In this moment of great uncertainty in the world, this is my quilt that best reflects my mood on National Quilt Day.
Hoping all the hopes that you and yours stay happy and healthy during these tough times.
Hope can be half-full.
“boldly open, frank,” or saucy.
I had a difficult 2019.
Well, that sentence kind of buries much of the reason I’m popping back up here after such a long time away. But it’s a good starting point.
It was also a very good year.
Belief systems that sometimes explain happenstance via some sense of universal balance resonate with me since I seem to straddle a pendulum, sometimes holding on for dear life and sometimes reveling in the sheer fun of a wild ride. Life is a struggle at times, but it’s also been a charmed one so far.
Here are some examples.
At RealJob in a meeting of a group purportedly devoted to promoting equity and inclusion I was sternly reminded that ALL LIVES MATTER in an effort to ensure the exclusion of folks of color from all future discussions. Yes, indeed. And no one spoke up to contradict this proclamation. Silence is incredibly loud. That I’ve remained quiet about this despite knowing that it is the clearest cue to extricate myself from this group has been a big mistake on my part. At the same time, it has been a severe injustice on the part of my colleagues who imagine themselves to be allies and take victory laps each time they find themselves to be woke. [Why am I still here? This question paralyzes me every time a student asks.]
Meanwhile, in the quilt world–the space that was my (imperfect) escape zone–I was deliberately erased from its history due to the political nature of my artwork. Because the offending organization has far more to work on than just apologizing for this slight, I rendered myself virtually invisible in the incident. There was a cryptic apology letter sent to the at-large international community about it, but few knew it referred to an incident involving me. It was an episode that is dwarfed by my day-to-day struggles, but it was a sharp blow nonetheless. [In this case, I did declare to the organization that we’re on a break and will reassess our relationship in the future.]
Only thrice have I spoken of this quilt brouhaha publicly and even then only when directly questioned about it. It takes a bit of discipline to both: (1) maintain some perspective that this wasn’t about just me and dedicate my energy to improving life for all and (2) not lash out every time folks asked me why I wasn’t attending the annual gathering of this organization last month. To be sure, even some of those who knew about it had forgotten. Many of them asked why I wasn’t over it. Of course, I don’t matter.
But there is a group of self-styled Rude Quilters, students from my summer retreat in Maine, who gathered to vent their own frustrations in a world that systematically works to silence women. And to express their anger with censorship done in the name of propriety–that is, they wanted to respond to those who want to keep politics and artistic personal expressions out of the quilt world.
This quilt (see below), called Malapert hung at QuiltCon 2020, pieced by Avice Meehan, Robin Strauss, Annri Vroom, Jan Moore, Audrey Workman, Jill Good, Jane Stokes, Michelle Perkins, Cynthia Craig, Rita Mroczek, Ursula Foeller, and Irene Roderick, and quilted by Irene Roderick.
And then the quilt showed up on my doorstep last weekend. No one has ever given me a (non-mini) quilt before. Even just the note tucked inside made me cry for a long, long while.
And I am still speechless.
Luckily these very kind and talented ladies are saying it for me right now.
Friends, let’s talk about showers. Yes, you know, the ones we do for hygiene. I indulge in long steamy morning showers to induce deep thinking before the onslaught of the workday. This means, over the years, I’ve developed a routine in the mists, working top to bottom hitting all the spots, so that I don’t need to concentrate on the scrubbing hubbub. It works, as long as I stick with the set plan.
But sometimes there are mornings when–who knows why?–the mission gets thrown off-track. And then I spend the whole day worried about a missed spot that’s exuding an imagined funk. Knee cap funk? That’s alright. But other patches of possible funk can occupy my mind a little more than they ought to. I’ve been a bit off-kilter (in a good way) for a few months now and this shower scenario has played out too often. Gotta get back to the plan.
But why do I mention this today?
Yes, my virtual knitting friend, Nova Seals, just earned her PhD with this dissertation. Holy moly! The title and abstract kinda say it all. She did an in-depth philosophical study of my artwork, this 10 year-old blog, and my other social media outlets.
Although she interviewed me a couple years back, we were both mindful of me not knowing what she was researching so as not to change my activities due to her work. And I’m so glad, because I would have had chronic phantom funk syndrome just from worrying about what she might find!
She just recently sent me a bound copy of the thesis. [Since she plans to publish it as a book eventually, the dissertation is embargoed for the moment.] That it is covered in glitter just makes it all the more wonderful. [The glitter is not normal with dissertations, of course. It comes from the wrapping paper she used and caused me maybe a little bit too much delight last night.]
Anyway, I picked the tome up the way I do any (scholarly) nonfiction book and started from the back. The bibliography of a book gives you a sense of the foundation of knowledge that buttresses the arguments inside; it can regulate expectations. And then, spoiling the punchline, I always read the conclusion first.
Afraid, really, of indulging in reading about myself I let the pages continue to fall backwards nonchalantly as I accidentally caught a chunk or two. And here’s what happened: apparently this one time on this blog I told y’all about how I read books, in a paragraph similar to the one that precedes this one. And there it was full-justified in the middle of a page.
I was doing the thing she was talking about me having talked about doing.
Did I miss a spot in the shower? How’s my funk ratio today?
It’s going to take me a while to get around to reading this book from the front to the back, but I’ll do it. And the whole time I’ll just be proud of my amazing friend, Dr. Nova Seals.
She’s got a good funk ratio, herself.
My birthday is coming up in a few weeks and I have so many wants for the world that one candle to blow out will never suffice. Some world peace, sane and sensible government, yada yada, you know, simple stuff. It’ll take a long time for us to get these things, but one can wish and one can keep working towards it, right? We have to wait.
Birthdays are for navel-gazing, huh? I have whispered my personal birthday wish out into the universe and, of course, I have also done things that could make it come true. Wishes aren’t only about magic, after all.
This wish makes me think a lot about waiting.
Don’t get me wrong: I have a deep cavern in my heart and soul that is filled with patience. Patience is a different virtue than the ability to wait, although I guess patience could help with the waiting sometimes. But I guess I mean to say that, for the most part, my problem with waiting isn’t always just a sign of impatience. [There’s a long digression on patience that is bursting outta my head as I write now, but I really want to keep this short-ish. It’d be a dense footnote in another medium, but instead I’ll just save it for later. Marshmallows appear there too, naturally.]
Waiting for good things to happen can require hope. And that’s probably what makes it hard for me. I can lose hold of hope too easily no matter the small signals of progress. This holds me back in RealJob and RealLife and RealLove all the time. It used to look more like just a short span of attention in these realms but that’s hard to fix without addressing the hope problem. Though hope can come from happy wishes coming true from time to time, so there’s also an element of self-fulfilling prophecy in this mode of living. And, really, I have more hope than I think I do but it’s not winning the fight with fear every time.
Hopeful waiting is also brave waiting.
This ruminating will continue. It turns out that in my (nonpublic) sketches (drawings, patchworks, etc) I have been exploring the tentacular theme of waiting for the past 5 months and I’m liking their cohesion in this light. It’s a good place to settle in for the long winter ahead to make (public) things.
A good place to wait a while.
And I’m also literally waiting for paint to dry.
More about that later. Maybe.
Happy Holidays, friends!