scraps of scraps

I’m working very fast combining pieces together from the little pile of scraps on my sewing work table, just moving on flashes of intuition, just sewing without thinking and without pattern.

Having completed one quilt from my ‘scraps’ already in a similarly improvisational manner, I am now sewing together the scraps of the scraps.  It will be the ‘center’ of my next quilt.   I love witnessing an order and character emerging from these scraps being pieced together, knowing it will inform in some way the structure of how this next quilt will develop.  I suspend all doubt and trust that the two pieces I am sewing together in any moment are exactly what is supposed to be, because I have no idea what the final composition will ‘suggest’ once it is put up on the design wall.  I realize this process is exactly the same as what happens in the kitchen as I gather ingredients that are right there in that moment.  It is that cathartic and peaceful quality of allowing myself to be ‘led’ to something I can’t possibly see right now..,..

Still working with a mandala theme, the making of ‘center’ and of organizing around a ‘center’ continues to captivate me.  It has been very simple so far.  Every quilt made in this awareness literally starts with me marking the center from some intuitive gesture.  Building out from that place then becomes a process of opening to all the possibilities while at the same time trusting that what comes to me as a gesture is exactly what I am supposed to try.  I put my new ‘center’ up on the wall and begin to work with it….

It is so much fun.  Time flies by.  I am nourished by the suspension of control in making something and the satisfaction of making something unexpected.  And I am reflecting on this process of using ‘scraps of scraps’, realizing that this follows the curve of the spiral of sustainability, that the very act of using and re-using and re-combining in new ways is exactly what brings us back the essence of something.  Interesting to consider now just how long it will actually take me to use all the scraps of all my scraps of my scraps of my scraps moving forward, where this commitment engages with the rest of my fabric ‘stash’, and where I feel the pull to purchase or make something new to complete an impulse or vision.  And how interesting to consider the meaning of making mandala in this context of sustainability, to be informed by and fueled by the desire to experience the very center of that which nourishes us….

essentials

It is an easy drive home from our Thanksgiving visit, we don’t stop once for the entire four and a half plus hours and as we cross the Connectictut river in the final stretch all I can think about is getting to Whole Foods.  My vegetable bins and brown rice jars are all empty and I simply cannot imagine arriving home without fresh stock to fill them with.  Moreover, I am now craving the simplicity of vegetables and grains after a week of Thanksgiving feast fare.  And I just finished eating one of my childhood favorites, a cheddar cheese sandwich on Beefsteak rye bread with bright yellow mustard!  These items are always in my parents home and it is another ritual to make the sandwiches to eat in the car for the drive home. It is like the cherry on top of the sundae for me, a rare treat of gluten rich bread and dairy product that are not regulars in my diet anymore.  It is soooooo good and I enjoy every bite, knowing that it was worth it and that I won’t need or want to have another for a while.  And by contrast, I now realize just how significantly a plant based way of eating has become a way of life for me and my kids when they are around….

The parking lot is literally full and Whole Foods is teeming with post Thanksgiving shoppers.  I resolve to walk through with only a hand held basket, to get just ‘essentials’: a large bag of fresh green beans, some apples, a bag of fresh local carrots, two different bunches of kale (on sale!), a bag of organic lemons, a large container of baby spinach, two bottles of inexpensive Cabernet (yes, like 72% chocolate, this is an essential…),  a 3-4 lb. bag of short grain organic brown rice, and because they are also on sale, smile, two containers of Odwalla Superfood juice, manage to get out of there for less than $50 and think, I will be go to the grocery store tomorrow to stock up on ‘other things’.  Back in the car, I am already thinking about what to make for dinner.  A stew.  I will use the fresh green beans I just bought, the block of tempeh I know is left in the fridge, some garlic and onions that are still fresh from the farmers market a few weeks ago, and hoping for a can of tomatoes in the cupboard.  My late ex-mother-in-law comes to mind, and how she taught me to make her famous ‘greek green beans’, the love, care, time, and confidence she would pour into this dish and feeling this energy as I anticipate preparing this meal.

