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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.

 

 






“Wonder” is stitched and now it is also mounted on it's backing. Usually as I am sewing the final couple thousand stitches, the sense that a new flag idea is “downloading” becomes apparent. Usually it is an image along with a word. Just pops into my head. No ruminating involved. Just paying attention to stitching the present flag. The stitching is very meditative, so my mind is extremely present. People have at times asked what music I listen to or mention how I probably get a lot of books listened to in my studio. Actually, studio time is complete silence but for the sounds of my sturdy little work-horse of a sewing machine, or my aloud musings to the universe about options for fibers, or the occasional “thank you God!” or “God I LOVE this process!”

 

The whirring of the machine creates a nice “om.” So I suppose it shouldn’t be a big surprise that inspirations come during this time. Yet every time it happens, I am filled with wonder and deep gratitude. Sometimes even a bit of trepidation. For sometimes the image, if thought about, seems completely beyond my ability to create in this medium. Or too, sometimes, the word or intention strikes painfully close to my life experience at the time already and I feel a tinge of fear at living deeper with it for the weeks in silent contemplation as the interpretation unfolds in the prayer flag. Love. When an inspiration comes, the antidote to fear is Love, along with just stepping one foot at a time into action rather than thought.

 

However, this time no such download occurred as I worked on “Wonder.” One tends to move into a place of fear and doubt when the usual morsel fails to arrive at its appointed time. I think of my little dog when, after he’s done his job, going with me to the mailbox. If I delay getting his little treat, I can see the hang-dog demeanor wash over him. Trust. Related to Love, Trust is the antidote to disappointment. So I trusted (and yes, someday a flag of “Trust” is going to be made it is waiting in the wings for now though until its time). This morning it came. The word/intention has been hanging about in my consciousness like the little dog in the room but it didn’t feel like the next flag. Until today. The image arrived. Picture my fingers weaving and working the air infront of my heart as I breathe deep a prayer of gratitude.

 

Will post a photo of “Wonder” tomorrow I promise.


 While I work on the prayer flags two things happen. The first thing I begin to notice is that the prayer, the intention, the theme of each flag, as it is being sewn begins to show up in my life. Though it happens every time, it is not something I specifically look for throughout the period of time when the sewing occurs. So, when the realization comes to me that the prayer is weaving its way into my life, it is inevitably an “aha!” moment, sometimes followed by a “well duh” moment.

 

I finished “Wonder” tonight (will post photo soon). Usually the “aha” moment comes midway through the sewing process which takes days. This time it wasn’t until today that I realized. Wonder has been challenging, as many of the flags have been especially when the theme mixes with my life (I was working on “Humility” the week my husband died, that was excruciating on many levels of course but to then face “humility” in my studio. It was a gift and a pain.). Still very much in the midst of grieving, “wonder” has not been something I’ve paid attention to very much if at all.

 

Today as I sewed the final thousands of stitches it struck me that, huh, my little dog two days ago coaxed me to play when we visited the beach. It was our first solo trip to the beach since my husband died. It had been a bit of a somber walk along the water’s edge. Then we came upon a chocolate lab puppy who was fetching a ball her owner threw into the waves. My dog is almost 13 years old. He is that many pounds as well. I am his mom and alpha. My husband (and daughter who is off at college) were his playmates. But this puppy inspired him. If I pay really close attention and watch his signals, I can usually figure out his desires. This time he was glancing at the puppy then me. Glancing at the waves then me. The waves then me. Just standing there. I said, “do you want to fetch a stick in the water?” He went nuts. So I took off my shoes, looked around and found a stick nearby. We played and played. He’s also not a fetcher (for anyone) but that day, I threw, he fetched. He even followed the stick as a wave carried it out. I intervened before he got too carried away so to speak.

 

So moral of the story:  as I sewed my final thousand stitches today, the image of the beach popped into my head and I realized there is a great deal of Wonder involved in play. (aha! Well duh!) There was that day anyway. As Snitter (yes that’s his name) and I walked back to the car, I realized he and I had been well out of practice at play for far too long. I thanked him for helping me remember again how to play. 


This day is marked by the nation and by the world. It seems the day that changed everything. I look back on my own memories of 9/11 2001 and see the tragedies shared by my nation but I also see it in the context of my own family. You see we had 9/11 but then we had 9/12.

 

Unknown to me at the time, my husband had a mental illness (that later was diagnosed Bipolar). I knew he’d struggled with depression and had seen some of this in our first years together. I too had suffered clinical depression years ago, so I felt compassionate competence in helping him deal with his own challenges. I had however seen other behavior in him that confused me but nothing so extreme that it couldn’t be explained away as stress from his divorce, dealing with his ex, family issues, work, the non-profit we were attempting to set up, a new marriage… life. So, actually when 9/12 came and went, I also explained his episode away and so did he and so did his therapist. In truth and in hindsight, I see that he had a full on manic episode that was triggered by 9/11. This coupled with our daughter celebrating with classmates someone’s birthday only to turn around in time to see her seat partner vomit on her desk triggering such great anxiety in her around food and eating around people, 9/12 also changed everything for us as a family.

 

So those are my thoughts on 9/11. The day the nation was broke open. The day my family was broke open. I am not certain either has risen yet from our brokenness. We have moved forward and we have moved backward. We have carried the stages of grief; but I am not certain there is much acceptance yet. In the nation. In my family. My husband chose to exit last November. So the family, we kind of started the brokenness all over again. I think in a way he thought though that the mental illness was the infection that wouldn’t allow healing in our family and so he removed it they best way he thought possible. I would that he had done so in a therapeutic way instead.

 

This is part of why I continue to make the prayer flags. Oddly right now I am working on “Wonder.” With every flag, I’ve found the prayer/intention manifesting in my life as I sew on it. Sometimes it has been very challenging. Always though very much a gift of many gifts through the process. With “Wonder,” however, it feels as if that prayer is simply a life-support keeping me going as I continue walking through this time in our country. This time of letting go so completely of the love of my life.