convergence

It is a moment last week while engaged in the swirl of focused work of coordinating a set of drawings for a new house I’ve designed.  A small house and I love it.  And where the details of how it will be finished will be taken over by the owner and will be decidedly different that how I would do it, I continue to enjoy the harmonious flow and balance and proportion of rooms and the modest face they present to the world.  And even the work of coordinating these simple plans and elevations and details for a small house requires an intense focused dedicated effort that can be quite consuming until it is time for ‘pencils down’ for whatever pressing need in the schedule has dictated the deadline. I’ve had so many realizations in this last effort.  I am reminded of the energy of finishing a quilt, that the stitching of quilting lines requires the same kind of consistent focused and dedicated attention that simply takes the time it takes.  And then there is the feeling that it will never be completely finished but that it is always enough and learning how to accept being in this place.  I am reminded of the energy of writing, the work of editing and re-writing until the pieces all fit together, and even of the flow of a yoga session, when the work of the individual postures all begin to flow together to produce the feeling of coordinated effortless movement.  I realize in all these efforts there is a moment of convergence, of being at the moment in the spiral of a particular process when the effort and the consciousness of what one is moving towards become one, and from which the flow to the natural conclusion, or ‘home’, can happen.  And this process is fueled with a kind of passion that has a life of its own and that I give myself to until the work is done…

So I am in the midst of this ‘passionate’ process of finishing drawings and I need to eat.  Smile.  A couple pieces of (sprouted grain) bread, fresh butter, and a lather of strawberry jam.  Not my usual choices and but it feels right.  And then I take the first bite…

and am instantaneously transported back to summer 1978 in NYC where I am living and working in anticipation of my upcoming year of independent coursework at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies.  I am sharing the perfect little apartment on Charles Street in Greenwich Village with one of my closest childhood friends, Kerry Ryan, and it is thrilling having this first experience of independence together in such a different context than the ‘safe’ suburban street we grew up on together.  I remember how excited we are to have this time together and going out onto 7th Avenue in search of sustenance that first night and returning home with the first bag of bagels we buy together.  We quickly fall into a routine of splitting one for breakfast each morning and Kerry puts butter and jam on hers and then I began to do so too. I am amazed how just one bite of this morning’s toast would bring back this memory with such clarity and precision and affection, and how completely the taste of this combination is ‘Kerry’.

I finish the drawings and in the wake of this effort and energy, get in the car and drive to my parent’s home where Ben and I will visit for a few days with my nephews who are in town for a brief time.  In the car I find myself thinking about Kerry again, a thought that she might be in town and how nice it would be to see her.  However it is a whirlwind visit and I just barely manage to decompress and get some rest in amidst all the family activities, and any thoughts of making contact outside of this are lost.  And each morning I wake up thinking, today I will write my piece about the convergence of passion and independence triggered by a simple bite of toast with butter and jam, but the process of decompressing hasn’t made room for this yet either and so I save it.

And now after a few short days Ben and I are in the car and on our way home.  We are on the first six mile stretch that leads into the little town of Cheshire where there is the famous ‘Company Store’ and where I rarely stop for gas, instead usually favoring the larger stations closer to the highway.  But a clear knowing goes through me that I am supposed to stop in Cheshire this morning to fill up.  There is only one other car at the pump as I pull in though no sign of anyone there.  I pump the gas and Ben and I then decide to go inside for ‘a treat’ for the ride.  As we discuss this heading to the front door, I hear a voice behind me saying, “Kathy Ford???!!!”  And there she is, Kerry, walking towards us with a big smile on her face from behind the other car at the pump!  Convergence.  She gives us both a hug and I am stunned, sharing with her my reluctance to be leaving this place and my family this morning, how full of tears I am, she validates how much she understands, what a beautiful place in the world we are, and how she often feels the same when leaving too.  She will be living here all summer and we quickly share schedules with hopes of connecting again in August.

