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I was recently asked in a round-about way if I thought my making face masks was really of help. After all, “medical professionals can’t use home-made masks,” I was told. Coincidentally, and unbeknownst to the questioner, I had that morning shipped 35 masks off to a (human) hospital and 10 to a veterinary hospital. I informed my friend of these shipments and said; “but I get it, these aren’t replacements, they aren’t as good a the N95s. I have done the research; and, I’ve also done the research to develop the best filtering I can accomplish with what resources are available to me. In some cases this means providing pockets in the masks (for HEPA filters to be inserted); but always I use fabrics that research studies have found to be the better filters.”


Having explained that this wasn’t just me getting crafty or being an un-informed-do-gooder, I paused. After a moment of watching their face in the silence, I heard what they really wanted to say, “Well, I just don’t want you to make all of these and put time and energy into them and then they aren’t used and you feel bad and that it was all a waste of time.” Ah, they’re challenge was about compassion for me. I let another pause go on while I took in what they were saying, then began, “Well, I am grateful to have been able to send some off today; but too I have to say I’d be completely thrilled if emergency measures were taken requiring manufacturers to make masks and I’d be left with a hundred that I’ve just made because they would no longer be needed.”


I don’t make masks because I think it’ll save anyone’s life. If home-made masks help, that is great. If that’s all we have, well, that’s a shame really. But the result of my making masks is not why I make them – simply because I don’t have control of outcomes. Ever. However, the number of needed effective masks simply is not being met. So, I am helping to provide a humble stand-in. More than that though, I am creating an energy with the thousands of other people sewing masks. We are creating an energy of MASKS AVAILABLE. A flow of masks being made available. This, I believe is far better than sitting in the void of absent masks and crying for lack of fulfilled needs. Life teaches me repeatedly that when resources are scarce, focusing on scarcity does not bring abundance. So, I make masks perhaps more in the hope that they will not be needed, not so much because they are needed.


Also, making the masks, like making my prayer flags, teaches me (with each mask as with each flag) to respond to chaos and the human condition with Compassion, Love, Patience, Perseverance, or Presence (names of just a few of the flags that still teach me to this day).  So, nope, the masks are not made to save anyone, though they may help in some way. I will never know. What I do know is this – sometimes we all find ourselves in the very center of scarcity (of all kinds) and life and love have taught me that the void is where creation began and continues to begin.

The year of work (2019) was intense. It was jammed with activities and challenges. I DID work hard. And it was a brilliant year. The year of work began with me mired in the image of being roadkill. I felt like goo. This metaphor seemed to sit well with the universe when I encountered an actual owl midday that stood it’s ground on the road in front of my car until I came to a full stop feet from it.  It seemed to size me up in comparison to the dead rabbit that had originally caught it’s eye. And, I hadn’t even realized last year, I don’t think owls scavenge, do they? Yes, the universe concurred, I was roadkill at the beginning of the year. There was MUCH work to be done.


I feel the temptation to write an account in detail of the year of work. However, here is what it was in a nutshell, to save you the lonnnnnnngggggg story: Seeing and saying it was the year of work kept me accountable when I encountered my own laziness, hesitation, or self-doubt. The theme was ever-present, re-minding me that this life isn’t about taking shortcuts or sleeping through overwhelming tasks. So, the year was deeply lived. Many challenges and an over-abundance of gifts and miracles, mostly because I didn’t back down from the challenges. In the end, I was less the roadkill and more the owl unflinchingly declaring “I am here; and I have purpose.” As a bonus, that purpose grew in depth and clarity.


And now, as I find myself one month into 2020, “The year of Student,” I do so humbly, knowing there is foundational work already begun. I have much to learn about Love. There is still work to be done. This year the task seems to be to listen more deeply to the lessons in front of me rather than simply face them.

How funny, I just noticed my last blog post started with a line that has been left hanging there for over six months. When people visited my website and blog, the first thing they saw was something about “constipation.” Sheesh! How’s that for clueless marketing?


Anyway, today’s post is inspired by a question I got last week at a show I did at the Walter’s Cultural Art Center. Someone asked, “What makes them ‘Prayer Flags?” I find it best to explain what I make by explaining the process of making it. Otherwise the temptation is there to launch into all sorts of ethereal philosophical purposes and meanings that may feel vital to me as an artist but have nothing at all to do with the person standing in front of me. As an artist, I don’t believe my job is to express so much what I see, feel, believe as it is to express from the place of unknowing.


