Jun 25, 2014

Snippets and Threadtales

That past few weeks have been filled to the brim with the richness of real life combined with the many daily challenges we all face.  Working, volunteering, seeking to express my own creative talents with wildcrafting, designing, sewing, and quilting. Still finding time to celebrate life's many milestones with the people that I love.

My husband and I celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary a week ago, on a day that has since transformed into a commemoration of the loss of our best friends 17 years ago. Sunshine and shadows are the hallmark of the joys and the sorrows of all of the parallel contradictions in our lives. A horrible car crash 17 years ago on our own 25th wedding anniversary in 1997 reminded all of us of the fragility and the precious of life and living.

So, today, remembrance is a priceless thing. We cherish our memories and never forget those that we have traveled with along life's many paths and journeys.  We look back on that day, at the sunshine and not the shadows.

Forty-two years ago, my husband and I were married on a tiny forested island 20 miles north of Juneau, Alaska. The Shrine of St. Therese was built in 1935 by a priest who had traveled from France and fell in love with the natural beauty of this tiny little island surrounded by water. Withe the help of donations and volunteers, he stayed in Alaska and built a tiny little church from beach stones, and created a causeway for access from the mainland to this magical fern filled and forested space.

It took years to build during a time of limited resources and with so many people struggling to make ends meet all over the U.S. Finding funding for territorial Alaska was not easy. But it was a creative endeavor of great love and this amazing man somehow created a place of such natural beauty that people of all faiths come to be married here, today.

Growing up in Alaska on Douglas Island, about 25 miles to the south, the shrine was a place of serene beauty and the place I knew I would someday be married. It was as magical as anyone could wish. I had grown up on an island, played in fern filled forests for all of my childhood and so in was a natural progression to be married in just such a place.

In 1972, I had purchased all of the fabric for my own wedding dress as well as fabric for my matron of honor and maids of honor. I had found four pairs of 'peau de soie' shoes, all in the correct sizes for my attendants, and had each of them dyed to match the fabric of each of their three colors of dresses.

It was a time of great creativity and great joy, a time of many challenges as I planned a wedding from 1,000 miles away at college in Oregon, where I was finishing my senior year of college at Oregon State, as well as teaching two graduate level classes for a professor who needed time to finish a book he was writing as the reigning expert on writer John Steinbeck.

So, he hired little 5'2"me, still an undergrad, to teach his poetry and English literature classes. I was 22 years old, long hair in rag curler created  ringlets, preparing for marriage and a new life. But I realize now, I must have looked very different to the 54 year old Economics professor who was one of my students!

It was a wonderful creative opportunity and I jumped at the chance to teach college before I had even graduated from college. ..and teaching students who were as much as twice my age, as well ;-)

It was the beginning of many magical synchronicities in my life. A time where choices were made over and over and I learned to give up many opportunities later on to do what needed to be done, now, instead. But somehow, always finding and making time for doing all that I felt I wanted and needed to do, for myself and for others, as well.

It is the stolen moments in time and space that can bring so much joy whether it is spending time out in nature being filled up with the joy of the natural world and all of its wonders, or our translation and expression of that world in the design process of textile art. From something as simple as a home made wedding dress, to as complex as the most challenging of textile art or intricately pieced quilts.

These are the moments that create the true fabric of our lives.

Now, with my grey hair replacing my free spirited ringlets, bifocals instead of contact lens, I am still that young girl at heart. Busy with our baby chicks instead of my three children long since flying from my coop. I go into the cage with these little ones and help them transition from a plastic bin with a heat light in our dining and laundry rooms to the amazing and gigantic world outside. A world of excitement of green grass, and wind, and rain, and bright and warming sunshine.  A month or more in my house to just a few days now, outside.

I go inside of the chicken pen with them, continuing to feed them little treats by hand, so they will recognize the familiar, as they explore their wonderful new world.transitioning them into the coop where the 'littles' face their own challenges of the big girls staring at them through the netted barrier.

Once again, working through 'sibling rivalry' as I hand feed and loving talk to the little ones, while still giving love to Penelope and Matilda, my 'big girls. Being a mama hen never ends in my life. I've always had pets as beloved friends,counting once to my early childhood in Alaska to my life here in Oregon raising 3 children who loved animals of all kinds.

There are very few animals that haven't lived in our home at once time or another. I counted 75 in my own live from cats and dogs in Alaska to just about very kind of reptile, rat, mouse, lizard, snail, turtle, and bird one can imagine. And yes, even a tarantula and a scorpion..two things I said 'never in my house' to...ha!