And then Ben and I are back on the road, following the spiral leading back to home….

deep rest

The images that come to mind as I say these words silently to myself …deep rest… are multi-faceted.  The animals that I share my home with model deep rest every day.  I think of Yankee outside lying in the sun for hours inviting touch and love in the relaxed and peaceful place of deep rest, as captured in this photo of Ben literally getting down on the driveway with him the other day as he arrived home from school…

And the cats, endless images of Kush & Desi curled up in all their favorite spots, often together, just touching in a way that literally communicates being in the ‘heart’ of deep rest….

And right now, the image is of Ben still sleeping soundly upstairs, well past the start of school, the need for a ‘day off’ established yesterday and so honored.  And as I look gently onto his deeply in slumber and slowly breathing form I know he is getting the deep rest he needs….

The intensity of this past ten days flashes by now.  Project deadlines balanced with commitments to daily practices, graduation and visiting family, days of yoga training, emotional rounds of e-mail correspondences with loved ones, a string of social engagements, and even time spent in sacred ceremony with a kindred spiritual community.  All wonderful and all positive and proactive energy to experience.  And in culmination, all which also brought me to a place this weekend where my body and soul finally began to demand ‘deep rest’..

The house is empty and I am on my beloved front porch.  I have brought one of the big green pillows from inside (the way Molly does when she decides to camp out on the porch, smile) and have propped and positioned myself on the small wicker couch.  Silence.  Except for the occasional bird call.  The ambient residue of traffic from the main street at the end of my road feels insignificant and fades into the background.  I am cocooned.  First within the cool air and shade of the porch….

then looking out within the wildness of overgrown green, overgrown lawn and bushes and garden and even weeds…

and then feeling my way into the space beyond the green, inside the green, the silence and the warmth and the vibration of rest that finally, truly comes.  I sleep for a short while and wake to the shape of my left foot propped in space.  I reflect on the unique shape and curve of this significant piece of my anatomy, humbled that it is also in a position of deep rest, above my head even, the flow of energy back to my heart and my head in repose is significant.  I marvel at how this particular digit, designed for supporting the body in movement on the earth looks so out of context in rest…like I too feel right now ‘out of context’, humbled by how strange it actually feels to surrender to this moment in a life seemingly designed for action and accomplishment….

And it’s not lost on me that I am finally writing again today after a really long and deep restorative sleep last night, after so much activity in such a short period of time during which I didn’t write, and then realizing that honoring the creative flow isn’t just about having or making the time, but about literally creating space in the body and soul for that flow to find its way, through deep rest….

the morning after

It is the morning after Ben’s graduation and the little ‘fiesta’ held here at the house for him.   A small but substantial group of Ben devotees, Ben’s friend Olivia, his father and me, his Nana & Papa, family friends Lily, Jay & Pam and our housemate Luca all gathered on the porch before graduation for food and drink and then again for more food and drink after the wonderful ceremony.  I am now looking at all the washed dishes that have held the energy of celebration and love and nourishment of the day shared and enjoyed together….

…the colorful pottery bowls of all sizes and the stack of fiesta ware style plates still communicating with each other with animation of the fun of being together in Ben’s honor.  Evoking the images of the simple fare; grilled sausages and veggie burgers by Papa on my new spiffy gas grill (that Papa spent all day assembling), the leftovers of the beloved mac and cheese made by Nana, a big fresh green salad, and a roasted beet & walnut salad that has a little of something for everyone, chopped roasted beets (3-1/2 – 4 cups), chopped fresh apples (2 cups), chopped walnuts (1/2 cup), and handfuls of chopped fresh green onions, parsley, lemon balm & mint from the garden, all mixed together with a dressing of oil (1/4 cup walnut or grapeseed), fresh lemon juice (2 Tbsp.), tamari (2 tsp.), honey (2 tsp.), and cinnamon (1/2 tsp.).  Now the morning after, all that is left to find is a small bowl of this delicious and colorful beet salad.

