I am heartbroken over losing a good friend to COVID 19. She had a long, gruesome struggle and it's finally over. At some point about two weeks ago it became obvious that she was too damaged to come back to us, but the struggle went on. And on. And on. Horrible. She finally died last week and I have to say I was relieved on her behalf. Now the grief sets in.
But, there are still plenty of other wonderful people in the world. One in particular--my 97 year old next door neighbor--called me last evening and told me she wanted me to come over to her property and cut myself a bouquet of her lilacs, "Since you don't have any on your land." I went over this morning and did just that. She even loaned me her garden shears. I adore her, and she has absolutely no idea that I just lost a friend. But somehow, she reached out anyway. It just made my entire day.
You can imagine--I hope--the fabulous scent spreading through my home from her marvelous lilacs. Thank you, Erm! Kindness makes all the difference.
I've learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Finally finished yesterday, steamed one last time this morning, and hung on my kitchen wall this afternoon. For such a small rug (I think the length is about 26"), it took me way too long to get it done. But there's quite a story behind it, and while this rug is silly and funny, it means a lot to me.
Here's the story:
The original version of this pattern, which I have greatly modified, was designed by George Kahnle and hooked by his husband, Dick LaBarge. I believe it was titled, "Americus Tunafishus" and Dick dyed the wool and hooked it in red, white, and blue as a patriotic rug. I first saw the finished piece in Vermont at a rug show, and took note of it as I am a tuna fan. Note: It even says, "Loves tuna fish" under my photo in my old high school yearbook. And one of my memories of my dad is that he ate a tuna sandwich for lunch every day of his life--apparently my fondness for tuna is genetic. (I do know about the mercury danger and the over-fishing, and am pretty careful about where I get my tuna)
The original pattern is still available from Betsy Reed of Heavens to Betsy; she bought Dick & George's pattern stock from their former business, Hooked On the Creek. After I heard that Dick had died in 2018, I'm sure I bought the pattern from her late that year. It isn't shown on her website but if you ask, I believe she can bring it up. As I said, the original pattern doesn't resemble my rug much. I changed the wording and I completely redrew the fish.
Dick and George were just two of the nicest, most talented, and funniest guys I've ever met and I adored them both. I never got to visit them in Victory Mills, NY, where they lived, worked, and taught rug hooking for decades. They also had a fabulous antique store. But I was fortunate to take some classes with them in Vermont and count them as friends.
They were devoted to each other and were life partners long before it was safe to declare their relationship. I believe they were finally able to marry in 2012, just two years before George died, aged 82. Dick died in 2018 and he was 85. I swear I miss them both to this day. When I heard Dick was gone, I sat down and cried; but then I began to smile as I remembered how funny he and George were, and all the good times we had in their classes.
I knew I wanted to hook a rug in their honor, and this is it.
I just took a look at both their obituaries and true to form, it's Dick's memorial write-up that says it all. George's is short and contains few details, but you can get a flavor of both of them from reading Dick's.
Dear friends, I am thinking of both of you today with much gratitude for your fine teaching and the hilarity and kindness you offered those of us who knew you.
I miss you.
I'll have to let this song speak for me, because I cannot say what is in my heart after this terrible week in my country.
Wrong. Tragic. And entirely preventable.
This tangle helped me to center myself, but did not take the pain away.
Credit for the composition goes to Romi Borax Marks, but I did the drawing and colors.
In these troubled and challenging times, it's my deepest hope that all of us are supported by a network of unconditionally loving people in our lives. I'm defining these "beloveds" as very dear friends, mentors, and special family.
Unfortunately, we are not all lucky enough to be born into families with members who end up becoming beloved. But in my family there were three people who fit this category.
Today I took some time to re-frame the first of them, my beloved maternal grandmother, or Nana as I called her. She died over 50 years ago, but I think of her and send her my love and thanks to her every single day. She is never far from my mind. Oh, how I loved that woman. She taught me every good thing I have become, or hope to become. Here she is.
The photo was taken in 1937 when she was about 60. I have only two photographs of her because she absolutely hated having her picture taken. As a young adult I was shocked to discover that she'd gone through our family photographs and cut her own face out of every one of them. I never had the chance to ask her why she did this, and it puzzles me to this day.
My understanding is that she was forced to quit school around age 12 in order to go to work, and later on she raised a large family single-handedly after her husband became extremely ill and was hospitalized for decades. She had a lot of shame about her lack of formal schooling.
And yet, she was the kindest, funniest, most loving and smartest person in my childhood, and created a strong family foundation for me. She lived with us until her death when I was about 16. Lucky me! I got to spend every day with her for sixteen years.
I never stop asking myself how I was fortunate enough to have her in my life.
Rest well, Nana. And thank you.
I wanted to try out my new Gold (or yellow) General's Chalk Pencil to see what it could do. Very pleased with it.
Of course I couldn't leave well enough alone and had to take the original photo above and run it through some iPhone apps to see what would happen. The two resulting versions are below. I love them but I also just like the original tangle above.
