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Someone recently asked me, “so, do you follow some kinde of plan, like, sort of a paint-by-number, when you lay out the pieces and then sew?” It’s a good question. Do you follow some kind of plan? My answer, whether satisfactory or not, was, "I’m not at all certain," pause, then, "but, no. not really." Piecing and sewing the prayer flags is an intensely intuitive process, i went on to explain. I pointed to the flag I was showing her at the time. “this part here, this piece of fabric was part of my patron’s father’s shirt. I’d found a place for his bluejeans but hadn’t seen anywhere the plaid could fit in until the entire flag was finished being pieced. Then it occurred to me the shirt fabric would make a nice pattern in the shallow water. So everything in the lower 1/3 of the flag had to be lifted so the piece could be included.” I added that my dry hands always pose a challenge, as does my benign tremor. I have a few different size tweezers in my studio to help.

 

Inevitably, with every flag, at some point, things aren’t feeling quite right and a major or if I'm lucky, minor, unduing and rebuilding of layers takes place. Sometimes it’s near the beginning of the process, sometimes when I think I'm just about finished with piecing it. Sometimes when stitches have already been laid in.

 

So I do a lot of undoing and re-doing. It takes a lot of patience. A tailor, when looking at my flags, once said she’d rather make a three-piece suite than make one of my flags. Without missing a beat, I responded, “and I could never make a three-piece suit.” We all have our own particular type of patience and making these flags has taught me much about mine. Making them has given me practice through which I have learned great patience in allowing something to unfold. Most significantly though, I have learned that if I listen well enough, I can catch subtle indications that something doesn’t quite fit and from there, if I take the time to undo and redo or make right what didn’t quite fit, the result always, always, always will be far better than the original “plan.”

 


I continue to work on staying present in my life and in my art. This sometimes makes it challenging to take a moment and write about what all is going on. Living in the moment is one thing. Writing about living in the moment sort of skews time a bit and takes one out of the moment. That said, Life (with a capital "L") continues to be about not slipping into despair or neurosis in the wake of my husbands death. This is below the surface of what I present to the world most of the time. Most of the time, I simply look busy, or relaxed, or greiving, or I don't know, "Ok." At least that's what I hear. Within there are thunderstorms and whipping winds and torrential rains and waves crashing against rocks and washing away sands. And in the center of it all is the tiny house of me. Wondering and waiting. Hatches battened. Keeping up with the leaks as fast as I can. Dancing to maintain every critical evidence of security if not stability.

 

There you are, here I am.

 

In the meantime, I do create art. It continues to be the best caulking to seal up the leaks, so to speak. It repairs me as nothing else can. But too, it also breaks me open. In any given moment, I cannot know which it will be. Repair or breaking open. Yet I do it. Why?

Simply put, I can't not. Making art is like breathing. And just because my ribs are bruised and my body feels wracked (and my world rocked) in the wake of my love's suicide, I cannot stop breathing. Infact, breathing is what will keep me alive, though it will hurt for a while and perhaps from time-to-time for the rest of my life.

 

Hard is a four letter word, I've learned (thank you Roberta) to use the word "Challenging." Art is extremely challenging at times. It turns me inside out. And sometimes what's inside is pretty messy, pretty rough and scary, painful and dark. And turning it to the outside makes me feel very raw.

 

Right now I am working on a commission. A prayer flag with the theme and intention, "Joy." Ironic? Challenging? Yup. It is taking me twice as long to complete this flag than I'd estimated. It has challenged me to go inside and search the halls and rooms of myself with a flashlight, looking for joy. It's there but it is extremely skitish right now. Like a feral cat, it hides from the any attempt to capture it. I have to act as if I am just going about my life and pay attention to when joy creeps out from some corner and brushes up against me. It has been a complex journey. I've never taken so many stitches out of a flag as I have with this one. I've never gotten nearly finished and wondered if I should start all over again only to see that, no, this one is unexpected; but it is perfectly complexly joyful. 

 

I will post a photo when the patron has seen it. Give me a couple weeks...


SO happy with how this "cairn" worked out in a recent flag. This is part of a quadriptych for which I now have two flags finished. the largest flag is of Mount Hood with the Zigzag river flowing off it. The flag with the cairn is one depicting the foreground in the quadriptych. Just wanted to share some of the details in colors through stitching and fabrics and fibers.




The word "abundance," is tossed about quite a lot lately. (one might say, "tossed about with abundance.") It's a good word. So many applications. So many implications. I have been very busy since my last post, digging deeper into it's meaning in my life. The first anniversary of Mike's death was a check-point that carried many and deep meanings, I am grateful the first year of grieving his departure from our life has concluded. It was an abundant year. And, as I've been tested from time to time, I really do not recall a lot that went on. Grief is it's own reality. It is a reality abundant with pain, of course; but grief is also abundant with it's gifts. The depth to which one feels grief is in itself a gift. I don't know that I've ever experienced anything close to the fulness of the human experience I've felt in the last year.

 

Has the year informed my art? Abundantly! This is one of grief's gifts to me. The spectrum of emotions, the richness of the physical ache, the emptiness, the full of emptiness feeling, the return of the joyful memories as the trauma melts away, all of these experiences have been with me in every brush-stroke, every fiber placement, every of the millions of stitches this year. There is an unconditional present-ness that comes with grieving, if one allows themselves to BE present. This allowing is challenging, as we all know. But the gift of allowing one's self to grieve is this poignant sense of present-ness that is rich and, in it's own way comforting. I have found it to be so anyway. I've also found it to be extremely supportive in creating art. 

