Tag Archives: boundaries

Still life, figures, and Matisse

The Matisse show at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts takes a novel approach by displaying objects the artist collected along with some of the paintings they appear in. It’s fascinating.

Naturally, I especially enjoyed the textiles but even to see chairs, vases, and pewter coffee pots alongside the paintings they inspired was interesting.

I was shocked to discover, standing in front of the well-known ‘Purple Robe’ portrait below, that early on Matisse was ‘afraid he would never do figures’.

Lucky for us, at some point the artist figured out how to transfer the confidence he felt giving life to inanimate objects to the human figure.

With that and my unpopulated quilts in mind, take a look at the right margin of this slightly wonky tower I’ve been working on. Doesn’t that dark grain suggest a female form — staring up at a butterfly, perhaps? She reminds me of one of Grace’s drawings in its early phases. Mightn’t the nascent figure be saying something — Come on — stitch me into an empty structure! Let me enliven the yard or a room or even the attic!

Somehow this quiet and solitary day felt full. Almost too full.

Our morning walk was replete with scenes like these, peaceful and lush, but riddled with thoughts about aggression, primarily about the differences between aggression expressed from and for power and reactive aggression. They might appear alike from the outside but are worlds apart. Working with Finn has been a real lesson in this, inspiring me to quip from time to time, “Dog training’s taught me that I may be a mouthy bitch, but I’m no alpha.”

Sad, but true. Finn had a set-to right before this yard. Bark, bark, bark. My sister and I are having set-tos all the time, but this week they’re about re-configuring the distance between us. Bark, bark, bark. I can’t take it anymore. It’s amazing I’ve put up with it for this long. If she can’t accept my moving away some, I will vanish from her life. I’ve done it before. I was hoping not to do it again, but I am exhausted, tattered, and unwilling to continue at current decibel levels. Bark. Bark. Bark.

After what seems an impossibly long time without sun, out it came for our afternoon walk, so the day contained cheer, too!

Lastly, the TV is all fucked up and you know what that means (wink, wink)! I may be forced to read for a spell here (and miss The Great British Baking Show?) or watch LIVE TV on the tiny shit box in the kitchen. Boo-hoo. Then again, the house is filled with good books waiting to be read.


Rebellion Farm, 2014 – South Carolina

I’ve shied away from picking annual WORDs because I usually poop out on them long before the year is through. Nevertheless, this year requires one and it is: CONTAINMENT.

An iron pot symbolizes CONTAINMENT, and for 2016, both the inside and the outside of the vessel matter.

The inside of the cauldron stands for a well-tended creative process. In the coming months, I want to stoke the fires of intention/desire/discipline and see some results. I will set deadlines. I will be accountable. I will lean into offered help.

The outside of the pot stands for well-defined personal boundaries, necessary to the process of excluding that which is toxic and debilitating. Some things cannot be excluded. But lots in my life can be.
And yes, now we are talking about my very difficult sister. I am the only person who relates to her on a nearly daily basis and it is one of the most taxing, draining, annoying, infuriating, challenging, and unwelcome responsibilities that I have ever shouldered. It has made me curse my dead parents and God. It has made me hate myself frequently. It has made me hate her frequently. The lessons are there, oh yes they are there, but I’m unwilling to keep paying the price that I’ve been paying to learn them (prime among the lessons: humility and compassion; the big price tags: my health and peace of mind).

For better boundaries, I seem unable to simply ‘create distance’ or ‘compartmentalize’.  So I’ve come up with: BRACKETING, DISTRACTION, BREATHING, and MEDICATION.

Maybe these are just ‘creating distance’ and ‘compartmentalizing’ by other names, but they feel different.

