also grateful. To those who have by their words and deeds been an inspiration for good – bless you.
You probably know that Halloween is my second favorite holiday, because I’m always rambling on about the candy and the costumes.
I also like Halloween because its roots are from an ancient Celtic harvest festival, Samhain. It is a festival of thanksgiving, and those are useful celebrations. I think of Halloween as the beginning of the holiday season, a time of joy and giving that leads into November’s Thanksgiving. Since I’m a vegetarian, the turkey-ness of Thanksgiving recedes, leaving room for the family-and-friend-ness of Thanksgiving. That leads into December, and all the holidays of joy and gratitude. Then there’s New Year, a celebration of hope and change.
Hidden within all this gratitude and hope is a little fear. Perhaps the new year won’t be as wonderful as we would like, perhaps this is the last time we’ll feel joy, perhaps we aren’t grateful enough. That’s another reason I like to think of Halloween as the start of the holidays, because its roots include a time of fear and wonder. At Samhain, the veil between our world and the spirit world was pulled away, allowing space for the unknown to invade. Halloween reminds me that a little fear can be useful, as long as you don’t let it prevent you from stepping forward in hope.
Despite fighting a ridiculously resilient bug (the kind that requires antibiotics, not a call to technical support), I managed to clear off my sewing table. That lasted about a day, and I couldn’t stand the empty space. So I started another project, and got far enough along to call it good. For that, I give thanks.
There are a few gift quilts I want to make. This is one of them. None of the quilts I have in mindare Christmas presents. I figured if I could make the tops and backs before the holidays, I would be more inclined to get back into the sewing room in January. It always takes a while to remember what I do around here at the end of a vacation or celebration, so having a project waiting for me is essential.
The other reason I’m giving thanks is I think this is going to become my go-to pattern. I learned it as Twist and Turn.
The whole thing goes together in a flash, and is ideally suited to my preference of letting the fabric do the work. I hope this Thanksgiving you can find many things, big and small, that you call a blessing.
This is the season of surprises. Some of the good surprises that have come my way include our Christmas tree.
This is how it looked before we smothered it with lights and ornaments. I almost kept it this way, but we’d already brought the decorations out of storage. Given the drought and fires in the region, I was grateful there were Christmas trees available at all. The best surprise is the smell. It is the most fragrant tree we’ve had in years.
The next surprise is I’ve kept my sewing table clean-ish. Yes, there are still a few stacks to deal with, but the space was cleared enough in time to wrap presents. Then I put the wrapping things back where they belong. That qualifies as a Christmas miracle in my book.
The last surprise came from two artist friends who gave me note cards they’ve made from their own work.
I just returned from a terrific extended holiday visiting family. We all had a wonderful time, but then comes getting back to the real world and remembering what I was doing before I left. Luckily for me, I left some loose ends that triggered ideas for the latest Challenge project.
The inspiration is Cuba – colors, culture, history, whatever. I had an idea – well, the beginning of an idea – well, a tiny thought that could be the beginning of an idea under the right circumstances – and just before leaving for vacation I pulled some fabric from the scrap bin. When I returned, I strip-pieced some of the scraps, drew a pattern of Cuba from a map in an advertisement, and found some fabric for the sea.
One piece of fabric didn’t look anything like the Caribbean, but went well with a dark green print from the scrap bin.
The final shape of the project is still a mystery to me, but I am grateful to have left enough stuff on the sewing table to give me a beginning. If the Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise, this small victory might be enough to get me back into a creative routine.
You know the warning about making a new pillow for the couch and the curtains look dingy, so you clean the curtains and the walls look dated, so you paint the walls and the rug looks horrible . . . and eventually you’ve redecorated the whole house? That’s where I am. I started a sort-out of the sewing room, and now all the other piles that need organizing are calling my name.
This is where it all started.
The last of the supplies for the prison quilting program went to their new home. I had a plan for using that new-found space, but I made the mistake of looking in the bins.
This is one of two bins that hold my mint tin collection. The Trader Joe’s mints (which are delicious) come in a cute square tin with a clear panel in the lid, perfect for holding beads. I’ve been collecting them for quite a while. Usually I open the bin and toss the tin inside without looking at how many are in there. Now I’m looking. Oy.
Then I went into the kitchen and really looked at the overflow spice stash.
I love having herbs and spices on hand, but when the kids moved back home with their spice collections things spiraled out of control. No matter how much cooking and baking I do, the spice stash seems to grow, not contract. Woe to me.
As a final exercise in self-punishment, I scanned my collection of notes for books and stories I want to write (or have started writing but put aside for one reason or another).
Attending to these piles will take a lot of time and energy. It isn’t enough to organize the stacks of stuff, I have to do something with them. Organizing – for me, anyway – works really well when I rarely touch the pile again; attending, not so much.
I organized this small shelf months ago and it is still tidy. Of course, the fact that I haven’t been able to reach it for months might have a lot to do with it being orderly.
Perhaps, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I should be grateful for the Great Sort-Out. If I turn this into an early New Year’s resolution, then I can check something off the 2014 to-do list right now. We take our victories where we can.