And finally, at a meeting I went to last night there was a wonderful celebration of a special member, a woman who died last week. I had only met her once, but the other group members have all known her for years and just treasured her. Because I didn't know her, I couldn't contribute but the group told wonderful stories about her talents, loving kindness, generosity, and eccentricities. I think everyone had a terrific and healing time.
In her honor, someone had brought the floral arrangements (gathered from everyone's backyard gardens--she adored flowers) which had decorated her funeral service, and flowers were set around the room, including in the chair that she usually occupied.
At the end of the meeting, the flowers were offered to all of us and we were encouraged to take some home in her memory. I chose these beauties below, and felt lucky to have met this woman even once. This is just a tiny sample of all the floral bounty, one last gift from a woman who apparently never stopped giving to others.
Wow, stunningly beautiful weather this last little while--sunny, warm (but not hot), and no humidity! Today was lovely. I drove to a friend's house for a rug hooking event, and we were able to work outside in her gorgeous backyard. Perfect weather and no bugs! We hooked on her patio while viewing her colorful garden and listening to the din from hungry baby birds and their parents in a birdhouse not more than 4 feet over our heads. The birdy-parents came and went ceaselessly, trying to stuff food into the mouths of the kids. And were those kids noisy and demanding! Parenthood is never easy no matter who the parents are...
Here are some of the rugs I saw (of course I got permission for these pictures--thank you all!):
And now for something completely different...
Diana had just gotten back from babysitting for four days while family members took a short vacation to Aruba (something they had won! What luck!). They brought back this amazing object for her. Even more amazing is the description of the artistic process that was used to create it--it may look painted, but it isn't. See the photograph right underneath it describing how it was done. I have never heard of this art before, but I love this little critter. Isn't he (or she) a beauty?
Truly impressive. I will have to google "mopa mopa," which I've never heard of before now.
I capped off the day by 1) treating myself to a wonderful documentary on David Hockney's 2012 and 2016 exhibitions of landscapes and portraits. More visual delight!
And then came home and finished a tense and good WWII-themed novel.
All in all, a delightful summer day. I am feeling fortunate indeed.
I know we've had winter this late before. Four years ago to the day, in fact, I'm pretty certain we also had snow. Today we had snow plus drizzle ("snizzle," says our local forecaster), plus now rain. It's grim out there, and of course, in Boston, the Marathon goes on. Admiration for those runners!
Much as I dislike heat, I'm ready for spring and even--gulp--summer.
Spent part of the morning coloring this tile. It has a story attached (see below).
So here's the story. A few days ago, Cris Strovilas Letourneau--a CZT and author I admire--found out that while she & daughter Alexa were visiting her sister for an overnight, their house burned to the ground. Unfortunately, their husband/father was inside and didn't make it out. He died in the fire. I cannot imagine the grief and shock and loss.
To make bad matters even worse, it now appears the fire was started by a burglar who was in the house. Of course, HE got out just fine.
There's a GoFundMe page set up and I've contributed, but I've been feeling so badly for Cris and Alexa. Other than sending prayers, there's not much I can do (I don't know her, have just met her once), and then Sonya Yencer, another CZT, created a tangle named SoulStar with Cris and Alexa and Cris's husband in mind. So last night and this morning I did the tile above.
While working on the tile, it came to me that the front "star" (lower right) is for Cris, the star tucked behind that one is for Alexa, and the "lead star" that appears to be a comet in the upper right is her husband, on his way through transition, leaving that golden trail behind as he sets out on his journey. The fact that his circle is smaller seemed to me to be about the fact that he's given up a physical life and is now on his way in soul-form.
My heart goes out to them each day. May their loss lessen, even though I know it will never go away, and may he travel safely into the Light.
"Body at rest, spirit free."
Several weeks ago, a young woman riding her bike in the bicycle lane of a busy nearby square was "doored" (hit by a car door opened by someone who was not looking) and knocked off her bike directly into the path of an oncoming truck, which could not stop.
This happened about 3/4 of a mile from my house. Within a day, a Ghost Bike had showed up and was placed, covered in flowers, at the exact location where she had been killed. Since I drive or walk by that location several times a week, it was upsetting to see the bike there.
Bicycling groups around the world have long observed a thought-provoking custom to memorialize fatalities caused by motor vehicles. When a rider has a fatal accident while bicycling, someone will take an old bike and paint it white. They will then place it permanently it at the location of the fatality. These are called "Ghost Bikes." It may sound gruesome; however, it is such a poignant reminder of the perils of biking in a car-saturated urban environment.
Unfortunately, another such bike has now showed up practically at my front door. On August 29th, there was a fatality less than a block from my house. Strangely, I was home with the door open and yet never heard a thing.
There's a commuter train that goes right by my house, and the tracks must cross an unbelievably busy street. I've lived here for decades and have never heard of an accident between this train, which runs frequently, and any vehicle on that road--bus, truck, car, biker, or pedestrian. The crossing is incredibly well marked. Long before the train comes through, loud bells begin to ring, bright lights begin to flash, and two very long barriers come down across the road, one for each direction. Therefore, it was incredibly puzzling to hear that on the 29th, a bicyclist was hit and killed by a commuter train there.
