A Thousand Times (Week 30-33)
"I will enjoy this life. I will open it
like a peach in season, suck the juice
from every finger, run my tongue over
my chin. I will not worry about cliches
or uninvited guests peering in my windows.
I will love and be loved. Save and be saved
a thousand times. I will let the want into
my body, bless the heat under my skin.
My life, I will not waste it. I will enjoy this life."
("Idea" by Kate Baer)
June has been a time of family, sunshine, and adventures - and the Betsymade studio has been relatively quiet. However, I did squeeze in a longarming project - my first paid quilt finishing project. This beauty was made by a dear friend and co-founder of our fledgling quilt guild (name forthcoming) for her niece, who graduated from high school this year. I had the privilege of finishing this with a lovely swirl of loops and a variety of leaves. Thank you for your trust, Marijka!
I also finished up some small sewing jobs I committed to do for friends. One of them was hemming these lovely lace curtains. Aren't they lovely?
This Disquiet - Journal, June 28
This month of June has shaken me out of rhythm and I find myself discombobulated. Quite tan and a bit unsettled in my spirit.
What are all the different things that can be true at the same time? Let me list some of them.
There are a few new things happening. J is on his first summer vacation, which is both wonderfully spacious and brings a different kind of pressure that I feel, legitimate or not. To be footloose and fancy free as he is, to be available, to be spontaneous, following the summer breeze. Even though I don't actually see my time in that way. I still have things I'm working toward, still have interests and commitments and goals of my own.
One of those commitments is new - a new contract with a new client, something that could become a new reliable source of income to supplement this new life. I want to do a good job. And t's brand new. And for the first time in months, I spent a significant amount of time this week back looking at my laptop, pounding the keys to get paid. That's new for me, again.
The wondrous and fleeting spell of summer is upon us. Each day of sunshine and blue skies and open windows feels like such a precious gift.
Our home is in full-swing summer vacation mode. Weekends are stacked with plans. Weekdays, too, have adventures booked. Those adventures all come with logistics and preparations to make, a different kind of domestic labor from the dog-walking, grocery shopping, meal planning, and housecleaning I've become used to.
But those needs still exist too. Bubbles needs walks. The house needs vacuuming, the laundry needs to be done. Despite the out of town plans regularly spiriting us away, the rhythm of household chores persists.
On one of those adventures, I sat next to Caribou Lake in the far north of our state by myself, quietly, for a full hour.... Watching the turtles poke their heads above the surface of the lake, noticing all the different kinds of insects in the air and water, seeing the breeze approaching on the surface of the lake before I felt it on my face, tracking the movement of the late afternoon sun, breathing. The extent of the nourishment for my soul from that hour alone is hard to measure. Hard to understand.
I have hardly sewed at all, other than some little jobs and a few stolen hours. And it pains me in my psyche, it worries me deep in my heart - that I am neglecting something precious, and possibly starving an important fire within myself.
We stole away to the beach on a random Wednesday afternoon when it was 90 degrees, just Justin and I. He forgot his book so I read Tower of Dawn out loud (quietly) on the warm sand after we soaked our bodies in the deliciously cool river water. Afterward, we got Dairy Queen and then I went out to a beautiful restaurant and ate the most magnificent dinner with my real, truth-speaking friends. One of the drinks I ordered came in a bamboo bowl. No joke. It was so cool.
Some days have been very hot and it has been hard to do much of anything. We had many weeks with no rain, and the occasional haze from the Canadian wildfires stirs my internal unease, stoking my fear of an existential threat so mammoth and unfeeling, so hard - potentially impossible - to stop or reverse. What are we willing to do to stave off a disastrous future? Will the apocalypse nip at our heels for the rest of our time on earth? What does that mean for how we must live? For how we must stay alive? For what we must fight for?
I am alive in my body, experiencing an opening to new sensations, new appetites, new joys unlike anything I have experienced in my life so far. This sensual aliveness, this palpable blossoming is so delicious and I won't give it up, even to existential dread.
What is the point of that kind of fear? In my experience, it doesn't motivate us to change anything. It only paralyzes us, only isolates us within our internal wind tunnels, where we can spin out, blown this way and that by our shame and anxiety. Our sense of our smallness on earth, the meaninglessness of our lives and actions. It traps us in the lies we tell ourselves. The lies our despair feeds us.
How can we - from this place - recapture our fervor, our creativity, our passion, our drive to act on behalf of something better for our future? Are the answers on the surface of that quiet lake? At my sewing machine? Alone in a silent room? Are they in the rhythm of the daily churn of meals made and friends embraced? The imaginative stories weaved lovingly by others? Are they part of my body? In my thrumming insistence to squeeze every drop of joy out of every summer day? Are they on the surface of my Mom's skin, or coded into my Dad's laugh? Does my 4-year old niece still know them? She is so much closer to emergence from the great mystery than I am. Sometimes I swear I hear the power to change it all - with no limits, with no hesitation - in the cackle of her mischievous giggle, in the wiggle of her tickle fingers, in her curious blue saucer eyes.
