Art/Prayer Intersection Part Three: Fiber Arts

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For spring break last week I went with my mom and youngest son to Sequim,Washington out on the Olympic Peninsula. We had a marvelous time looking at where I lived until I was five, indulging in nostalgia and walking out on the Dungeness Spit where the waves crashed along over 5 miles of sand bar.

As we drove through the old downtown Sequin, my mom said those dangerous words:

“This looks like a place that has a knitting store!” 

Sure enough. We found A Dropped Stitch and the friendliest knit store owner ever (Really! I could tell she loved her job, wanted to be there and she even helped me entertain my kiddo so I could shop. 5 stars for her!!).

The moment I touched the chenille I knew I was lost to another project. The Bella Chenille is soft like those throw blankets you can find in the stores around Christmas – the ones my boys fight over when they want to lounge on the couch.

Universal Bella Chenille

Universal Bella Chenille Tropical Mix

When I work with yarn, I have an intense sense of calm connection. Perhaps it’s because of all the twisting and weaving and how each stitch combines to create a larger pattern. Transforming the yarn reminds me of that sweet (okay and sappy) song from the Prince of Egypt movie.

“A single thread in a tapestry
Through its color brightly shine
Can never see its purpose
In the pattern of the grand design.”

(‘Through Heaven’s Eyes’ by Brian Stokes Mitchell)

I can’t help but think of how we are all woven together as I click those needles and work the patterns in the varied and sundry places I go. 

At one point, I tried to write out for my niece all the locations I had been while crocheting a pink shell blanket for her. I struggled to explain the way I did a sort of extended praying in color for her while in the jury duty pool, of all places.

I don’t write these sorts of things out for people anymore. I simply hope they can feel my good wishes for them as they wear or use what I’ve made in study sessions, sitting at doctors’ offices and waiting in a coffee shop while my mother has cataract surgery. 

Perhaps that’s the secret ingredient in the handmade that we love so much and (hopefully) are willing to pay a bit more for: love.

May you find joy in making your gifts.

May you find the love wrapped in the gifts given to you.

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Still in the ripping and pulling stage of learning the pattern

Still in the ripping and pulling stage of learning the pattern

The Little Things: How Small Rewards Lead to Big Projects That Get Done

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Writing a novel takes a ridiculously long time. So do many other things that are incredibly worthwhile like raising children, practicing for a concert, or knitting an afghan. (I hope to finish this for my son before he gets too cool for it!)

Q's blanket

To keep myself going, I create small rewards for myself as I go along.

My rational grown up serious brain shakes her finger at me and says fussy things like:

“You shouldn’t need a reward! The work is its own reward! What are you? Some kind of kid who needs a treat for every little thing?”

To which my creative kiddo self says (in a tiny little voice as she kicks the gravel): “Yes?”

More and more of the time I block out the fussy voice and give myself treats.

A few weeks back, I finished a rough draft after about 11 months of work. The book’s not done of course. There will be revising and revising and then more revising. But I resisted the urge to push on and made a treat for myself.

I went to the Seymour Botanical Conservatory on my lunch break that very day. Here’s my Facebook post from that day:

I was typing along this morning when I realized I had finished the first draft of my middle grade novel. To celebrate, I went to Seymour Conservatory today and shelled out the 3 bucks to go inside. The lady there gave me a Ponderosa lemon tree leaf and an Allspice tree leaf. They smell delicious! Plus, I saw another work in progress. I’m trying guess what the chainsaw artist will create. Something with a dolphin…

I also bought glass earrings from the Hilltop Artists inside the conservatory that day. Every time I put them on, I think about finishing my novel and about supporting some other artist out there as a celebration.

For my next bigger reward I’ll buy a print from Summer Kozisek when I finish my focused reading program.

Something about giving money to other artists feels like a call to my own muse.

Other ideas I’ve seen for tiny rewards include keeping calendars or making a small celebration at dinner. I especially like Steven Pressfield’s idea of writing on a paper wall calendar and using check marks and the end of each day. It’s so visual and kinesthetic that it really appeals to me.

I’m scanning the shelves for new wall calendars since it’s almost 2015 and my current cupcake calendar is almost done.

Rewards, after all, need to come daily, not only at the end of big projects.

My treats are marvelous. Sometimes they are even the whole point. Not only does it keep that little gravel kicking kid happy, but the finger shaking lady gets happier, too, when she realizes more gets done in the end.

Besides. What fun is it to be creative without joy? The careless driver at the intersection in front of my work might hit me tomorrow before the novel gets done, the kids are raised or the afghan is knit. I’d like to tell St. Hildegard that I loved the gift of life while I was here.

Rat Terrier Teachings

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rat terrier

I’ve finally revised my About Page. It took most of the week to get the written ‘selfie’ into shape, so I’m cross posting it here. I don’t remember the rat’s name. I wish I did.

 

I saw the rat terrier sometime after I’d been chased by the pig. Or maybe it was before. It was, after all, over 15 years ago and I don’t have a memory that sticks moments to a bulletin board.

But one day around 1994 when I was cleaning the dog kennels at the Whatcom County Humane Society, a dog the size of a ferret sat shivering in isolation without much hair to protect her from the cold concrete. She’d bitten someone. That’s what landed dogs in those back kennels away from the public and the adoptable dogs.

The isolation kennels had a guillotine structure between them, allowing cleaners to put food on one side, open the guillotine and then the dog moved to the other side. Most dogs went willingly. This rat terrier did not, so I had to try to get her to move over. I knew she was ‘in’ for biting but thought something less than 5 pounds wouldn’t be hard to manage and swung open the door.

She slipped out the chain link kennel between my legs before I could bend down far enough to stop her. Then she bolted down the back side of the kennels and turned the average bored barking of the dogs into the frenzy of dogs barking at other dogs – especially loud since she dared to run past their cage door fences.

Shutting the noise out of my mind, I walked the concrete floor in my rubber boots trying to scoop her up. The terrier shivered and, when I finally got her in a corner, she bared her teeth. I was still green enough to think I could pick her up because she would sense that I only wanted to help her. True to all the doggy signals she sent, she bit down hard on my hand the moment I picked her up.

My hand throbbed and, after managing to get her in her kennel,  I shook it, feeling shock more than pain.

My life comes at me sometimes like that rat terrier – it feels like a series of small things that bite hard and teach me lessons I need to learn.

language

My life is also learning languages and then trying to teach them to others, beating my head against a wall when we can’t communicate and then feeling the joyful zing of sudden understanding.

 

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My life is running because it brings me intense joy and then stopping because I’ve overdone it and got tendinitis in my hip, regrouping and building myself back up again.

knitting

My life is wrapping bits of yarn together by clicking needles together. And then pulling that yarn right back out because I have not yet figured out how to carry the colors across a row. The third or fourth time I start to make a square for the blanket that I can begin to love.

And for this blog, my life is throwing things on the page and screen in a first draft, knowing they absolutely stink, reworking them beyond the point where I want to give up more than I want another cup of Earl Grey tea and then reaching a sparkling moment where I think, “You know, I actually LIKE this post. Who wouldda thought?”

Strangely enough, the feeling is like that rat terrier’s bite. Sudden and unexpected, almost like a sharp pain. If I remember right, that scared dog made it home again, like I do every time a piece comes together.