“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.
Yesterday my little dog, Snitter and I walked up the hill to a neighbor’s house to pick up fabric and fibers she’d found for me at a garage sale last month. Here we are heading back home with a bag-full of jewel-tones.
People often ask me where I get all of my materials. Most of the fabric I use (I’d say 98%) is recycled. Old clothes of mine or my family’s, something I find in a thrift store or at a garage sale, or scraps left over from projects of friends or family members. My mother sends me all the end pieces of yarn from knitting and crocheted projects. Ribbons from gifts or packaging. The bandana’s my dog gets when he goes for a grooming. Old sheets, curtains, pillows, hats, boas, doll clothes, if it’s fiber and it has the right, hmmmm…. What word would work? If it “feels right,” it goes in my supply. I do have some fabrics that I am not at all certain how I might use them; but the patterns seem to be something that will be perfect one day for something. I tend to use mostly solid prints and cannot have enough different tones and textures of every color. But once in a while a oh how a pattern can sing! My favorite example is when I had a horse print I thought I’d never use but found that when the images of the bodies were cut up they made great stone. This is in my “Courage” flag which is part of the “Serenity Prayer” tryptic on my website homepage. Have a look :)
My sister is one off he premier stained glass painters in the U.S. She designs windows for churches and mauseleums all over the country and often paints details like a human face or fabric folds. So it was and is quite an honor that she chose a set of prayer flags to hang in her studio. Here she is with "The Three Graces; Faith, Hope and Love."
Today was actually a very challenging day. The retreat this weekend seems to have awakened my psyche to deeper layers of grieving my husband's illness, death and our challenging latter years together. I have been very grateful for lessons in Be-ing that got me through the day. Also, though my inner child kidked and screamed to be allowed to just wallow, I spent the afternoon contemplating and praying through the beginnings of this new flag:: "Wonder." Humbled and grateful tonight.
I’ve not been able to post since last week because of technical difficulties. My new internet service provider is coming tomorrow to re-install my router NOT on the opposite side of a metal plate I had told them would be a problem. Then, my 6-year-old computer crashed. Who 'da thunk?
This morning I met with a dear friend and relayed the story and stories of the past one and a half months. It made me realize a LIFETIME seems to have happened in this short time.It has been a summer of letting go and finally of surrender. I am going to give a short summary here today because I will be referencing this summer of surrender in coming days as I reflect and begin to make prayer flags and paintings based on travels and sketches:
July 11th my daughter in her car with her dog, various boxes and furniture, me in my SUV with my little dog and furniture and boxes – we drove in caravan from NW Oregon to Savannah, GA. If you’ve ever caravanned, you know, it takes some communication and tactical maneuvers over distances. Fortunately, both of us love road-trips and our dogs are good travelers. We arrived in Savannah after 5 days on the road. Hot, tired but focused on apartment hunting for her and a friend who also wanted to live off-campus this year. Two weeks. We spent two weeks in a hotel while we viewed and they made application to apartments. That’s in Savannah, in July. When they finally found out they got one and the lease was signed, we hit the ground running to get everything moved in, purchase a bigger furniture items and get her to a place where my leaving didn’t feel as if I was abandoning her in the midst of a pile of stuff dumped in the Livingroom. In the middle of this phase, I learned my older brother had had a heart attack in Minnesota, where I was headed after I left Georgia. My first day driving solo, I clocked 15 hours and got to Hannibal, MO. The next day I met my sister in Iowa and we caravanned to central Minnesota to catch the tail-end of visiting hours in the hospital only to learn nobody had let us know he’d been released a few hours prior. I spend almost a week in Minnesota, connecting with family and the beautiful lakes. I also visited my sister’s studio and saw the magnificent work she is doing in painting and designing stain glass windows for churches and mausoleums. She also bought my tryptic of “The Three Graces: Faith, Hope, and Love” for her studio and I got to help her hang them. From Minnesota, I drove with my mom to her grandfather’s farm in South Dakota where I also met a great aunt who’d just turned 100. I had always wanted to meet her and was delighted to find a kindred spirit. Mom drove out to Oregon and stayed a week with me before I took her to the airport last Friday and then I packed up and headed off to a weekend retreat at Laurelwood Ananda Center. Oh, the driving trip, if you're curious, was 6774 miles.