Aug 8, 2007

Patriotic Heartstrings of Memory

Tanya, over at Taniwa , wrote a most interesting post about patriotism. As a Japanese-American, she considers herself to be an American who has lived in Japan for the past three decades. She is spending a month, here in the States, visiting her family, and was amazed at the amount of patriotic merchandise that she saw everywhere. She commented that the Japanese have no such sense of patriotic fervor and wondered if it was more about the intensity that was created out of 9-11 or just how we, as Americans, are.

I suspect it is both. As I personally sew 'patriotic quilts of valor quilts' on an on-going basis here in Salem, Oregon and present them to Veterans and Veteran's groups, I can only assume that I have at least some kind of patriotic fervor within. Otherwise, why do I focus so much on this and make it a special project of my own heart, just as I do with comfort quilts for children?

Right now, my deck does have patriotic flags twined in the wisteria. I have a patriotic quilt and a pillow that says 'Liberty' on the back deck. If it starts raining, then I have a patriotic quilt and a pillow in a basket. I continue to support our troops.... though I truly dislike war and everything associated with it. I have given patriotic memorial quilts on several occasions to WWII veterans at their funerals. I had learned from my own father, who was a WWII veteran from a "Five Star Family" (his parents saw 5 sons go off to war, with only 4 returning) that there seems to be an intense sense of Americanism in this era of gentle men who, nevertheless, went to war and waged war on behalf of their country.

Many of the men from this generation consider that period in their lives to be the most significant of all. I discussed these concepts when I made a patriotic 90th Birthday Memories Quilt for my own father's 90th birthday. That quilt and the poem that went with it, meant the world to him. The emotions, the photos, summed up in a few squares all that he held most, country, fighting for his own life, the loss of his brother's life and primarily his incredibly deep sense of patriotism.

The quilt pictured above, was given in memory of another deceased WWII veteran. A man in his eighties, who had served in the Navy during WWII and had insisted that Anchors Away be played at his own funeral. It was a huge surprise following the quiet hymns...startling us, as its playful melody filled the sedate aisles of the church while we watched the priest lead the professional and his casket being wheeled out.... after his final and most important battle in this lifetime. A battle that may have seen lost to some, but was hard fought, filled with pride and seen as successful, by others.

I made one of my Patriotic Heartstrings Quilts as a memento for his family. I wrote in the card that I had made a heartstrings quilt because of the deep symbolism that they hold for me. There are breaks in the continuation of the fabric strings, just like there are breaks in our lives. But I reminded them that true heartstrings can never be broken. They had them with their father, brother, grandfather, this lifetime...and they have them still, in the next. It touched them, I think, and I know that making it for him and for them, deeply touched me.

I think patriotism must be like heartstrings, somehow. Some unseen, but strongly felt energy that goes across the dimensions of thought and physical body and transcends into the dimension of pure feeling. When I read Tanya's lyrics to God Bless the USA, in her post, I could feel exactly what patriotism feels like. When I hold a patriotic quilt of memory, I can feel the heartstrings, the patriotism and the memories...all at once, in me, in my own heart.

Maybe, that is what these heartstrings do. They connect us all to source. Whether we see that source as God, or love, or patriotism, or a loved one. They simply connect us to something greater than ourselves, but still part of who, and what, and even all, that we are. They are after all, a symbol for love felt, love given, and love shared.


Melzie said...

tagged you, see my blog :) xoxo melzie

Terrye said...

I LOVE this quilt!! May I please use the picture and story on our website show and tell page?

Thanks for your consideration!


doni said...

Great story and I love the quilt!

Anonymous said...

You have certainly captured the meaning behind the quilt. Congratulations
Kaye Wood

Katie said...

Wow. Do you know Kay Wood? I'm sure you touch many families' hearts with your patriotic quilts. What wonderful gifts that will keep giving through the years. Yes, Americans are quite patriotic. When I was on a whale watching boat a couple years ago, they were flying a tattered American flag off the back. I decided to speak to the personnel but before I could get to them, someone came and changed the flag to a new one. Someone else had complained. I got taking to a lady from England who said she was surprised at how many American flags are flown here. She said they fly their flag on government buildings but not on private homes, along streets and on boats. Although 9/11 caused a surge in our patriotism, it has always been there. As a child in a small town, I remember such wonderful Memorial Day parades and ceremonies. We Americans are well aware of our weaknesses and mistakes, both as a government and as individuals, but we do believe in our people and country and think we can make it better. You are doing just that with your quilts. Thank you!

Mary Johnson said...

Thanks for the email, Michele. I'll add this donation to the webpage and I'll share the link to your post on the HeartStrings Blog. I know how strongly you support our veterans - it comes through loud and clear in your posts.

Anonymous said...


I truly ejoyed reading your blog about patriotism and WWII veterans. My Father is one of those-South Pacific Marine(4th division) who made it through Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. I have been taught by him about patriotism and our country. What you do honoring them is is very commendable.

Tanya said...

Thank you for the mention. Your writing is stirring and thought provoking as always. I have yet to make a patriotic quilt but looking at yours makes me think that should be a project in the near future. Thank you.

Debi said...

Great patriotic quilt, it is very pretty. I have many in my family that served this country.

Helen in the UK said...

Love your quilt and the sentiments behind it :)

Anonymous said...

I know this post is over 4 years old, but I really liked what you had to say. For me, God, family and patriotism, as well as Liberty, are all co-mingled. I love your quilt and will probably make one soon for American Heroes. I've been working with that project since 2005, and I love contributing what I can to the wounded lives and hearts of our soldiers.