Grief and Making
With the Holidays over, I actually looked at the website and was pained to see how long it had been since I blogged. I reject all the platitudes about busy lives, and Holiday distractions as excuses, or explanations, for electronic silence. We're all still here, on the interwebs, losing precious minutes to technology. It takes more energy, at least for me, to write an actual blog post. Posting on Instagram is a quick hit. A simple photo 'shoot', some basic editing, a couple of thoughtful lines, and there I am. Instagram is good for me, because I tend to over-explain. I am learning to edit myself, (and by that I mean edit my words, not my thoughts) so that I get to the heart of what I want to say more effectively. But when given the blank page, the long form, of the blog post, I'm afraid my tendency is to get carried away. Out tumbles this somewhat coherent stream of consciousness. I kinda love to do it, but honestly it takes it out of me. I wish I could be the restrained type, skimming over the surface with choice vocabulary, a minimalist. Ha! Funny, right? It is possible that I don't blog more because I can't do it in a concise and timely fashion.
I am here, writing on my blog, because I need this contact with those of you who read this forum. My Father passed away suddenly just days before Christmas. He had been given a diagnosis over a year ago, but I thought, and I think he did too, that he was managing it, or it was being managed. It apparently was not. He had a lung disease that diminished his capacity greatly, and put a huge strain on his heart. It all became too much in December. I made it to his hospital room in time to have a day with him before he lost consciousness. I am grateful that I got to tell him that I love him. I am grateful that he died peacefully, and without pain, surrounded by his loved ones. Now he is gone. And there are no more opportunities to talk to him. Our relationship is frozen where it was. It is so final. It was so fast. It is so done.
He and I had our issues over the years. We had moments when we communicated better than others. He would drive me crazy with his choice to see only what he wanted to see about the world. He was much more of an optimist than I am. His rosy view of the world created a lot of cognitive dissonance for me when I was younger. That, and his reluctance to handle my emotions. For years I was angry with him for not being able to deal with my emotional self. As I had more turns around the sun, I came to terms with his boundaries, his strengths and shortcomings, and we came to a plateau on which to relate. It basically worked. He could be a great help to me with his rather pragmatic approach to things. It was, however, a relationship that I always hoped would have a moment of clarity, of reckoning. That we would sit down, with a glass of wine, and tell each other how much we loved each other, but also how much some of our actions had hurt each other. I guess that's a fairy tale version of family that many of us hold out for ourselves. "Someday I will truly be seen. There will come a time, a moment, when there will be honesty and clarity and love and peace...."
It is this construct that has been gnawing at me for the past few weeks. We don't really have any say, any choice, in how our lives resolve. We can take steps to try and move things in a direction we like. But often we don't know that it is time to take those steps until it is too late. As Joni Mitchell says..."you don't know what you've got till it's gone...." This realization, coupled with the scattering of my focus in the grieving process, has made me turn to my studio, my fabric, my sewing and making, with increased intensity in the past few weeks. I have had a manic period of pulling out old projects and finishing them, or at least moving them forward more. Accompanied by the soundtrack of my youth, music introduced to me by my Father, I have blasted early Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John. Records I grew up with, sounds that linger in my bones, that feel like home. Sometimes crying while sewing, sometimes dancing. The ridiculous cold we had over the Holiday period made me reluctant to work on garments that might need trying on, so the quilting got a lot of attention. I quilted my Park quilt and attached the binding. It is now finished. I assembled the gradient fabric top that had been languishing for a good 18 months. It is on the design wall. It needs to move on to the next step, but that may yet take some more time. I made three garments for three separate small beings that belong to friends, as well as a warm comforter for a new baby. Pulling out the selection of children's patterns I own, I dove deeply into the construction of micro clothing. I sewed up a textile heart to send to the nurses who took such good care of my Father in the hospital. I did finally do some garment sewing, making up my first Kochi kimono. I have been slowly and steadily knitting away on a pullover for Don in Harrisville Highland. It is a long stockinette slog, and the gauge is a bit tough on my hands, but it will be worth it when I can clothe the man in my love. He has been a great comfort to me, keeping me on track, holding me when I cry, listening to my anger and pain. I consider myself very lucky to have such a good partner in life.
All this Making has had the desired effect of connecting me to my heart, my values, my feelings of self-worth, and most importantly my peace. When I am in my studio, with my hands and mind in a project, I am content. The world swirls around me at a pace, and with an ugliness, that I cannot fathom, much less keep up with. But when I can divert my attention to a sewing or knitting project- a quilt, a piece of clothing, some knitting- I am centered, I am comforted. I remember that I have agency, I have a small measure of control, I can create beauty, or at least functionality, for the universe. I am able to leave a mark, however small, that represents and gives flesh to my values and beliefs. I have knitted through stress and conflict before. Having a hand-project to work on was an unconscious coping mechanism for many interactions with my Father, as well as other awkward or uncomfortable social circumstances, through the years. Working quietly on a constructive process has allowed me to be present on many occasions where I would have felt too vulnerable to do so without it. I suspect I am not alone with this technique. Making has so many benefits, I am coming to learn how many of them are psychological for me. Often it is literally a protection, a shield as a friend reminds me, from things that I cannot comprehend, that make me feel vulnerable. I have no doubt that if such things could be measured we would find an uptick in the output of the Making community in the last year. Many of us Makers are disturbed, depressed, and discouraged by the insanity on constant display from our government. It is only logical that we would retreat to our safe spaces to try and process it all through our values, with our skills and techniques. Turning out beauty in response to chaos.
So here I am, rambling on again. As I mentioned above I have had some trouble getting my mind to focus on things. It is only within the past few days that I have been able to look at the website, and the retreat descriptions. I was so happy to discover that I had done most of the work there before these events transpired. Looking at the ideas and plans held there, the joyous sharing of information and skills with the most delightful of teachers and participants, gave me such hope, and peace. It gave me direction and focus in a very positive way. I have only a few last details to straighten out, and then I will post these exciting opportunities for us to gather and share. These retreats are so much more than my 'job' or my business. They are a chance for me to connect with my true tribe, my people, the folks who get me. My Father was a great entertainer, he liked to have parties. I have obviously inherited that gene from him. To be able to bring together a diverse group of like-minded Makers to share this drive to make things with our skills, and our abilities, is my great joy in life. If you are not yet signed up for my newsletter, and are curious about these retreats, please use the form to the right. I will announce the retreats there first, by the end of this week. The full descriptions will be posted and live for a month before I open registration. I do this to give you time to think about the structure, to make arrangements, to budget, to consider thoughtfully whether to join us or not. I am excited about this year's offerings, but then each year I am excited. This is my joy, these retreats are my happy place. I share them with you to share the sense of peace, accomplishment, utility, agency, and satisfaction that comes from Making. I hope you will join me this year, or some time in the future.