 

I have studied "abundance," for years. It is a companion word for me. But recently it was pointed out to me that though I may carry abundance in my heart, I do not always receive it well, or even at all. Receiving is the new notion for me to work on it seems. I think I've also talked in this blog about "allowing." "Receiving" is quite similar to "allowing," but where "allowing" is an openness to what is seen, "receiving" is vision.

 

I wish to see better...


I've been a bit absent from here again. I try to eschew absolutes but I will say, when I am absent from my blog, it ALWAYS means a lot, usually MASSIVE amounts of alot-ness is going on in my life.

 

November 6th was the first anniversary of the day my husband drew police fire to end his life in this place. In his memory, and as a sign of gratitude, the set of 7 original prayer flags has been hanging in the reception area in the hospital near where he died. After that installation, I chose to do something he and I had talked about doing, I went hiking in southern Utah. I was able to meet a sister and her family who flew in from the midwest, which was completely awesome. After 4 days of awesome, challenging, beautiful, rich experiences during which I held my love close in my heart while traveling the miraculous landscape on foot, I then flew to the upper midwest myself to spend 9 days with the branch of the family who has completely polar opposite political views from the sister I hiked with and myself. I was there over election day. The fact of my timing was lost amid the fog and static of the month leading up to the anniversary of my love's death, so, it was not something I would have chosen to do under "normal" circumstances. However, i love my family and after all the worst thing that could ever happen had happened to me and I survived a year living through it, so I looked at it philosophically as a potential life lesson that simply may have needed to happen. After-all, there are no mistakes, right?

Before arrival at my parents, I had arranged with them, and I am deeply grateful to them for this, a moratorium on any political talk while I was there. Any television would be muted and CC engaged. I don't watch TV, so this was my request and they abided for the most part. Again, very grateful.

 

So, there you have it. The stage was set for 13 days of new experiences in places physical and philosophical, emotional and metaphorical all of which involved uncharted territory for me. The wealth of messages and lessons of the time will require much sorting. Suffice it to say, I have begun. I will have further posts as I go. Suffice it to say, "surrender," was and is indeed the perfect prayer flag to be working on right now!




Original set of prayer flags: Courage, Tranquility, Peace, Love, Wisdom, Harmony, Joy.

 

This is an installation above the front reception desk at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downtown Portland, Oregon. It is installed as a memorial to my husband but also in gratitude for the many people in the hospital and around the neighborhood, as well as police personell who on November 6, 2015 extended energy in their own unique ways on Mike's behalf. He taught me much about the above intentions, in his life and in his choices that day. A bigger heart, a more beautiful spirit never could I meet. I was the luckiest woman on earth to have loved and been loved by him.

 

The first anniversary is proving challenging on a number of levels. In a sense I feel as if this will be a milepost I simply must step up to and walk past before moving forward in any significant measure in my life. The year has been a foundation built of many lessons. I am only done with it after November 6th. Lessons will continue of course but I anticipate a slight shift in focus. Coincidentally I am building a retaining wall these days (23 feet long!). The foundation was/is vital as a job in itself, insuring level and sturdy base. From there the work is just begun though. And with every layer I construct, the wall shifts 6 degrees in the direction of the work it must do, which is to support the earth. 


My sister sent me this. I'm already working on a big project in response. I find it exhilarating and inspiring!

 

"She lost the boundaries between herself and prayer. Mixing together, they became the same thing. rather than confusing her, it changed her. and she was never the same again."

 

I don't know the author's name but I'll find it. Then I'll ask permission to use it in my project... very cool things happening. And no, it isn't a prayer flag with words on it. For now it's a secret project for which much research and development has already begun. Stay tuned...


The bombings on the East Coast over the weekend have people shook up today. Understandably. Then, of course the ripple effects after such violence. The vulnerability. The suspicions. The judgements. All about survival. But the weekend also brought violence in Minnesota on a grand scale with the knifing of 8 people in a mall. It was a mall, THE mall, THE ONLY mall we went to when I was a kid in the 70s in Central Minnesota. I remember the echoing courtyard and the two oblong fountains (long gone) everyone threw coins into. I remember when the mall expanded to include a “wing,” that brought Levi Strauss to town. It’s grown quite a bit since then. A lot has changed.

 

Looking back 40 or so years, I see memories of unrest and global issues were of course present in the 70s too. Cold War. Gas rationing. Watergate. Concern that the world population was nearing 4 billion and questions as to whether the earth could sustain what was predicted to be 6 billion people by the year 2000. We thought some about resources then too. We thought some about The Greenhouse Effect. Of course scientists and politicians and corporations thought more about it all. That was their job. We thought living our lives, doing our best to turn off lights when we left the room or conserving gas or changing from aerosol cans would be doing our part.

 

Nobody that I know of foretold of the violence that would increase until a kindergarten class would be devastated by a teen with an automatic rifle. No one warned that someday I’d sit in a movie theater watchful of every person who got up in the middle of the movie while knowing my first move would be to fall to the floor to play dead, if I wasn’t really dead. The Boston Marathon was unquestionably safe. So was our Mall.

 

We find ourselves asking questions on heard of 40 years ago. We argue about judgements and blame and possible solutions. There is a growing movement too that I’ve witnessed in the world. This movement is a remembering. A re-member-ing. It is a movement to remember Love. That still small voice in each and every of 6 billion hearts and minds that yearns to love and be loved is the ONE thing everyone still has in common. From the 1970s, from the 1870s, from the 1270s, it is the seed planted the moment we take our first breath and cry out for warmth and security. This gives me hope. Because something that has lasted so long can be a powerful force. But we have to remember perhaps not so much the past as what has come from the past. Through all the wars, through all the anger, the violence, the turmoil and sickness. Love survives. Love survives.