I grew up having to be brave, having to be adventurous, being willing to do things differently than anyone else my age and having to be a survivor amidst life's challenges. I can proudly say that  I am, all of those now.But oh, how nice it is to just be able to relax and to enjoy life, as well!

Today, I had a wonderful time out for both self and art. I attended our Mid-Valley Quilt Guild meeting and had a wonderful time!

Our guest speaker was textile artist, Terry Waldren, an artist and teacher for 42 years who discovered the world of quilting in 1993 when she lost her tennis partner to quilting classes and decided to join her and find out what this world of making 'blankets' was all about. She walked into her first quilt shop to search for some fabric for her very first quilting class and fell in love.

Her inspiring presentation. "You Are Too an Artist" shares that journey. The story of a young and obviously gifted teacher with double degrees in art and English Literature who ended up as a lifelong learner as well as teacher who created her own path in artistic expression as well as her own choices in how she wanted to create, as well as to teach. Two things she continues to do to this day.

We all know the joy of creating, we all believe that the joy of heart and hands rejuvenates us during hard times when sleep is limited and challenges abound. We fill up the well, over and over, each time we take the time for us and for the joy we all feel when we go back to the roots of early childhood and just play and create.  We go off to our designing spaces, our art or quilting studios, our little creative nooks where our inner child is set free to have fun and erase the challenges and the wears and cares of our own daily lives.

Terry reminded me in so many ways how we truly are all artists, each of us in her or his own way.  Her work is a kind of free spirited and fully liberated art quilting that connects with each of us in so many different ways and it was a wonderful and create presentation.

At the top, is a collage of photos taken of some of her work. Doesn't it just make you want to reach for your scissors and make something? It certainly did me! She was a wonderfully honest and refreshingly comfortable speaker, sharing her life and her art and her love of creating with all of us. And what is better than that?  It is what I try to do and how I try to do it. And Terry, reminded me, once again, that I am Too an Artist :-)

 It was good to remember 'when I was young slightly younger, and to remind myself that I have always created, always made art, always found a place, and a time for fun...no matter how busy I am or how many challenges I am facing. I am still doing what I was meant to do and I am still having fun doing it.  Even if it's from inside a chicken coop!

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!


Carol- Beads and Birds said...

A great and interesting post packed with too much to comment on it all. Young at heart...I suspect you are like me in that sometimes I look in the mirror and have to remember its me looking back. I"ve grown older, and am grateful for all experiences and choices that have made me who I have grown to be.

It's sad that your anniversary also brings sad memories of friends lost.

I didn't make my wedding dress, but I did make my bride maid's dresses.

Have a wonderful day, Michele.
xx, Carol

jenclair said...

It really is a packed post! We, too, have been married 42 years (unless I have lost count again) and living with someone for approximately 2/3 of one's life sometimes amazes me. Wish I could have heard Terry Waldren's presentation--sounds inspiring. But Michelle, you, too, are inspiring! Make another wonderful year of synchronicities and marriage!

Michele Bilyeu said...

Absolutely, Carol! That is exactly how it is! My father once told me, and he was already what I considered 'old' at the time, that he still felt 35 inside. I found that very interesting, because that is the age when he met my mom, fell in love, got married, and 9 months later, had me..the first of 5 children. It was the beginning of the longest period of his life as a husband and a father, the roles that gave his life such purpose...just as it does all of us. So, now I look in the mirror..cannot believe that is me, but am still fine with it as it is just as you said..."grateful for all of the experiences and choices that have made me who I have grown to be." But, still a part of me that remembers my dad and feels 35. The age I was when I had the last of my three children. Life is a strange thing but so amazing, and we truly do learn and grow into ourselves in all ways.

Michele Bilyeu said...

Packed post is so kind, Jenny! It should have been separated into two posts!!! But I was too tired to go back and change it and it's the last day of my metered Internet when connection speeds are really slow, so I let it be. Still need to correct spelling or word use errors and said..oh well! ....
Such is life :-) Thank you for leaving a comment sweet friend. It is so good to hear from you.

Winifred said...

What an amazing post. Loved reading it.

Like you I made my wedding dress & bridesmaids dresses too. Saved a fortune!

My Mam used to put rag curlers in my dead straight hair to make ringlets when I was young. I never could do it myself so had to have the straight sixties style hair. Just as well it was in fashion.

Quiltdivajulie said...

What a wonderful post -- full of you through and through. Thank you for sharing so much with us!!

Lori K said...

I got chills reading this post and remembering that fateful day 17 years ago. I often think of you and my childhood and the wonderful memories of the fun/care-free times we had thanks to you and Terry! You are such a wonderful person and I feel blessed to have had class with Kelsey and Brittany.