Category Archives: Connections

A Miracle is a miracle is a miracle

When I say a miracle is a miracle is a miracle what I mean is that a strange and wonderful confluence of events need not be hugely consequential to count as a miracle.

Take the blue silk heart. It was sitting on the pad I was using as a coaster. I don’t remember when or why I cut it out or how it ended up there, but no matter. There it was. And doesn’t midnight blue just sing on goldenrod yellow?

The desk under it came from K’s family. It’s a beautiful honey toned maple, equipped with useful drawers, and serves as a handy surface next to where I sit and zoom and write.

“Maybe it came from Uncle Bill’s house. His wife was my mother’s favorite aunt. She died young.”

So did K’s mother, die young, but that is a little beside the point here except to say that probably this desk will not get passed down to our kids. Nevertheless, I don’t want to ruin it. Hence the coaster.

It was a regular zoom call, one that occurs a little more than once a month. Years back, we met in person but until the pandemic it never occurred to us to meet remotely. Thank you, Covid? Zoom easily connects Massachusetts, California, New Hampshire, and Maine. We have scattered (the comma after New Hampshire is an Oxford comma, BTW).

And you know, usually someone in the crowd is late or has trouble connecting, but this week the glitches were epic. Feel free to skip the next paragraph.

BZ came on first. Where is everybody, she wanted to know. But only her audio connected. Struggle struggle, then Husband to the rescue, only he couldn’t get her video to work either, so another device was employed. New invite. New admit. But success! Meanwhile no one else has yet joined. The day before T from New Hampshire had alerted us to a wicked case of poison ivy — her face so puffy, she may not use her video. Okay but? Ah, a text: she will be 25 minutes late. SG joins. I text near neighbor CS totally forgetting that she was celebrating the New Year with her daughter. More time goes by before C from Arlington joins and sputters. I completely forgot! I mean totally. She swipes her hand over her head and goes SWOoSH. Still waiting for T from New Hampshire.

It got frustrating. I mean, we’re talking close to forty minutes at this point. As host, I can’t help but feeling a little responsible. Maybe a little extra on edge about it. T joins, black box, audio only.

And that’s when I picked up my water glass. That’s when I discovered, in looking down its shiny barrel, that the blue silk heart, a blue silk heart previously not much attended to, was stuck to the glass’s damp bottom. It was as if I looked at it through a telescope. A formerly casually placed blue heart now appeared as a carefully selected object for viewing, like the rings of Saturn or the moon’s Sea of Tranquility.

It was a miracle.

Look what had to conspire to produce the sighting: delayed connection, a sweating glass, the thin weight of silk, the physics of an arm moving, and light, retina, and my brain. It was as if the blue silk heart ganged up with the elements to say, Hey! Look at me!

With its silly appearance, the blue silk heart softened my own heart. As I said, a miracle.

* * *

As for deciding on the proper slip for the Chicken Patron Saint of Delayed Success, I realized the problem wasn’t white/black, loose/stiff, but height. She needs to be TaLLEr!

I’m imagining wire chicken legs adhered to a base.

Stingy ink pens

A few notes on exhaustion and restlessness.

Life is too short to:

  • Write with stingy ink pens,
  • Spend your days inside,
  • Fail to do the one or two things that you know make you feel better.

Okay. I’ve tossed out a suck job bic medium point. I’ve walked the dog twice. But the third item above? Let’s talk Daily Pages and keeping up with friends (both here and in the neighborhood).

What’s with all the blank Daily Pages? Day after day, blank. Does it mean anything? There was a time when I would ask that as if there might be something worth knowing about my resistance. Not now. Nope. Just resume!

Same for friends. Tonight is a birthday celebration. We’re going downtown! We’re going to a restaurant that Roxane Gay recently dined at and no, I’m not a stalker, I just read her twitter feed.

So, it’s cold again. Winter cold. The scarves and gloves have been unearthed from the bins in the basement. I may have to make a polar fleece apron for the long down coat of mine because it won’t snap all the way closed (ugh!) While out today, it took a FULL MILE for my head to clear.

Note to self: A walk less than a mile is like a stingy ink pen.

And now for a Not Apology.

When considering a wash of discontent or sleeplessness, there is always the news to blame. But! The news right now is historic, dismaying, compelling, detailed, alarming, and evidencing the highest national stakes since the Civil War. I make no apology for being riveted. Whether I would be happier or more calm or sleep better with less information is not something I care to spend time considering.

As for what ELSE might be making me a little tired? How about — being an adult. K and I are considering end-of-life directives, long term health insurance, retirement funding, and how to sensibly pass assets down to the boys. The bottom line is so much better than I thought, so there’s that! Because the picture is better than I thought, mostly these considerations provoke relief, but not entirely, for obvious reasons.

And then off I went to writing class. Having two classes a week is nice — one to teach, one to attend. I’m noticing how different one is from the other and enjoying the differences.

 

 

 

the joy and misery of one quilter

I like cloth, the way it smells under the heat of an iron, the way it feels in my hand, how it drapes over my lap, responds to thread. I like stitching up bits of it and then moving the components around — first this way, then that and then the reverse and perhaps back again. Removing, adding, slicing in half, saving some parts, dispensing with others. Writing does this for me too, but cloth carries a special legacy.

My mother was a seamstress extraordinaire (think: upholstered couches with contrasting piping; lined, tailored wool blazers; Austrian shades; my wedding gown, pieced from antique laces and linens). Her mother sewed and hear tell, worked for a famous milliner in New York for some years. One of my maternal great grandmothers made quilts. There is a lineage here and a reassuring one, especially since my writing veers off into more challenging territory.

