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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.

Reviewing the year is not so uncommon on the first day of a new one. It feels a bit trite. Today though it had to be done. I had not yet received the download of a new word for 2019. Reviewing the old year usually takes moments all throughout December as I approach God the Source requesting a word for the coming year. December this year was pretty busy.


It wasn’t Christmas or any other holiday that distracted me. December was busy fulfilling the theme for 2018. Well, not the primary theme. THAT theme was “Writing.” I did write a lot in 2018. Got three short stories written, finished and submitted another to the literary magazine, Glimmer Train (earning an honorable mention), and submitted a sizeable chunk (I be a writer) of a book for a fellowship. During the year, I experienced for the first time that glorious feeling when one's characters write their own story.


The sub-theme for 2018 however, the theme that occupied much of December was “Driving.” Sounds somewhat like “Writing,” so I have wondered if my hearing was off last year. Though I did, as I always do, argue with God the Source about the choice of words last year. Theme or not, December was another road-trip for me. One of four in 2018, during which I set foot in 22 states total. I’m not in sales; and I didn’t have art openings. Three of four weren’t planned. All were intensely instructive, rich in challenges and gifts.


So, I was distracted from asking and from listening for a word downloaded from God the Source. I was distracted until recent days; and today, bright and early, as I wrote my morning pages (actually, I was resting between pages) in came the word. An image of lace in my mind’s eye and the word “Work” downloaded as this year’s theme.


As always, the selection clearly landed in my being; and again, per usual, my response was a resounding internal “REALLY?” followed by “Are you SURE?” Then a long list of lovelier words I would feel ecstatic to live out in the coming year. I threw God Source a “Vibrant,” a “Trust,” a “how about ‘Thrilling’? You’ve not chosen that one for me yet.” Or “Joy? How about Joy? That’s something you and I’ve had words about. Couldn’t THAT be the word?”


Nope. The theme for 2019 for me is “Work.” Wow. Yikes even. I finished my pages feeling exhausted already. I whined just a bit more, “How can ‘Work’ be the theme when I just drove through 22 states in the last year?” I wanted “Rest,” to be the theme. Yet in the end, of course, I acquiesce. I trust. This will, as they all are, no matter the word for the year, be twelve months of challenges and gifts.


2019 will bring humbling and exhilarating lessons. Work. Vibrant, thrilling, joyful work it might be, trusting.


 (fiber collage prayer flag at the top of post is Compassion)

I made it through the time leading up to and the week marking the 3rd anniversary of my Beloved leaving this place. One thinks "time heals all wounds," but not always. I was deeply fortunate that we found each other in this world. He and I both knew the depth of this blessing, no matter the challenges physical and brain body might inflict upon us. So, this week, this day, this moment, I again feel I am rising "up from a broke-open heart." This is my life now. Though some moments some days some weeks feel impossibly painful, to have loved and to continue to love this man, Mike, has always been and is worth every moment.


While going through the slow descent into the week of his death, I finished the prayer flag "Strength and Resilience." There were many instances when I felt utterly scoured out empty of any sense of what these words mean. It can be agonizing to make these flags at times because, invariably that is what happens. I am cleansed of former perceptions of the prayers/words/titles. Yet, while feeling raw inside and out, I continue to show up at the table and at the sewing machine. Sometimes in tears. Sometimes completely unable to utter a word. It is then that the title becomes a mantra and a true prayer. When I have nothing else to give. And it is through this emptying that the deeper and truer meaning of the prayer can flow into me, carrying in its wake, gratitude.


During the week of the anniversary, I began in earnest the prayer flag "Presence." So how could I but stay as present as possible even in the throws of despair? This is what I did, to the best of my ability. And this weekend, as I begin my accent up from my broke-open heart, I shall begin to "paint with threads."

Strength and Resilience

Since my last post, I've driven to Minnesota and back to Oregon, driven to Iowa and then flown back to Oregon, finished the commissioned prayer flag, "Compassion," re-pieced then finished the prayer flag, "Strength and Resilience," participated in my first Open Studios Tour, gotten another commission for a prayer flag (working on that one), and have in the midst of it all got a nasty spider bite that eroded a sizeable circle of skin on my forearm before remembering the properties of honey and applied a honey patch. I'm going to stop that run-on sentence right there. You get the idea. Busy.