BRACKETING: the process of deliberately indulging in simple, pleasurable routines before and after contact, especially visits and the outrageously awful phone calls.  This can be self-care at its most basic, but no less potent for its simplicity — planning a hot bath with eucalyptus salts, having a homemade soup at the ready, asking K. to build a fire.  It’s not complicated and some of it I do already, but it needs to be more conscious. Some of the rewards could be bigger.  DISTRACTION: I can’t really cook while talking to my sister on the phone, or even run water. It offends her. But with a teeny bit of preparation, I could flip through picture books, hem a long hem, or knit. My repeated attempts to craft a mutually agreed upon, respectful way to terminate calls when they get loud and ugly has failed abominably. But the truth is, even some of the less-screechy calls tax my patience — the weird theories, the paranoia and conflict with neighbors, the objection to this celebrity’s forehead or that celebrity’s nostrils, her infatuation with Chuck Norris or Hop Along Cassidy, the hip pain, knee pain, insomnia, gastric upset….

BREATHING: for when we she is pushing my buttons (OFTEN) and I need (URGENTLY NEED) to remain silent. I am going to count to ten. Original, huh? One visit I gave myself ‘a time out’ and did the crossword puzzle for awhile. This seemed acceptable to her and it worked for me.

MEDICATION: hers and mine. Attend to timing. Lastly, I need to be careful about what I ask for. Because I am in this ’til death and because I wouldn’t feel good praying for my sister to drop dead, several times in the last few months I looked heavenward and begged, “Please God, take ONE of us!”

Then I had to have a biopsy.  After two unnerving weeks reading about Graves disease (which I have) and radioactive iodine treatment (which I’ve had) and learning of my increased odds for thyroid cancer, I decided to never again utter that plea. (The biopsy was clear).  This is an unusually personal post and quite at odds with the notion of CONTAINMENT. This kind of disclosure will never be the mainstay of this blog (although I’m not sure why). But I’ve found from reading other peoples’ blogs that occasional personal revelations draw me in and make the more craft-focused posts more meaningful. I hope this does the same.

It’s also my way of saying, fuck it. It’s a new year. I’m gonna take a few risks.

So, on that note: Happy New Year!!


“a path through the trees” in Chilmark, shot with the Sketchbook Project in mind (I missed the deadline! Wasn’t thinking about it at all!  And I don’t care!!!)…

Since being back from a weekend on the Vineyard, where the senses were feted by sea and rock and trees and food and friends, where the clutching concerns of daily life had a chance to relax, I am feeling things in my gut.  Tending to one’s gut can be instructive.  If I feel a little sick, as I have many times the last three mornings, I adjust what is right before me until I don’t.  This may be a faint bug asserting itself, but I more than half-wish it weren’t – I could use a feedback loop this insistent and obvious!

I’ve slowed a bit here.  Hurried other places.  Quilting a lot.  Working on creating new teaching gig, selling gig, and also tending to parental responsibilities.

Today, a two-man crew fixed our picket fence, and installed a gate where there had been none – in between the house and garage.  Now, the fence makes a ring around the backyard.  An enclosure.  Come spring, I will be able to garden out back with Jack and not worry about where he has trotted off to.  The renovation/repair echoes weekend discussions about boundaries.  Here is a novel way to view boundaries:

A boundary is a region, not a line.  It has the effect of defining what is included, as well as what is excluded.  In fact, it is a place of meeting and connection, for it’s where your edges meet mine… We don’t know much about boundaries.  Most of us have been taught to withhold ourselves behind invisible barriers… what we need to do is to find our edges and expand our awareness, to go deeper into our bodies.  This doesn’t mean shutting someone else out.  It means letting your needs in…

From, “No Enemies Within — A Creative Process for Discovering What’s Right about What’s Wrong” by Dawna Markova.

I love the idea that tending one’s boundary is about discovering one’s needs and including them, and not necessarily about keeping others out!  Going deeper into the body is a challenge, and one I feel ready to embrace.  I take a quote off the wall from the chiropractor’s office visited on Tuesday as further inspiration.  The article pointed out that  ‘even 10 minute bursts of activity provide the benefits of exercise’.

So, 10 minute bursts, here I come!  Stomach geiger-counter, I’m listening! Sketchbook Project – you will stay home this year!