The bottom of the cast iron pot is lined with olive oil and warming as I slice an onion and some garlic, put them in the pot to saute slowly while preparing the green beans.  They are really fresh and they snap crisply in half.  Into the pot they go for a few minutes with the garlic and onions and then add the (28 oz. can) tomatoes, usually whole tomatoes that have been squeezed and crushed into bits with my hands the way my mother-in-law taught me, though any kind will do.  Add a bit of water, put the lid on and simmer over low fire.  Then I prepare the tempeh, thick slices sautéed in olive oil and a profusion of chopped garlic.  When lightly browned on both sides, I add a splash of tamari and water and scrape whatever bits are clinging to the pan, then add it all to the stew.  It can’t really be overcooked, the tempeh just gets better and better as it absorbs all the mingling flavors in the pot, and I love the smell filling the house as we unpack and settle in.  Dinner is the stew served over brown rice and I know it has ‘hit home’ when Ben makes sure he can have seconds AND that there is enough for his lunch tomorrow!

Actually there is enough for both of us for lunch the next day.  And I still haven’t made it to the grocery store.  I have realized I can make many many meals with just these ‘essentials’ and the contents of my freezer and cupboard.  And for the first time in a long time (and JUST in time for the holidays), I am feeling the value of setting a budget while at the same time looking forward to the fun of creatively maintaining balance between ‘essential’ and ‘extra’……

puzzling

I am walking through my parent’s basement and spot the 1000 piece puzzle that I gave to my mother for Christmas last year.  Still wrapped in cellophane, the picture of forest and sky and water and every kind of wildlife calls to me.  I grab the puzzle and head upstairs, knowing that asking for permission to ‘do’ this puzzle means that the dining room table will be out of commission for a while.  Even so, my mother retrieves her puzzle board, it gets wiped down and the puzzle is dumped out in a pile in the center.  Five minutes have passed since I spotted it downstairs.  I can feel the energy in the room shifting now, this pile of cardboard pieces has become a magnet, thinking my mother will not be able to resist, and surprised when it is my father who actually circles around and then engages. We are now rapidly turning pieces over and spreading them out as much as we can to get some perspective.  It is overwhelming, this starting place.  Ten minutes have now passed since I spotted the puzzle.

Hours later we are painstakingly still working on completing the outside edges.  Meanwhile, the large pot of vegetable soup in turkey broth made from the carcass of yesterday’s ritual offering is simmering on the stove and filling the house with its nourishing aroma.  I love the symmetry of honoring the creatures of the wilds while knowing we have honored the one particular bird that has offered us so much sustenance this Thanksgiving.  And the soup is now the perfect sustenance for the endurance required to stay with this puzzle, steaming in the mugs that can find home in the limited space on the table and be sipped simultaneously while continuing to scan the spread of disconnected pieces, looking for ‘that one piece’…

We are each alternatively silent in concentration and then exuberant in our cries of AHA when we find what has been eluding us.  The expressions of the day are variations on a theme, “I don’t understand it.  I know exactly what this piece is supposed to look like and I can’t find it!”  or “I’m looking for a specific piece, and I can’t find it!”  and finally, “Help me find this piece!” and so on….I smile every time a new variation is uttered.  The energy of it is so familiar, so perfectly captured in this very real and graphic exercise of piecing together a puzzle and I am thinking of all the times I have used the expression “that is puzzling” when referring to something that I don’t understand but am determined to figure out for myself.   Then he will say, “I am looking for the wing of this bird that will fit perfectly here, let me know if you see anything like it” and I will say, “I am looking for a piece with the red head of this duck that has a white and blue line going through it”  in a rhythm that has me appreciating and noticing today the dance I have begun to do with my father, of the ways in which we ask for ‘help’ and how it is delivered in an unexpected moment of sharing.  ‘Puzzling’ has given us a context for asking for ‘help’ when asking for help is typically so very difficult…..

We are now working in opposite corners, Dad is in the sky with the birds and I am in the hidden waters of drakes that becomes the frozen ground of rabbits and snow otters.

