Thursday, December 22, 2005

The beginning of spring

While the rest of the northern hemisphere greets December 21st as the beginning of winter, I prefer to think of it as the first day of spring. I have survived another short, dark day. For the next six months or so I will celebrate each extra minute or two of sunlight as the days grow longer.

The darkness is hard for me. When twilight falls before 5 pm it's tough to carry on into the night. I've never been a night person, ever. The night is a scary place for me, where evil lurks just out of view. I'm not much for artificial lighting either. Fluorescent lights make me feel jumpy. The light is cold and harsh. Regular bulbs aren't much better.

The so called natural color lights are an improvement. My studio is illuminated by them, making my time at the sewing machine the perfect cure for the winter blahs.

In two days my family will gather here to celebrate Christmas. What a perfect tonic for the darkness of December: family, laughter, food and the promise of the gift of eternal life. And the earthy presents aren't so bad either.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


It's a embarrassment of riches, to have so many opportunities available that I can't choose what to do next.

There's always the next book to write, that is my bread and butter, my day job, I guess. But gee whiz, that's a pretty cool day job, wouldn't you agree? The hardest part is getting started.

There's the hundreds of yards of fabric that the manufacturers have sent to me. How cool is that? Free top quality quilting fabric has arrived at my studio door by the box load. And I feel guilty about it! This fabric has real value to me. I take my responsibility to use the fabric in a way that promotes both my designs and the fabric very seriously. So, I'm nervous about cutting into the free stuff. I'm working on getting over myself!

And then there's the possibility of creating my own fabric line. Gosh, that's so beguiling an opportunity that I can hardly wrap my head around it. But I'm not an artist, at least not a trained one. It will take weeks of work to make the designs come alive. And I have a book to write.

So, here I sit, bloggging away. I'm hoping that just throwing down words, playing with them for a bit and moving on will break the log jam in my brain. I think it's working. I cleaned my desk off yesterday. Clearing the cutting table is next. And then I'm going to cut fabric. Really I am.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Taking Time

Yesterday while getting my blood drawn for a routine test the lab tech bemoaned the hurried pace of our society.

Take time to enjoy the day, she said. I thought that was a pretty funny thing to say to someone while poking them in the arm with a needle. Yep, getting stuck with needles is right at the top of my list of things to do to make the most of a day.

Of course then the phrase "take time" stuck in my head. Take time? Where? Where would time like to go? Seems to me that time already goes too quickly. (Unless you have a needle in your arm and then time moves at a disconcertingly leisurely pace.) Time doesn't seem to need my help getting anywhere. Wherever I go, time is already gone.

Take time? From whom? I can take MY time, sure, but can I take yours? I guess if I made you do something useless I would be taking your time too, but most people frown on that. If I take my time can I give it to you? When we do things for others which will free up some of their time. Then they can decide what they are doing with all that extra time.

But my whole problem with time is that once it's gone there's no getting it back. We can redo a task but we can never relive a moment. The remembering takes yet another moment. Time moves on whether I take it, waste it, make it or try to keep it.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The deep midwinter

Okay, it's true. I love snow, and since my inner child started playing with matches, I prefer the cold as well.

There are few things more beautiful than falling snow.
Sometimes the snow is heavy and wet, dropping from the sky in huge, exuberant globs. Other times the dry, crisp snow sparkles its way to the earth.

The sound of snow as it falls is the most gentle sigh, one of deep contentment. The quiet is deep and comforting. The harsh sounds of modern life are buried in the cold blanket. It doesn't hurt that snowy roads slow the traffic on the highway out front. As the break-neck urgency of the present gives way to the cautious crawl on the slippery drive I am reminded that this road, which began as in pathway for the native people, has welcomed travelers from ages past.

Living in an old house is always an adventure. Many of the windows still hold glass created more than 150 years ago. As I watch the snow fall I wonder who else has watched the seasons through these panes. Did she too try to capture the spell of the moment? Did she store up the textures and sounds in her minds eye? Perhaps she was too practical for so frivolous a pursuit.

Snow will come again, but will I be here to see it? I'm watching, listening, learning just in case.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

A tidy studio

The pause that refreshes. Even though I have a looming deadline, well, two looming deadlines actually, I have followed my inclination that it's time to clean. Doesn't that sound like fun?

There is something incredibly calming about finding order in chaos. I find that if I'm stuck on a design problem or the wording for an article all I need to do is go sort something. The thought required to conjure up the rules to categorize things ties up the critic side of my brain. That leaves the creative inner child free to get into the very best kind of trouble.

It's a win-win. Bit by bit the studio and house are brought to heel by my need to tidy. When my child is ready to design the space is clear and open, receptive.

The hardest part is learning how to let go. When you come from nothing everything seems important. Learning to edit is a beautiful skill. In a sentence, every word must carry its weight. In a studio, every tool must earn its keep. Having is NOT the same as using, or needing!

I use a simple test to determine whether to toss or keep: do I love it enough to dust it? The more time I spend taking care of my collections the less time I have to use them. Using is more fun than having.

The cool thing about fabric and thread and quilting tools is that they are always inventing more, new and better. I can let go of stuff today knowing very well that more is available if I need it. Not having just the right something means that I have to create something that works, which is always better.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Discarding weeds and old criticisms

After a blissfully cold winter, spring is finally here. We're not very sentimental folks. For Mother's Day the best thing I could get is time to do what ever I want. At this time of year that usually involves having my hands in the dirt.
There are plenty of gardens surrounding this old place. Some I have completely taken over in the ten years that we've lived here. Very little of the previous owner's choices remain in those beds.
Others continue to thrive despite being pruned with a lawn mower. With 13 acres surrounding us a full time gardener would have plenty to do. The long and short of it is that the gardens are never fully what they could be.
It's weird how the only time I think of Shirley is when I'm weeding out an over grown garden. Such judgement! I can hear her cluck her tongue. How careless. How thoughtless. Obviously I don't deserve such a wonderful home if I'm not going to take proper care of it. How could I have let it get so bad?
But Shirley is gone. Her gardens are full of weeds. Her precious home languishes on the market because it needs a new roof. I wonder if, as she slowly lost bits of herself in that last year, I wonder if she then realized that there is more to life than a clean house.
I wonder what she missed most. In our last conversation she confided that she thought that Amanda is not nearly good enough for Nate, just as I was never good enough for her son. Still measuring worth.
Who knows how much time we have. Shirley expected to be around to see all of her grandchildren graduate from college. She expected to bounce great grandchildren on her knee. Instead, her pride lead to a fall, the last of her mind squeezed off by the injury.
As I pull those weeds this summer, I know I will continue to hear Shirley's disapproval. But I'll shush her. The gardens may have been neglected while I was gone. But I'm back now, and I'm still here. And I'm pulling weeds because it gives me joy.