And as I scan through all the images of the evening still fresh in my mind, I think of the same beet color cap and gown that Ben wears for the ceremony, and the countless photos taken with friends after, this one with his 6th grade teacher Mr. MacNamara, (better known as Mr. Mac!), feeling and seeing how confident and happy Ben is in this moment…

And another with friends Molly & Jason, all sharing school together since Kindergarten and Ben and Jason being on the same rec league basketball team for years…

And of course there is one with the ‘girls’, Sakshi in the middle, a long time Ben friend since elementary school as well, and Laura, with whom he has shared countless years of swim practice and swim meets together….

And then my most favorite image of Ben comes to mind, post graduation ceremony, back home and sitting on the couch looking so mature and handsome, surrounded by those that love him so, engaged and smiling and watching everyone around him, quietly knowing he is the center of attention as everyone enjoys the evening.  It is an enduring image that contains the energy of what is next for Ben as he continues to inspire us all…

expressing green

It is farmer’s market morning and it is pouring rain. Not just a little drizzle, but rather the on and off downpour that delivers buckets and buckets of thick rain. I let myself nestle into the covers far longer that I normally do and assure myself that I don’t need to get to the market today, that the refrigerator is still full of greens from last week, and I need to use what I have before buying more. This resolve lasts about an hour. I receive an e-mail wishing me fun at the market today and well, that is it, a challenge to my decision to stay ‘in’ that has me now donning my raincoat and grabbing an umbrella and heading into town….

It is as I suspected. There is a profusion of fresh greens again that I simply cannot resist. I fill my basket with lots of them, and then add some more strawberries and rhubarb to provide company and balance. I manage all this between rounds of downpour and am back in the kitchen and then wondering where I am going to put all these greens. And then realize that the real question is, WHAT am I going to do with all these greens?? The question is not even fully formed before the word ‘soup’ appears. Smile. I mentally scan what this could be. I actually have never made a soup that features greens, in this case a profusion of kale. Amazing, right? I decide to visit with Google and see what’s out there. It takes all of about a minute to find this glorious recipe for ‘North African Chickpea and Kale Soup’ on a blog post from 2007 by Susan Voisin in her site called fatfreevegan.com. Not that I was looking specifically for a vegan recipe, it’s just that this sounds so good and I have to wonder that it is at the top of Google’s list! And then I know when something is meant to be when I realize that I have every single ingredient called for, even the saffron and allspice. So, I am good to go and begin making this soup….

Add I large chopped onion and 2-3 large sliced carrots to olive oil in the soup pot and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes until the onion begins to brown. Add 4 large cloves of garlic minced fine, stir till fragrant, the add ‘the spices’. It is an inspiring selection! 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon paprika (I use my smoked Spanish paprika), 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, a generous pinch of saffron lightly crushed, 2 bay leaves, and a cinnamon stick. Stir them in and then add 2 cans drained rinsed organic cooked chickpeas and coat them with the spices. Pour in 8 cups of vegetable broth or stock, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add at least 8 cups chopped kale (1 large bunch with center ribs removed) and cook until tender, at least 15 minutes but 1/2 hour is okay too if you like them really cooked. Add water and salt to taste. Let me say, like the famous cola-nut commercial of the 60’s, “simply Maarvelous”

This makes a good size pot of soup that lasts all week, through the relentless days of rain, through the full moon lunar eclipse and Venus transit, and through a consistent stream of heartfelt expressions that seemed to rise to the surface when I least suspect. I eat it plain, I eat it over pan-fried potatoes, I eat it heated with leftover brown rice, for breakfast lunch and dinner, and there is even enough for Ben to take to school for lunch several days too!

I realize that eating this delicious soup becomes my metaphor for expressing green in every way; how nourishing this is and how essential this is….and smiling now as I look at the new greens outside in my kitchen garden that have flourished in all this rain and are just about ready to be harvested …

where the fabric lives

I answer the front door and find two energetic young people who begin to explain with passion why they are out gathering memberships for the ACLU. I invite them to give me their full spiel, and then knowing I will make a small anonymous donation to honor their time, invite them into the front hall while I go to retrieve my checkbook….