This is a mystery for sure. What really happened? It was broad daylight. It was a fine clear day. All the crossing signals (lights, bells, barriers) were working perfectly. All the cars on either side of the tracks were stopped. Many pedestrians were also stopped, waiting to cross once the train had passed. And other bicyclists were stopped.
All of a sudden, another cyclist came down the road with great speed. Everyone assumed he would stop. When he did not, motorists and pedestrians started yelling for him to stop. He did not. In fact, he actually had to maneuver his bike around the barriers to get onto the tracks--past the lights, the bells, and the barriers. He never stopped, and a large number of horrified observers watched as the train hit the bike and he was killed.
What was going on there? Was this a suicide? Or was he in a rush and did he assume he could make it across before the train? Who was he? What was his history? It seems likely it was suicide, given the fact that he had to really work hard to get onto the tracks and couldn't have failed to notice the signals and barrier.
I will never know. Nor will I know his name.
I'm not a cyclist (too scary around here), but I feel terrible about this, and now I have a Ghost Bike just a stone's throw from my house. Not something I ever wanted to see here.
Rest in peace, whoever you are.
My heart is with the people of Paris today.
The Joey Challenge this week (#86) was to do a W-2 monotangle. Quite a challenge...in fact, monotangles are always difficult when one is trying to do something creative, rather than just using the technique to learn the tangle for the first time.
I did want to do something different. I've done W-2 in the past with great success using just a Micron and graphite--it's a lovely tangle that looks tricky but really isn't, with patience and with a mindful approach. But making it look different? I dunno...
Then I decided to crosshatch it rather than using gentle graphite shading. And while I was at it, I decided to add Rainbow Lead pencil to it. And I decided to crosshatch the first try with a Micron (no erasing with that!) and to do it messily rather than carefully. What result would I get?
Well, here it is. It's messy. It's different. It reminds me of ribbon candy. Do I love it? No, but I'm glad I tried it.
There is something jagged and edgy in the result that reminds me of my feelings about the terror attack in Paris. (I do NOT mean to compare my scribbles to the gravity of what is going on there...just saying that despite the soft coloring and ribbon-candy look, it's got darkness going on and that reflects a bit of what I was feeling. i can only imagine what Parisians are feeling this evening...here in Boston, we know something about the effect of this type of shocking, senseless, brutal violence.)
I did this in my Tangle-a-Day calendar.
I then decided to try this on a black tile to see what would happen. Once again I used cross-hatching, both with the Signo Uniball Pen and with the Rainbow Lead. Here's the result, which I find interesting but also troubling. It seems that tangling was bringing out some of those rough feelings over last night's terrorism. In doing this mindfully, I reflected my awareness of right now, right here.
Will we ever mature enough to know peace? To embody peace?
This week I lost two people from my life. One at the start of the week, a very kind man in his early 60s who had been waiting for a heart transplant and was simply too ill to go on. He had been dying for weeks. It was agonizing. When death came, it was peaceful and he was in the presence of loving family. Given his medical situation, I am happy for him. But I will miss him. I spent considerable time in meditation practice allowing memories of him to arise, allowing feelings to arise, and sitting with my feelings.
Then, this morning, I got news that a Facebook friend whom I had never actually met but whom I'd grown to love, died in her sleep yesterday morning. She was only in her 40s. She was diabetic, and mentioned that occasionally in her postings, but I never realized how brittle her condition really was. She worked and was in a long-term relationship with a guy she absolutely adored; she loved her furry companions; she designed and wore a bright red t-shirt that read "Ask me for a tarot reading!" - and people did ask her. And she read for everyone who asked. She was a believer in living out loud, sharing her thoughts with anyone who read her blog. She was truly fearless in the way she lived her life. And although I never met her, I broke down and cried this morning. What a sweetie, and what a hilarious woman. I will miss her so much...
So, it was back into practice--the hard practice of life after loss. I had already done my formal meditation when this news came, so instead I went to the studio and worked on my rug, while once again allowing memories and feelings to arise. I just tried to be present, to honor the memory of two great people who left the world this week. Am still sitting with all this, and holding them in my heart.
Tonight I engaged in a different kind of practice, on a much lighter note. I worked on the same tangles tonight that I had done for the first time earlier this week. Here was my first attempt (posted here on a previous date, and pictured first below):
Just above are the same tangles repeated tonight for practice. And yes, you are correct--I didn't repeat them "in order." They still aren't great beauties, but they are coming along slowly but surely. They were very soothing to do after a hard day.
Meditation is all about practice. Drawing, and Zentangle®, are all about practice. For that matter, life is all about practice, isn't it?
An Irish headstone tells us: "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal."
I send my love and dedication to Ted and Nadine. I will miss you both very much. I will practice remembering your kindness, humor, and courage. I will practice being glad I knew you.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), long-time meditator and coach, focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
NEXT INTRO TO ZENTANGLE CLASS:
My next Beginning Zentangle® class is not yet scheduled--stay tuned.
I am always happy to teach 1-1 and/or in a small group in your home.)
Come and amaze yourself!
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society