And even though we are in opposite corners, it is not lost on me that we are both working with the blue pieces, together, they seem to be the ones that are most accessible for some reason, these variations of a color that carry the energy of healthy power and creative communication.

Two days later, the scattered pieces are still all over the dining room table.  I have to leave to go home before ‘the puzzle’ is completed.  Another metaphor of course…for being able to appreciate what has been learned in the process, of letting go of the outcome, of the power of asking for help and then accepting with grace and patience, its appearance…

pretty plate award

This year the pretty plate award goes to my daughter Molly.  She claims it wholeheartedly as forks are being lifted for the first bite.  We have gone around the table and offered blessings, each a heartfelt statement of affirmation of the meaning felt in this moment.  I have closed my eyes and offered my thanks for the sheer pleasure of the smell of happiness contained on this plate.    We all acknowledge that Molly has indeed consciously and deliberately created the prettiest plate.  She shares that her secret is to put the most intense colors right in the center.   Hmmmmm.  I am now thinking of all the mandalas created in the world, of the principle of structuring around a center, however that center may be defined.   And it is not lost on me that Molly’s choice of ‘intense’ this year are the bright orange of the squash and bright magenta of the cranberry sauce, capturing the very essence of second chakra passion for this meal….

A longstanding tradition in our family at Thanksgiving, the challenge is to arrange each element of the bountiful meal in such a way as to evoke the feeling of an artistic masterpiece.  As if the preparing, tasting, eating, and enjoying all the many anticipated traditional foods isn’t enough, adding this element of play and competition into the ritual is just plain fun.  And the competition can be fierce, smile.  The colors and textures each year are mostly the same, and it is the small surprises that often will make a difference….

I am now remembering earlier in the day when preparations are still underway and I have the realization that there has been no mention of squash to be prepared.  I literally panic, and still wet out of the shower call down to my father, “what about the squash?”  to which he replies that it had been used to make soup the day before and that the ‘orange’ this year is going to be yams.  Like a petulant child, I make a fuss.  Somehow I just know the squash is essential today and I don’t know why.  Bless my father, out he goes on a Thanksgiving morning in search of a butternut squash for me.  And when I come downstairs, not only has he found one, but he has already skinned it and is waiting for me to share how it is to be prepared.  We make fat slices, rub each one with olive oil, arrange them on a large baking sheet, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and leave it sitting on the counter to go into the oven after the turkey and right before dinner is served.  We go on about our preparations, and I can’t help to be captivated by the arrangement of discs of orange right there in the center of the kitchen.  I leave and then return to the kitchen after awhile to find that a handful of small peppers has been added to the tray of squash!  So beautiful is the arrangement that I begin to snap pictures, before during and after the cooking, awed and touched at the spontaneousness of this simple gesture of my father and how it transforms this simple tray of squash…

Simply beautiful.  There is one lone red pepper on the tray amidst the yellows and oranges.  And no mistake that Molly has placed this one sacred pepper in the center of her winning composition…

How random and yet how unmistakably essential just one small gesture can be in the making of a memorable moment.  This Thanksgiving the moment can be defined as ‘art’ but it can just as easily be defined as ‘life’.  And I am grateful for the openness and flexibility in this particular family for allowing these moments to occur and be honored, so grateful for being able to see and feel the diversity of ‘pretty plate’ moments throughout a day that truly do become the center of all experience…..

sharing the vision

It is early Thanksgiving morning, still dark.  I am sitting in the kitchen with my father as I so often do when we are in the same house.  We begin to swirl in the energy of the family tradition that will play out throughout the day, Dad soaking, preparing, and roasting the turkey, Mom and Molly preparing the stuffing and gravy, Ben making the mashed potatoes, and me preparing all the items of color, the green beans, the squash, the cranberry sauce.  Our usual feast.  It is just us this year and a dear family friend, a single man who does not have a family to share such traditions with.  Mom joins us as we drink our coffee, the three of us sit and talk quietly as the sky begins to lighten and then my father stops and says with reverence, “look at that” and points outside to the sunrise.  It is a breathtaking sight, the form of the land just barely discernible in front of the slash of red and silhouette of trees.  It evokes a feeling of both vision and passion.