Am I allowed to be small? To live a small life and take small actions? To love my people fiercely, to love strangers and acquaintances generously. To say what I think in an open space, my own little town square soap box where anyone who wants to can listen? Can I allow myself to notice the connections between each movement and each day, rather than striving to anticipate them, to project them onto my future, to stitch them with my fingers? Do I believe enough in the big mysterious benevolence to trust that all my small actions and all their small connections and consequences will form themselves into something strong? Something meaningful? Can I see myself as part of something big? Rather than trying to make myself into a bigger thing than I already am?
Can I be a creature in a body in the sunshine, grateful and present to experience every movement of myself, of the day? Can I tumble myself into the water, allowing the shock of the cold to manifest as a gasp - as a shriek - erupting involuntarily from my chest as my face breaks the surface, sparkling in delight, at the joy of the sensation, of the surprise, at the life surging, always, within me?
Is it possible to be too into a book series? This is the question I've been daring to ask as I work my way toward the end of Sarah J. Maas' epic Throne of Glass series. This month, I read both the action-packed Empire of Storms and perhaps my favorite novel in the series so far, Tower of Dawn (Justin made so much fun of me for bringing not one but TWO 700+ page books with me to the BWCA.... but in my defense, I ended up reading them both. Photographic evidence below). I'm wading in, now, to Kingdom of Ash, the final installment of the epic series. I'm so glad this book is nice and long.
And I'm so grateful my sister is going on this journey with me because I have been DYING to talk to someone about these characters! (Though all due credit to my loving partner, who listens to me talk about all their developments, and occasionally requests that I read aloud so he can tune in to the action.) My need to process on my own, though, has led me into all sorts of interesting activities. I have mapped out all the character's alignments (ala D&D), book by book. I have also figured out (I think) the enneagram types for all the primary characters. I hope to figure out a few more by the end. And of course, I've been working on my dream casting.
Some of the questions the series hums around are of course about power and responsibility and love.... Where does responsibility lie for the horrors of genocide, slavery, and the destruction of life - with the decision-makers only, or is it shared with all the people who knew what was happening around them and didn't do anything about it, for a variety of (often valid) reasons? What is our responsibility to one another? What is the relationship between the legacy we were born into and the legacy we choose to create? What does healing demand of us, and why does it matter? And again and again like a pulse that won't quit: do we have the courage to choose love, to fight for hope, again and again, no matter how unlikely our chances of winning in the end?
Ugh I'm so into it.
I really enjoyed this glimpse into John MacMurray's 1935 collection of essays, Reason and Emotion, on The Marginalian this week. This wisdom feels prescient, so ahead of its time. Here's a taste:
"The reason why our emotional life is so undeveloped is that we habitually suppress a great deal of our sensitiveness and train our children from the earliest years to suppress much of their own. It might seem strange that we should cripple ourselves so heavily in this way… We are afraid of what would be revealed to us if we did not. In imagination we feel sure that it would be lovely to live with a full and rich awareness of the world. But in practice sensitiveness hurts. It is not possible to develop the capacity to see beauty without developing also the capacity to see ugliness, for they are the same capacity. The capacity for joy is also the capacity for pain. We soon find that any increase in our sensitiveness to what is lovely in the world increases also our capacity for being hurt. That is the dilemma in which life has placed us. We must choose between a life that is thin and narrow, uncreative and mechanical, with the assurance that even if it is not very exciting it will not be intolerably painful; and a life in which the increase in its fullness and creativeness brings a vast increase in delight, but also in pain and hurt."
I have also really been enjoying Jennifer Armbrust's Proposals for a Feminine Economy, which is rich with ideas that are helping me reorganize my mind about how I spend my time, as well as about what and how I want to grow in the business-y parts of my life.
I've been obsessing about the turn of the 20th-century Swedish painter Hilma af Klint and her secret abstract paintings (the first of their kind as far as we know, a fact that completely upended the story art historians have been telling about the emergence of abstract art) that all feel like glimpses of a great and important mystery, transmissions from some deeper level of consciousness, saturated with not-quite-graspable meanings. Learn more about her work here and then check out this video to get a glimpse of her extraordinary work.
The summer has truly been treating us so well so far. A few glimpses:
Holy Time - Learning How to Live
Slides from this week's experience--with words from C. S. Lewis, Louise Gluck, John MacMurray, Joy Sullivan and Alice Walker; music from Talking Heads performed by Kishi Bashi--are available here.
Slides from "Nothing is Waste, Nothing is Wasted," last week's experience--with words from Kaylin Haught, Erin Bow, Christopher Chang, Adrienne Maree Brown, and Kate Baer; music from James--are available here.
Slides from "The Mystery Beneath," from even earlier this month--with words from Jeremy Radin, Brianna Wiest, Amy Sherlock and Pattiann Rogers, paintings by Hilma af Klint, music from Future Islands--are available here.
Holy Time is a weekly online gathering - Thursdays, 8:45pm CT on zoom (https://zoom.us/j/94849428936).
All are welcome.
Contact me at email@example.com with questions or for more information.
The Big Ship by Brian Eno
Also, remember James?
What you are making and reading and writing and doing? What is inspiring you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.