Busy is good; and busy is challenging. We all know this one too. In terms of my work though, it is also a challenge because busy-ness makes the monkey-brain in my head begin to think racing around and jumping on the furniture of my thoughts is a requirement. in reality, it is especially important in times of busy-ness that I need to have a practice in place of quieting myself, bodily and mindfully. November marks many things, it is my birth month, it holds the anniversary of my Love's choice to leave earth, and it was the month (one year before my Love died) that I began the disciplined practice of meditation. It is a full and rich time in which my brain and body feels deeply many conflicting emotions. 


The current prayer flag I am working on, fittingly, comes with the intention/title, "Presence."



When I moved to Oregon thirty years ago, I'd never heard of a "nurse tree." At first I mistakenly called "nurse logs" by the name. The photo above is a nurse log. (A nurse tree is a larger tree that shelters smaller trees from elements) 

I was driving to the coast last week and saw a number of nurse logs (I like "nurse stump" myself. I tend to be a bit literal) and realized all those years ago when I first encountered them, I had fallen in love with the depth of compassion they represent. When I myself became pregnant a few years later, I could relate the sacrifices a woman's body makes to nurture a fetus then an infant, then a child to the unconditional compassion these nurses of the forest provide seeds, then sprouts then saplings.


Compassion is all around. On the same trip to the beach, as I contemplated the nurse logs, A man emerged from the brush nearby with a florescent vest and garbage bag. His truck was nice but plain. No name of any ditch-cleaning company. The man appeared to simply be alongside the road, cleaning up garbage. Tending to the beauty of the path taken by hundreds of people daily and thousands on weekends. Stewards of the earth exemplify compassion too. 


May that man, may those trees, those logs and stumps, feel the blessings of the beauty they create. And may their sacrifices be returned to them in multiples.

Woke up struggling this morning. Got out my emotional and spiritual toolbox. Did the work. Then showed-up in the studio. As I worked on this new commission, it occured to me, 'compassion' is what I need today. When I wake in a funk, I can so naturally push and shove and whip myself into shape, into feeling better. As if that ever works. A few weeks ago I started trauma therapy. My first session, I had a vision. The vision was compassion. And it reached back over three decades to a moment of utter despair and there drew out the seed of compassion planted by another long ago vision that saved my life. God Universe Spirit Source is good, and knows how to make a lotus bloom. And today G.U.S.S. taught me a bit about that. 


Enjoy the progression of the day in the photos below (ready to be pinned and sewn):

And now, a poem for the Artist Warriors


Title: Good to know


Wandering is part of the artist’s life

And so too is sometimes being lost.

              Knowing this doesn’t make it easier to feel lost.

              It’s just good to know.

It’s only in the desert where

The miracle of mirages happen.

              Remembering this doesn’t make dry times easier.

              It’s just good to know.

The deepest holes in the earth

Reveal our most precious gems.

              Realizing this doesn’t make the digging easier.

              It’s just good to know.

Warriors are born in wars, where

Bonds between humans are broken or forged.

              Seeing this doesn’t make fighting battles easier.

              It’s just good to know.

And it is in wandering lost that one finds

The road never before known to human-kind.

              Believing this doesn’t make life easier.

              It’s just good to know.

I was talking with some friends about the current prayer flag I am working on and about a post on FB. The wording of just what it is that I do came up and so I clarified that I "free-style machine stitch" the flags on my sewing machine. There was some question as to whether I used an embroidery machine. Nope. It's a simple little machine. Then one of the women showed us some of her quilts and the question came up asking whether she had quilted them. She answered, "no, I don't have a free-style stitching machine." I let it go.


I feel compelled however to clear this up more publicly because I get these comments and questions alot about what kind of fabulous machine allows me to "paint with thread." Here it is, I use the simple sewing machine shown in the photo above. It only has straight and a few zigzag options for seams and hems. That's all. 


Every sewing machine has the option to free-style stitch. All you have to do is lower the feeder feet (so you move the fabric through yourself) and attach a darning foot which allows more flexibility in movement. It cost $200 fifteen years ago. Now you know my secret.