In a month of celebrating transitions, in a time of great change for so many members of my family, my focus has been on going with the flow, doing what needs to be done, and enjoying every minute of it.... no matter how challenging any single thing might seem, or feel at the time.
Even in this time of great change, in constant adding and subtracting of plans and activities, I can see and find solace in the quiet times, and in those secret places of the heart that give me my greatest happiness.
One day, I am beginning an art quilt for my nephew and his new bride-to-be. Another day, I am on the phone with my SIL, Rebecca, as she tells me that my brother Doug, has been readmitted for the third time this year for constant health issues, the next week, he is out of the hospital and he is calling to tell me that now it is Becky that has been admitted to ICU with the problems that plaque her end stage kidney failure....this time she has the pneumonia and the bacterial infection has entered her bloodstream.
Then the very next day, I get an email from my youngest brother, telling me that his wife, Shelley, is no longer finding any hope or help from the last of the experimental chemo drugs for her own end stage lung cancer. They are making plans for her 'medical retirement' and a the possibility of renting a motorhome 'in the States' so she can spend as much time with her young grandchildren as possible.
Another day, I offer to recover my son and his wife's patio set, knowing that I won't have a pattern as I don't have the industrial sewing machine that allows you to sew finished edges from the outside in and that with my severe sleep deprivation and lack of spatial skills, it will be a challenge, I still volunteer and somehow do it! And my tuxedo'd and multiple toed grand cat, Johnny, loved it as well as his five-second wild fleece simply fringed cat lovie!
Then, I learn of the birth of a new little one born, and the upcoming birth of another little one to sons of our dear friends since the late 60's. Two teens, now young men who grew up without their mother, or their 12 year old sister. Their mother, my best friend since college, and her daughter, my younger daughter's best friend, both killed in a terrible car accident in 1997. Never to learn of these little ones or experience the joy of welcoming them into their family. Never to be a grandmother, never to be an aunt, or a bride, or wife or a mother, herself. A loss that now still hurts as we continue to live next door to the house they once built next to us in 1978.
So, of course I made those sons, those brothers, these now young men with children... new baby quilts. Somehow, you just get it all done. You might not take photos of the process. You might not even remember you did it. But you just do it. So, recovered patio set for my children, a quick fuzzy lovie for my grandcat, and two tiny quilts to welcome new little ones into this world.
I look down the bridgeway of my lofted sewing area, I see these projects, and my wedding gift art quilt on the wall as I take its photo before packing it up and giving them all away. And they all make me so very happy.
The next day, my younger daughter and her husband of one year, are telling me that he has been offered a job change and they have two weeks to put their house on the market, quit their current jobs and look at relocating to another city without anywhere to live or place to store their belongings. So, of course, I volunteer us, our house, our limited but still available space in our garage for storage, for temporary living for them, for anything we can do to help.
And yes, it took me an entire day to clean just a small spot in the garage for furniture, hoping against hope I can still keep my Prius's spot empty and clear..since we got her a year ago, it was the first time in 20 years that I'd been able to massively clean out the garage back then to fit her in!!!!
Then, yesterday, I drive south, I help pack up belongings and cram them into the Prius.
I lack the strength I once had, but I still carry and fit, up and down stairs, in and out of her darling little 700 sq.ft. house, and fit even more, and more...and I'm thinking how did she fit all of this and keep her house so clean and cute..when I hardly took any of the stuff that was in there!...
and even with my strange lack of spatial reasoning, I still find my way there to her house, and then back again to mine.
Ok, so the Prius has a gps ;-) It still has a gps-y for a driver who likes to take wrong turns when she confuses left from right! And yes, my little car's Gypsy, told me to turn left, and I still got in the right turn only lane! But I am so grateful, that I, the car, the belonging all made it safely home. I couldn't see out the back or side windows, I couldn't use the rear view mirror, and somehow my guardian angels surrounded me and I didn't cause any accidents or end up in Oregon City instead of Salem...(don't ask) Ok, so one, only one, semi truck driver hit his horn at me. But since I don't know why, maybe I didn't do anything wrong, at least not that I know of!
Yes, it was an incredibly busy month, week, day, year. But they all are! And it is in the creation, in the knowing that you can do it, that the greatest strength, the greatest power, all of the doing and the being, lies.
The bright beginning of young love and new lives as paralleled by longer loves and older lives and if you are me, you look for the hidden meaning in all of this. All of this busyness, all of these trials and tribulations of life. But also, all of the wonder, the beauty, the growth, and the grace of every single day of life.
You know that there are thing you can do to help others. And you learn that as much as you do, as much as you give, as much of your love and your heart that you share..there are still so many more things that you can't change, can't help, can't create all of the miracles that you wish you could.