The young woman of the pair looks into the living room and in an awed voice asks about the shelves full of fabric she sees. I share with her that I am a quilter and that my inspiration that comes from the fabric has replaced the books that once used to live on these shelves. I then invite her in to see all the quilts hanging on the walls. It is a marvel to her, and through her eyes I connect again with the passion that has gone into making each piece. And feel the significance of having the heart of this endeavor of quiltmaking, and all the fabric, now living in the very center of my home, open and out there for all to see.

I am feeling now the strength of the symbolism of where the fabric lives. When I first started quilting 21 years ago in NYC, the fabric stash was small enough to live in a few drawers and boxes. When we came to Massachusetts the fabric moved into an armoire in my bedroom while the adjacent extra room off the bedroom received a carpet and became my dedicated yoga practice room. However, within a year I had moved in a sewing table and put up a design wall, satisfied that I still had enough room for yoga practice. But it wasn’t long before the fabric, feeling the sacredness of this room, asked to be relocated there. And so it was. The extra wall space was filled with open shelving and ‘practice’ here shifted full time to quiltmaking…

And so it was for years. These were the early years of my discovering the ‘art’ of quiltmaking and where I practiced the joy of ‘making things with my hands’ in the seclusion of this private sacred space. And it began to get messy. The collection of fabric grew, as at some point I moved my red meditation cushion back in to claim space amidst the intensity of activity in this room , as if to certify that what I was doing in this space with all this fabric was in fact a sacred practice after all, but most importantly, to re-establish my ground….

During these years life changed immeasurably, and this space and the fabric that lived here continued to provide me with a stable place to be ‘home’. But then even that began to change. And thinking it was now time to renovate this room and that the fabric needed a new home to take its sacred charge to, I literally rearranged the furniture and made space for a new dedicated quilting corner right in the living room next to my beloved hearth.

And though I knew bringing it into the heart of my home to this place was the answer, there was much to compete with and not a lot of room. It was early post divorce years and I was testing the waters again in every way, entering into a new relationship with a new love who lived on a beautiful piece of property an hour away. I was re-compartmentalizing my life and there wasn’t room for everything to be ‘in view’. So, the fabric was lovingly arranged by color into flat stackable baskets that could live out of sight under the table, and everything remained neat and tidy in it’s new place….

It wasn’t long though before the fabric began to call to me to come out of hiding and to live where I was living in my heart. So in single impulsive afternoon I loaded all the baskets into the back of my car and drove them out to my new love’s home and into the sacred room above the separate barn that we slept in during the hot summer months. It was exhilarating to be able to arrange these baskets in a way that captured the shifting light of the day and the cool mountain breeze.

And as beautiful as the fit ‘seemed’ to be, it soon became clear that the fabric was not happy here, never really felt enough at home to leave the safety of the baskets, never really got to make the creative mess it was used to making. The problem was that it was hard to get up to this space, through a hole in the floor with what was a glorified ladder. And though I designed a stair and began to dream about how to make this space in the home of my new love more accessible, it was too much of a struggle to get it built. And so the fabric was loaded back up into the car and deposited back onto the floor in the center of ‘my’ home. Something major needed to shift and so in another impulsive afternoon, all the books that lived on the ample shelves there were boxed up and given away and the fabric has moved back in, ‘out’ and tantalizingly accessible and visible from it’s new home in the heart of where I now truly live and make new messes….

I think of the transformations that have been left in the wake of each of these moves the fabric has made. Of the barn an hour away that finally did get a stair added to make the sacred room above more accessible…

…of the divorce from my husband of twenty years that resulted when I began to engage with ‘the messiness’, and of the little room off my bedroom that has now been renovated with new plaster walls and ceiling. dedicated to my daily spiritual practices, and still holding the energy of the fabric in the quilt that hangs on the wall there…

And I wonder, is it my heart that follows the fabric or is it the fabric that follows my heart? Does it matter? ….realizing that I am happiest when I can truly live where the fabric lives…