So, what makes these “fiber collages with free-style machine stitching,” “Prayer Flags”? Here’s what I know about working from the place of unknowing:  When a Prayer Flag (PF) is presented to me via a commission from a patron or through intuitive “downloading” (as I call it), my job is not to design or plan or express. My job is to listen. So, in listening, whether to patron or the universal creative energy I call “the Great Collaborator,” images, colors, words which are already swirling around in the ether begin “to land.” As that continues, I show up. I go to my studio and listen some more even as I select fabrics and fibers and begin creating what is forming in my mind. Listening is vital throughout the process because, I have a strong ego that likes to step in and present its own ideas. So, the act of creating these pieces is a practice of laying down the ego and allowing the art, the intentions, to emerge from the silence as I listen.


The other piece is that the words chosen for the flags become a sort of living mantra that accompanies not just the act of creating but also infiltrates my life. As a result, I am more homed in on the word in daily life and begin seeing and hearing it with frequency. Because I am listening. So, the time frame of creating a PF becomes a month or two-month meditation on one (or a couple) words. The thing that make them PF for me is this process of listening and laying down the ego; but also what happens is that the process begins to deconstruct my own understanding of the word/intention/prayer and not only is my ego lain aside, but my sense of “knowing,” is also pretty much scoured out (an image of my sitting at the sewing machine feeling scoured is something I may someday make a PF about) and emptied.


What happens then is, if I am able to stay the course, and move through the utter emptiness and unknowing, eventually new understandings begin to flow into me that are not about my ego or my “knowing.” And this, THIS is indescribably beautiful. At this point, the channel having been cleared simply allows the flow of creation to happen. This is ecstasy. It is immeasurably humbling and exhilarating simultaneously.




So, what makes them “Prayer Flags,” in my understanding is that they are infused with the stories, energies and fibers from thousands of lives (98-99% recycled materials) and with the mantra they express through my practice. The edges are irregular symbolizing the release from confines of ego into the universe. My prayer is that some of this is felt by the observer in some way that releases them as well.



Wow. I had a great post written about constipation, but it lacked context because I never posted the story about a decision I made back in late January. So today's post will be a rough explanation of January's event. Mind you, I did deliver a talk about my Beloved in February, that made me very "seen." It was a great experience and did share deeply, not at all what is described below; but what is described below is a self-indulgent exageration for the sake of keeping me in shame.


You'll have to wait until tomorrow for the constipation piece. Edge of our seats...


January 31st I explained thus:


My fear of being seen, of speaking my mind, of telling my story is deep and wide and it’s all about how people will SEE me. Not at all about how I see me. I want the accolades, but I can’t take the judgements, the pokes, the quizzical silences and non-reactions. Those make me crazy. Those make me crazy. THOSE MAKE ME CRAZY.


So, I only hint at what is inside. I only tell bits and pieces of my story. Then, through time, my confidence builds and more and more of me slips out as I grow in trusting others around me and trusting myself until a point comes when someone or some group of people slap a negative judgement or look silently at one another after I’ve spoken or, or what, or I stop making sense to myself. There, that’s the edge. Eventually I come to a place where I recognize my limited talent for expression. I recognize the edge of my ability to tell my story. So, I stand at the edge, that wall, that precipice where across the way I know is completion and fulfillment and I watch others leap their way across or I see others watching quizzically because they just realized I’m not “all that.” They see from the other side that I am, for all my talk and expression, still not across that chasm.


So, I sit down. I melt down actually. Into a puddle of muck. And I feel utter disgust and disdain and loathing for myself. And I know this will never ever change, this pattern and I will never ever cross the barrier. I can’t possibly know how to. I lay there in my mess while I feel the ridicule and pokes and disdain of others and their disappointment and eventual turning away. And I eventually turn away too and leave myself, that puddle of muck, there at the edge of myself; and I retreat back inside. Back to the beginning of the cycle. Back to playing at life, pretending half my story is enough. Back to cutting off pieces of myself to stay sane. To stay safe, to stay understood or at least accepted. Back to getting away with joyful living because I am invisible and don’t have to feel the edge.