I am thinking now of all that I could be writing about related to Thanksgiving and the meaning of this day.  I finally acknowledge that what is ‘there’ most strongly is an energy that at first doesn’t seem to fit with the typical, mostly happy collaboration of food and family.  What is ‘there’ this morning is the energy of the displaced soul that may no longer have a family tradition to connect with, and/or has not endeavored to establish a new one.  I am feeling the poignancy of that inbetween place and how it is where we seem to be in relation to life on this earth right now, socially, politically, culturally, and spiritually.  There isn’t a single one of us out there that hasn’t been impacted in some way by the shifting of energy that is moving us toward a new vision of living together as a human species.  And so today’s Thanksgiving for me is one of not only giving thanks for traditions that still serve, but for also sharing the vision of what being part of a global human family might mean today.  I am thinking about what the vision might be of my daughter the anthropologist who feels home in South America, or my businessman brother who travels the world like so many businessmen these days, of international graduate student tenants who share home with me for extended periods of time, of my best friend of 43 years who is American but has lived in Australia for the past 21 years, or of all the divorced couples and re-defined families worldwide that no longer relate to community in traditional ways…and so on…….

My own vision includes conscious collaboration and freedom to express individual passion.  With today’s meal as an example, I love that each one of us is making the thing we are most passionate about, and yet the final result is of something known and true.  And as evoked by this morning’s sky, my vision allows for where intuition and feeling can rise to the surface of old tradition, and where the inbetween space of an individual passion can offer safe passage into the arms of something new and shared….

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!

gathering

It is a chilly November morning and I am moving around creating warmth.  I turn on the oven, even without knowing what I am going to put in it, make a fire, and get ready for a walk.  On my way out the door I spot the bowl of potatoes I just got at the farmer’s market.  My favorite stand offers many varieties, and the tiny bite size russets are sitting on top of the bowl.  As I am walking I know I am going to bake these little potatoes when I get back, and feel the satisfaction of my decision resting in the novelty of having baked potatoes for breakfast!

They take no time at all to bake, just about 20 minutes.  Hot out of the oven, I take a bite of one, fluffy and full of freshness, wondering if I can be happy just eating them without any adornment and realize I want something else, one more thing to companion with these potatoes.  I arrange them on my plate and settle for tahini, spoon some onto the plate for dipping and then sprinkle course sea salt over it all.

Can I just say…?  Ah,  Mmmmmmm,  Yum.  Laughing as I think about how embarrassed my daughter is when I make these sounds loud enough for her to hear, sounds of appreciation when enjoying a meal, and how unexpected it is to hear myself, alone in front of the fire, now offering sounds of sensual pleasure as I eat these potatoes.  Happy and settled, I reach for my animal medicine cards (by Jamie Sams & David Carson).  It’s been awhile.  I find I am drawn to these cards at odd times and in anticipation I shuffle and draw one.  Squirrel.  Smile.  And just then, I hear a rustle and whoosh and pat pat pat of little running feet in the ceiling above me, stunned that the squirrel that has found her way into my home for the past year has chosen just that moment to make her entrance this morning!

Okay.  Heart thumping now, I take in the message of squirrel. It is about how to gather and store ‘energy’ for times of need and how to ‘reserve’ something for future use, how to be prepared.  Taking it a step further, I consider how I might be honoring my future by ‘readying myself for change’..  I consider all the ‘things’ I can get rid of that don’t serve me anymore, like my broken dishwasher and T.V. that I haven’t missed at all since they have not been available!  I consider what it is that I ‘need’ to be prepared.  The image of the squirrel scurrying across the yard with a treasured nut in her mouth comes to me.  I can feel the pleasure of moving towards safe storage.  I read, “Squirrel has another lesson which can aid you if you observe what is obvious, and which can prepare you for anything.  It has to do with the safe place in which to put your gatherings in.  This safe place is an untroubled heart and mind, and that which is gathered to put in this place is wisdom and caring.  The energies gathered will set your mind and heart free, so that you will know that all will be taken care of in its own time.”