At some point, a quilt emerges, but it’s inaccurate, in a way, to call it ‘finished.’ It’s more like a slice in time. The piece could’ve come to a halt sooner or I could’ve kept going. Because digital technology makes these things easy to track, I’ve learned that it’s not unusual for me to strongly prefer an earlier, vanished iteration. I don’t wring my hands about this though and never have, not only because there’s no other way I could work but because each iteration offers some new leaping off point. Really this is about accepting one’s basic circuitry.

But even so, do I wish I brought a higher level of intention to the table? Maybe, though I’m not quite sure what I mean by that.

Self-acceptance and reliable absorption aside, misery does gain entrance now and then and when it does, you can be sure it stinks with comparison-mind.

Have you noticed how consistently comparison produces misery — as in Every. Single. Time. More and more I stand witness to its corrosive bullshit and step aside allowing the sanctity of life, my unique life, to hold sway.

Comparisons, if given free reign, would gnaw my fingers off. Is my work selling? Does it evidence a voice or is it derivative, merely? If I like X’s work a lot, is there a way to internalize her process so that it becomes my process, thereby creating work I like as much as hers? And if not, how come I can’t identify my process nearly so well? Has my color sense progressed or is it stalled? What about my themes — are they moving forward or is it the same old shit every time? What do I say to charges that I’m not staying in my lane? Why do I have so much fabric? Why does Y get acclaim in the form of gallery space, instagram likes, and invites to teach — is her work that much better than mine? — and what does it say about me that on some fundamental level I don’t care enough about all that to even step into the game?

A recent post in Jude Hill’s online class reminded me that connecting with others and letting the work be about joy might be the keys to letting the chaff fall away.

Ah yes! Look at the scraps of unnecessary thought juddering away!

And the winner is

And the winner is: Michelle! The scraps have already gone in the mail. It’s nice to send something back to Michelle given that she mailed me this delightful print not so long ago.

We got about four inches of snow yesterday, followed by rain, which made today’s walk treacherous. But! We are definitely at the time of year when you can begin to notice the lengthening of the days.

I reviewed a manuscript over a delicious lunch with a friend today. Such a nice way to do it. Not only because her memoir features a lot of personal loss, but because it’s a such an immediate and tangible thanks. I’ll have to remember that. Take your readers to lunch!

Tomorrow is my birthday. That’s me on the left. Nana Mallon in the middle. My sister on the right. I think it might’ve been the weekend of my First Communion. I can’t remember what was happening at the moment this picture was taken (it looks like Nana is pinching me? playfully, but perhaps a little too hard?), but I do remember her cautioning us against eating jelly donuts outside because the bees visiting the red tulips in the foundation beds might fly right down our throats. (Posted previously 8/16. Having trouble grabbing the link).
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And after that snippet, who doesn’t need a little fairy tale? Isn’t she lovely?elsa_polar-bearIt’s from “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” by Mercer Mayer. I just searched (and searched) for and couldn’t find the illustrator. Does anyone know?

Mouse droppings and global humanity

When you live in a 200 year old structure with a stone foundation, you share your life with mice.* It’s just a given. I draw the line when and if one of two things happen: I find teeth marks in the butter or I catch the smell of dead bodies.

Mice like pistachios, it turns out. Note to self: put the bowl of nuts away at night.

Weeks of catching whiffs of that distinctively fruity and repulsive stench of death got me going. There I was down in the basement sniffing at the joists and lifting up the sump pump well cover to stare down into its depths with a flashlight. Nada.

But this morning, my hound-like powers of detection pinpointed the source of the stench. It was coming from under the fridge. We pulled the appliance away from the wall to a horror show of dust and grime and mouse droppings, urine stains and yes, pistachio shells.

No dead bodies, though.

A thorough cleaning has not eradicated the smell. Could a few little grey corpses have slid along the undercarriage of the fridge when we pulled it from the wall?

Ugh. Now what?

Meanwhile, I’ve been piecing up a whimsy (when I should have been folding up the ironing board and putting some of my piles into closets to get ready for company).

But hey.

I’ve picked up our 15 pound organic, free range turkey from across town and stirred up the brine. And my apron is on and recipes located for candied yams and maybe? — a chocolate pie (others are bringing pumpkin and apple). Before I get to it, you might like to hear this.

Today’s Indivisible Group tele-call became dispirited with news regurgitation. We’d somehow strayed from the more usual constructive format of sharing possible action steps or venues for education. One member said, “I can’t take this. I get enough with the news. I’m going to sign off”.

I piped up that I completely understood but could she hang on a minute more if the talk turned positive? Then I shared about International Peace Day … about love being the answer and peace pins and peace leaves and about making peace a daily conversation. My voice shook, for some reason.

But here’s the thing — the tenor of our call was radically transformed. I have many of you to thank for that! I sent links to some of your websites to the group and to my own and for the first time wasn’t compartmentalizing political and artistic work. Until this morning, I hadn’t even realized I’d been doing that. It was liberating, somehow.

In that positive second half of the call, this event came up: starting on December 2 there will be a 24 hour global vigil for humanity. You have to register but it’s free and you can show up for any part of the 24 hours.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends! This week, love and food will be the answer — especially if that food is made with love.

P.S. I’ll take this moment to be grateful that most of my family doesn’t bother reading my blog (who says they should? but then again, why don’t they — at least once in a while?). With this post, it’s probably a good thing in terms of keeping their appetites for Thursday’s dinner!

*autocorrect turned my first attempt at typing “mice” to “love” … Does that mean even when dealing with a mouse infestation that love is the answer?