The edges of me are where other people are. I recoil at the edges. Pull them up short. Tuck them under. Pretend they aren’t’ there. Because I am afraid they will get stomped on but more-so, because my edges are crusty and irregular and definitely not pretty. They smell bad too.


I’ve been living in the soft middle part of me. What if I lived at the edge? What if I don’t retreat with apologies or explanations? What if I don’t deny this too is me? What if I live a bit at this edge? Crusty and mucky. Just    Be     Here.


Deep breath. Stay with myself. Ok, my skin feels as if it’s all come off. It’s all dry and crusty, like the edge of me; and my guts are all mush. Black and formless. At the edge of me.


Can I sit with this disaster? Can I love? Can     I       Love      the fallen apart me? Can I just stay here a while? Not retreat? In regret? In shame? In deference, to bystanders’ feelings? Can I just be fallen? Fallen apart. Just stay with myself?


No scrambling for redemption. No apologies. No spackle, to patch back together the image of me that people like, or that I like, or that we all just allow to be me. The moment. The many moments of unrest. Of yuck. Of pain. With no movement. No promise of movement. No future. Only Now. Can I allow that? Can I finally just be a mess? And love at the edges?

I’ve been a bit scattered in my studio time the past couple weeks. This happens sometimes when tending to life. Sometimes Life IS the prayer flag. Right now, I am attentive to the colors and textures of my Beloved’s life and death and our life together, as I prepare to speak the story to others this week. There are layers. There is gold glowing through. And there are dark places to contrast the light. It is an intense experience of “Holding the Fire,” while my arms and hands are made of wood (see prayer flag by that title below).


By Wednesday it will all be stitched together and delivered (then I can return to the studio). Even as I go through my daily tasks, there is an awareness of my psyche and spirit working on this. Just as if it were a prayer flag. What a beautiful gift to me. Not without cost. Just as in making an actual flag, my ego gets a thorough scrubbing and is lain aside (multiple times - practice) in the process. That takes some doing. I have a strong ego that likes to be involved. But if making prayer flags has taught me nothing else, it continues to teach me this is the only way. This is the path through which love might flow through me into the world.

“Trust,” the prayer/meditation flag has been pieced together for over a week now. It sits, pinned together. Ready. It waits for me to begin sewing. Yet it sits.


This is painful. This waiting. For I cannot begin working again on the piece while so mired in my own ego. Don’t misunderstand that I think the ego a bad thing. It’s necessary to living in this world. However, the process of creating these flags doesn’t work with my ego too much front and center, or even a little off-center. So, until I can lay my feelings and thoughts about Trust (the flag and the concept) aside, the sewing machine remains silent.


Two months ago, I resumed trauma therapy to treat and cleanse what I thought was the fall-out from my Beloved’s choice to leave this world. The layers being peeled back are many and, I am finding, adhesive. The surprise though is that they have roots that go deeper than I had imagined.


If all my life has brought me to this place I am now, then all my life up until and including my husband’s death had been lived leading me to that point as well. Trauma isn’t isolated. It lives in context of one’s life. And I’d venture to say, much of what makes an event traumatic is that it connects in us/me to something else or many somethings from the past.


Trust is immense. It may be IT. THE thing. The key that opens up the path. My path anyway. First though, I’ve been spending a bit of time clearing away undergrowth and roots that have tripped me up for a very long time. That too though is about Trusting isn’t it?


Yesterday was a significant session of EMDR (I can’t recommend this treatment enough. I think it is the piece that has been missing from talk therapy) that reached back 54 years and healed a trauma that reached through multiple facets my family’s and my own treatment of me for years. Finally, finally, the memory was healed; and it’s a strange feeling but there is a sense that my neural networks are running through other events that stemmed from that one defining trauma and healing energy is firing through connections, rewiring years of related memories as well.


As I write that, I realize I am being stitched together, or re-stitched perhaps. I am the collage being moved about on the sewing machine. The colors, the energy, the connections, the details are all at work within me. In a new way this helps me see Mike’s death and even that trauma when I was 2, and multiple other events, that before were jumbled purple bruises in memory to be separate from who I am. Connected to me by love and compassion, empathy, sorrow, loss, but they no longer define the color of the network of my memories; and they no longer define me.