I now imagine myself, like the squirrel, scurrying through the markets gathering up all the little potatoes I can find and them putting them in cold storage for my ‘pleasure’ in the future.  I then realize it isn’t just about survival for me.  It is about recognizing and gathering those things that I need to bring me simple pleasure, like potatoes, all fruits and vegetables, water, wood, crystals, and fiber.  Earth elements that serve body, mind, and spirit as core elements for making pleasure and beauty.  I recognize that pleasure  and beauty is my wisdom, and that the best way prepare for caring for myself and others is to put this promise of pleasure and joy into an untroubled heart and mind…..

ebb and flow

I am spending the day with dear friends at a new age fair.  We are all having readings done by intuitives that offer a flow of information that is ‘there’ at the moment.  Going through this process is like gathering tidbits of hope.  We hear affirmations of things we already ‘know’ deep inside but may be storing in an inaccessible place for future use.  Bringing such information to the surface gives us an opportunity to discuss and share and keep the feeling of resonance and truth up on the surface for a little longer and we laugh and cry together in these precious hours of connecting together.

One reader asks me if I live in a pattern of ‘feast or famine’.  I laugh in acknowledgement of the truth of my feeling of ‘famine’ these past few months where my project oriented work that pays the bills has been so slow as to have me questioning how I will pay my mortgage next month.  I’ve been here many times and have learned to trust that work will come to me when it is time.  My real job is to be creative with how to pay my bills in the meantime and fill my days with the creative energy that nourishes me.  So I have been writing (smile) and quilting and re-focusing the lens that I look through when spending time with cherished friends and family.  All good.  And sure enough, this past week I received a request for a proposal for work that will keep me busy now for a few more months while at the same time anticipating hearing about several other projects that have been dormant but ready to come to life again as well.  So I could be heading into that feast phase which can be overwhelming and leave no time for my other creative ‘work’.  As we talk about this, one of my friends gently offers that maybe ‘ebb and flow’ is a more appropriate way to describe this process of lulls and peaks in our lives.  Ebbing and flowing feels more organic, is more accepting of a natural process, and does not lock one into the expectation that comes with focusing on extremes of fear and desire that can be associated with feasting and famine.   There is a quality of ‘pay it forward’ that comes with this re-framing,  and I realize that how one spends time and resources in the ebb and flow eventually, and always, comes back full circle….

There is a beautiful gemstone necklace that I have been attracted to as I walk the vendors booths at this fair.  It is always fascinating what ‘speaks’ to me in these settings that are rich with so much to see and take in.  Why this particular necklace?  It has a Native American ‘earthy’ feel to me, with colors I am not typically drawn to, I don’t typically wear pieces this ‘big’.  I try it on and dismiss it, thinking I cannot afford to buy something like this for myself with my limited resources at this time.  I put it back in the box and walk away.  Then on a second pass around the room, I am stopped in my tracks again in front of this necklace.  More rationalizing, more head talk to myself that I cannot afford this and walk away again.  As we sit and discuss ebb and flow I realize that what this necklace represents to me is the ‘tipping point’ in my ebb and flow.  It is not that it is all that expensive.  It is that buying it will bring me to that mental zero point that allows me begin flowing toward abundance once again.  So I flow back to the table and smile as I approach Joan, the artist who has made this necklace.  She smiles back, knowing now that she made this necklace for me and we talk about that for awhile, the wonder of knowing that what we ‘create’ has a purpose that we never know in advance.  She thanks me warmly for my support and I thank her for her offering.

 

I come back to the table with my jewels and open the box to share with my girlfriends.  In the fading afternoon light it sparkles and glows with warmth.  I put it on.  Wearing this necklace is an affirmation.  I feel how I am honoring the creative energy of the ‘ebb’ of recent months, and joy in the ‘flow’ back out to the abundance that is there….