Category Archives: In the Company of Cloth

notes from a quilter, collage artist, fabric collector

Rain and expectations

The rain and wind come. We open windows. Ahhh. Today: writing. Grocery shopping (cold cucumber soup would be good! Coconut milk for new ice cream maker… ). Also today: managing expectations about Mueller hearing. I wish it was going to be a game changer. I doubt it will be a game changer.

I don’t know which is harder to bear: the passive, corrupt GOP or the passive, impotent Democrats.

A jaunt

It’s hot still but we missed the worst of it with a jaunt to the Catskills. Finn had a ball. So did we. No internet made for a peaceful interlude and a hostess with a few culinary tricks up her sleeve made for ease and further respite.

Back to the page. Just looked up the hours of the Mueller hearing for Wednesday and blocked out the hours.

How do you sort?

Here’s a fundamental question that goes to one’s basic nature, preferences, and tempos: do you sort by sameness or difference?*

If you sort by sameness you like constancy, routines, familiarity. Change is hard for you. A preservationist at heart, you might crystallize around things, in fact, to avoid change. If you sort by difference, on the other hand, you like change and variety, quicker tempos. You move readily from topic to topic in conversation, work on a dozen pieces at once if you’re an artist. Flexibility is your hallmark. Your need for movement can make you impulsive and careless with things and people. Lots of projects left unfinished.

Understanding that this sorting difference is both critical and immutable can be a life-saver in a marriage.

My husband sorts by sameness, I by difference. We could not be more different about matters like how  often to re-arrange the furniture, how long to study maps on the ski slope, whether to chuck or save objects. And that’s the minor stuff. Viewing these differences as failures to accommodate one another or as character flaws guarantees struggle.

To blame someone for sorting differently from yourself is like getting mad at them for being tall or Chinese.

This week, prompted by (finally!) spending some time with Jude’s Feel Free class recordings (I generally read the posts, but the audios languish), I want to think about how sorting by change impacts my work and also to consciously practice her idea of treating ideas as questions rather than ways to solve a problem.

*Question posed in a lecture by Bill Harris, founder of Holosync

The gladness, it arrives

What many of you don’t know is that the most recent chapter of sister-drama and crisis lasted for nine years. That’s almost a decade. Nearly a decade of being drained, embattled, hopelessly entangled, desperate, and full of episodic fury and nearly constant resentment.

Mostly kept out of view here.

I can date my getting to know the thread-people here to the very beginning of this nine year chapter because — clear as day — I remember reading an article about Jude while waiting in the ICU (“The Artful Blogger” perhaps?)*

A few doors down, my sister was recovering from emergency abdominal surgery. A hernia and necrotic bowel. Then she went septic. When the doctor called, he gave her a 60/40 chance of dying and then announced in a voice dripping with judgment, “She’s almost 400 pounds, you know,” as if it were somehow my fault.

I honestly couldn’t tell in that moment whether I wanted my sister to live or to die. It might’ve been 60/40, too.

We hadn’t talked in nine years. For good reason.

Because of her size, they couldn’t close her up. The plan was for her to lose 150 pounds before attempting the final sutures and so there would be eight weeks in ICU and then a lengthy rehab. But because of my sister’s aggression, they put her into a medically-induced coma.

(I guess the male nurse got kicked in the balls one time too many).

That meant she had to be ventilated.

And that meant that when the tube finally came out, my sister couldn’t talk. Not even in a whisper. For weeks, she wrote me short notes in a shaky hand. As it turned out, a medically induced re-entry to relationship was a gift. What better way to reconnect with an estranged relative but slowly and with carefully selected words?

Around this time, I started taking Jude’s classes. I had two kids in high school. Often caregiving and exhaustion kept me from participating in the way I would have liked. That created some tensions that were mostly, but not exclusively, internal. Some linger.

Because of this fateful beginning, it was just weird to sign up for Jude’s last round of classes during the demanding and excruciating final weeks of my sister’s life. Talk about distracted. There were dirty diapers to dispose of, commodes to empty, calls to 911 to make (“she’s at 86% on four liters of oxygen”). There were DNR and DNI’s to be signed, regular care and hospice care to be coordinated, a nursing home transition to make, and should the priest come now, no not yet. Now.

Then her awful mess to clean up. And then (gratitude!!), Italy for more than half of April.

So once again, with respect to online participation, life thrust me into this position of “delinquency” (at worst), shadowy participation (at best). It’s a pair of bookends. A bit of a rerun. Not how I want it to be.

Because this burden of care has been on me for most of the time I’ve been participating in fiber circles, I am happy to mark a change. First with a brag and then with a photo.

The brag — I HAVE FINISHED MY NOVEL! I know I mentioned this in a comment a few days ago, but it bears repeating. First draft — done! Already edited 4/5’s, so edit last bit in July. Assemble list of agents in August. Compose query letter. Start submitting in September while also researching self-publishing.

Nine years in the making (there’s that number again). Ta-da! For all of the support I’ve received here: many, many thanks. I haven’t forgotten the tangible kickstarter support that got me to SC for an indigo weekend, for instance.

And to Deb Lacativa, fellow writer in arms, a special thanks — she is the only person to date to have read almost every goddamned word. Caught typos. Made thoughtful remarks. Cast her wild imagination in and around the plot lines. Whew, what a sensibility!

The photo below is to document how gladness can arrive. It was taken last night while another friend and I celebrated R’s birthday. It’s a tradition for us. Since my birthday’s in February, R’s in July, and our third friend’s in October, the tradition keeps us connected all year long.

I hardly recognize myself.

Gladness and a finished draft. Not an accident that they arrive not long after my sister departs.

And since there is ANOTHER birthday to celebrate this evening, I picked all our currants and will make a pie. Usually for my husband’s birthday, we go out, but tonight I’m keeping it easy: pasta topped with the last of the truffle oil from Assisi and basil from the garden.

Ahhh, summer! Ahhh! Relief.

*This was 2009, but November, December, so almost 2010.

Light and time passing

Just to say — except for events unfolding on the national stage (which were equal parts terrifying and excruciating), we had a restful and lovely weekend. Boxes were emptied! Lawns mowed! Corn on the cob cooked. A new TV series begun. The US Women’s soccer team cheered on.

And now, I’m back to it.

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!

Ferns and studio

Up they come. Glorious. Mysterious. Reliable indicators of spring.

Been in the basement some. Piecing. Cleaning. Sorting. Installed two of my sister’s lamps down there and I love the way they look.

Basting and piecing and vacuuming. Only found two dead mice this time!