Trust in this moment. I am a point in time. Now. Born of yesterday. Bearing today and tomorrow. A point. A beginning.


Time to head up to the studio.


Presence     25x25 fiber collage prayer/meditation flag


“The Great Coincidence of opposites…” this phrase jumped out at me as I read a lesson this morning from Richard Rohr. He was referencing St. Bonaventure’s description of Jesus. I’ve studied many religions and practiced many forms of spiritual ritual in the last forty years. Having come first from Catholicism. I actually have a BA in Theology and had an experience in my early twenties that I believed was a vision meaning I was called to Priesthood. That was when my search for a definition of “priesthood,” and a spiritual base that accepted the whole me, parts and all, began.


For the last five years, that search has centered wholly on learning to love better. It started with my beloved who was suffering and in who’s suffering, I suffered as well. A path to and of Love grew out of suffering. From there, the path has led not to an escape from suffering, but right through suffering. Love has been my companion, my guide, my salvation and my agent of stripping away old beliefs. It comforts me. It tears me open. It is ever with me. It is ever in me; and I am in every present moment ever in Love.


The recent commissioned flag, “Presence,” as they all do, flayed me and lay me flat at times while working on it. Yet Love was there, and when I was able to hold Love, I became well aware it was holding me. In it is an image of fire and water, light and dark, cool and warmth, holding and stepping away. The “Great Coincidence of opposites,” is all around us. Whether you believe Jesus was a person, the Christ, or a myth, the great co-incidence of opposites held by one person is a powerful image. And it is in all of us to do so. For this is what Love is.

I learned yesterday that the goo that caterpillars turn into in their cocoons is actually the result of them “digesting” themselves. I feel as if a massive rift opened up in my life story. Caterpillars turning to butterflies is symbolically potent. So, I dove down that chasm to see what else could enhance my changing metaphor. Here’s what I found so far. Mostly just the facts for now.


Holicow! Caterpillars really are born with butterflies inside them! Not only do they digest themselves within the chrysalis, but everything is digested via release of enzymes (just like in our stomach) leaving protein-rich goo. How the butterfly happens is that caterpillars are born from their eggs with something called “imaginal discs” (imaginal discs – how perfect is that?! – Imaginal!) throughout their bodies. Each imaginal disc is the seed, if you will, of a butterfly body part. One for each wing, leg, antennae, etc. The imaginal discs don’t get digested with the rest of the caterpillar (perhaps they have a hull, like other seeds do which prevent them being digested – I will have to dig further for that). When swimming in the digested goo, or, poo really, the imaginal discs do what any seed would do in a compost pile, begin feeding and multiplying its cells.


I am so excited by this more mature understanding of this process. Really, it makes me giddy as a child. The implications for metamorphosis of my metaphor are too mind-blowingly ironic to express right now. It will take a bit more digesting.


Here’s how it relates so far to this present moment: Imaginal by definition means relating to image or imago (which is basically an image of an image). Today I finished sewing the prayer flag “Presence.” When I sew the hundreds of thousands of stitches in dozens of colors, it is done with a translucent film (water soluble stabilizer that later gets soaked off) covering the image. So, the image is “fogged,” as I work on it. I have to trust my memory of what layers were placed where and just where the beginnings and endings of fabrics are. I have to trust my sense of color theory. I have to trust that my sense of color theory can survive fogging the colors. Most of all I have to trust the Great Collaborator who guides my intuition. And I have to listen.


So, imaginal seeds of the prayer flag, the layers of fibers, the colors, the pieces butting up to one another are all there but under the film. And I can’t, once the sewing begins, look under the film. So today, when I got to drop “Presence” into its bath to dissolve the film, I again was reminded what a miraculous process this is. What a metamorphosis. The flags are often fulfilling of their purpose when just pieced. But for one, they can fall apart with a breeze from the open window or the brush of a sleeve (trust me on those). Also, they tend to have flatter, less textured colors and images; but with the free-style stitching, the details are enriched. Even a visual sense of movement often comes into play. One might say they soar! And, literally, once sewn, they can fly, as prayer flags are intended.