So, how appropriate, that as I was creating an art quilt for the young family in the process of being married, that I would find myself designing a quilt where you look at the busy energy and symbolism of actually getting married at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington and see how fitting that truly was for the energies of this month.
In spite of everything, life and love not only prevail but as time marches on, so does the very foundation of our beliefs and our hopes and our dreams for a new and better day. You say, 'yes, I can.' 'yes, I will' with the defiance of hope and youth, or the experience of strength that comes with age. And you just plain do it. You just "let the sunshine, let the sunshine, let the sun shine" in!
The magic of symbolism and the "hidden pictures" just evolved as I went along. While I can sketch, draw, and even paint if need be, I like the spontaneity of just cutting and sewing randomly so much more. And that is simply how I create my art quilts.
A huge whirlwind of flying fabrics, snapping scissors and lifting up and down of pieces as I quickly, try this and that until I am happy with where it is at. I don't take time to take very many photos because it is not that beautiful, meditative, and contemplative process that so many quilters use.
No, this is when my hyper creativity of being in a flash flow strikes. Woosh, I'm in and running with scissors, glue stick and sewing machine to the finish line of fun!
My energy is wholly intuitive, and from the gut. Snip, snip, place, place, barely pin and sew like crazy before I forget what I wanted to create! And when I am done, I sit back and then I say, 'hmm? what else?' And then I added the extras...the 3D prayers flags up at the top and the arrangement of hidden stars in the night sky.
And yes, I have been driving hither and yon, packing up household goods and cleaning out my own garage to hold as much stuff of theirs as I can. I have been calling my brothers, and my SILs and telling them I love them, and offering long distance hope and healing energies the best that I can.
I have taken in two foster chickens, Pia and Ping, two beautiful Brahmas with their sweet Indian names, from my youngest daughter. I'm trying not to consider them (just yet) permanent additions out of necessity to my own feathered flock, and considering the possibility of getting my house ready to fit in additional house guests from Alaska, for a week and maybe even temporary residence for those in transition for a bit longer than that.
I juggle the introductions into small chicken coop of these new girls to my three littles..Edith, Dorothy, and Little Nell..who are not so little any more...and my two older girls, Matilda and Penelope...
I drive to West Salem, where my husband and son are building a new home for a wonderful family in an area named 'Hopewell' and I feel the deep meaning of that name. Hope well. So lovely, so meaning filled.
I visit that new construction with my husband, doing my best to support his hard work since his stroke in April. I look out at this lucky family's beautiful view... at the patterns in nature and created by man. And I see that beauty.
The beauty of the simple old things..this taken from an old barn..a winch, a pulley, something in an old barn that my husband and son are transforming into a vintage light fixture, along with modern 'mason jar' lights, into a dining area chandelier for their everything new is old again farm house up on the hills of Hopewell.
We drive to Philomath, another hour or more to the South of us, to the other new home under construction. I see it for the first time, and as I look out its window...way up high on another hill, in another place in space and time...more beauty...
This house in a residential neighborhood, not vineyards and hillsides. But still massively extensive in its far reaching views and beauty. And even if our little business is small, even if we can't seem to make very much money no matter how hard everyone works. We still do so much good, and create so much beauty. Houses that are so green, so efficient that many of them others can't believe we can even do. But we (they) do. Hard, hard work, but great emotional and personal rewards from the time and the effort and the joy we help create for others.
I hung my completed art quilt on the wall to take its picture, then, I wrapped it in recycled tissue and a reusable gift bag made of recycled materials with my own homemade paper card, adding prose poem about their love and direction, and brought it to the wonderful wedding in Tacoma and our own few days of great fun.
The only vacation we get other than camping or hiking or simple pleasures and joys of chickens, cats, and free time quilting, crafting or gardening....or better yet..resting up from them...at home.
All of this driving, hither and yon, and now, today...emptying my car from packing it up yesterday, every single cranny, over..above, under, and inside of each space....and now the filling up my once clean garage to the brim with household belongings...well, I also take a deep sigh of contentment.
Part of me can't believe I've done this much from July into August. Part of me can't even remember doing it ;-) But all of me as I go out in the yard with my expanded gang of seven and watched as they all scurried around to circle me, all of me....still feels so content, and so very happy. And I am grateful to have these moments of joy in times that I know will be challenging.
Michele Bilyeu blogs With Heart and Hands as she shares a quilting journey through her life in Salem, Oregon and Douglas, Alaska. Sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting, with small format art quilts, prayer flags, and comfort quilts for a variety of charitable programs. And best of all, sharing thousands of links to Free Quilt and Quilt Block Patterns and encouraging others to join her and make and donate quilts to charitable causes. Help us change the world, one little quilt, art quilt, and prayer flag at a time!