hunger

It is another gorgeous crisp morning on the trail and the sun beckons.

P1120938 Walking faster than usual I note how my pace matches the whirlwind week behind me. With my house now under agreement and the place I had my heart set on to buy no longer available, I need to find a new home. Ben and I have visited over a dozen properties in three days with my agent. This involved many meals on the road and even one dinner of just chunks of cold salmon eaten too late while standing at the kitchen counter. By the time Ben left yesterday I realized how truly hungry I had become. Hungry for food, for nourishment, for comfort, for resolution.

It was still only late afternoon. I opened a bottle of deliciously dry red wine and began to mince garlic. A lot of it, three good size cloves. I needed something hearty and filling, found the half used box of fettucine and a can of (organic) black beans in the cupboard, a bunch of fresh kale in the fridge, and some lemons. Garlic went to into a saucepan with some olive oil over medium heat, pot of water for the pasta is set on stove to boil, and spines were removed from the kale leaves, then chopped and added to a third pan with a bit of oil and water to slow sauté. Added half the can of the beans in their liquid to the garlic with a splash of the wine and turned fire to low. While the beans simmered and pasta cooked, finished sautéing the kale, turned off fire, and added the juice of a squeezed lemon. Then turned the fire off under the beans and added about a tablespoon of butter to the mixture. The contents of the three pans were layered in my favorite blue bowl, mixed together, and joined by a glass of the wine.

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I ate it all, every last garlicky, creamy, lemony, chewy bite, and felt my body absorb the light and energy I needed before heading into the night.

Lost in my reverie, I realize we have headed up the trail far beyond my usual turning back point and know we will now continue all the way to Mt. Orient this morning. Noticing the clear air and deep contrasts between light and dark, I am hungry now for the view that awaits me. And of course it is not at all as I expected.

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What a sight to see the valley covered with a thick white veil as the sun kisses the tops of trees at eye level. It is as if there are two clear worlds. Out here sitting on this ledge it always feels the same, stable and forever. But under that veil life is always changing and shifting and moving in unexpected ways. At rest now, perspiration from the fast pace emerges, bathing my skin and my countenance with the fruit of my effort. It has been such a long summer of waiting and hoping and reckoning with my hunger for a new way of life. Eyes closed now, gaze turned inward, a big comforting sigh comes.

Not five minutes into the descent does my hunger reawaken and remind me that I have had nothing at all to eat since my early supper yesterday of pasta and creamy garlicky beans. It is a sharp hunger now, localized in my stomach. It is a pleasant hunger, not the kind that signals a low blood sugar drop and the feeling of panic that sometimes comes when body chemistry is out of balance. No, this hunger is the kind that enlivens the senses and creates anticipation. It begs the question, what is under the veil today?  The contrast between light and dark and green moving back down into life this morning also accentuates the feeling that there is nothing predictable or even stable about this business of finding a new home.

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The light is there for a time, illuminating the potential just long enough to engage and follow a certain path. Not unlike the waxing and waning of hunger, the light eventually goes away and something in the dark presents a challenge to negotiate with before the light comes back. The nourishment of green heartfelt living things around me sustains.  The visceral hunger I feel right now is good. It keeps me alert and moving forward and willing to do the work that must be done to recognize and establish where this new home can be…

perspective

It feels so good to be back out in the trail after a week away. It is now the week of Ben’s twenty-first birthday. Filled with the memories of that first morning with him just after his birth, his beauty, the unexpected news of his Down Syndrome, knowing that life would change in every way in his presence, I think about how much life has also changed for me in this one short month and a half of coming to know this trail. Walking along with Nora amongst a family of trees that have become so familiar I find myself looking for what a twenty-one year old tree might look like. The perspective of tree trucks at eye level is deceiving, they all look pretty much the same. But a shift eventually occurs and I begin to look for what kind of tree might embody the spirit of Ben instead of his actual age. This requires a completely different kind of perspective. I can feel his spirit up close and personal, and also that it is something HUGE. My eye is drawn to a patch of color on a tree coming up on the edge of the path. Focusing in reveals texture and distinctive markings, the micro-world of this particular tree drawing me in to connect.

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This place where the tree is a singular trunk splits just above this distinctive place and becomes two parts. Then I simply look straight up. This tree has continued to grow to a huge height in two equal parts that soar expansively amongst the others,

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while still significantly joined and connected at the ground.

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Well, that’s Ben for you. His immediate charm and energy has the power to invite engagement and shift perspective to open to his expansiveness.

Thinking about the final day of our lake vacation last week, I remember finally focusing on the beautiful roses growing at the side of the small yard. They were there all week and I would notice them out of the corner of my eye but they simply couldn’t compete with the lake that was holding our attention.  It was the last morning, as we were restoring order and packing up, when I felt the shift and found myself wanting to get up close and personal with these roses before we left. I couldn’t get the camera close enough. And once there, what I saw was the expansive hugeness that lives in these gorgeous blossoms.

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Cycling back around to Ben, I realize how much he has guided do me to focus ‘in’ to be able to experience the expansiveness of a moment. And smiling now as I remember his insistence that I take this photo of him doing his yoga the other night…

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I don’t think my perspective of Ben in this world has changed since he decided to share his presence with me. It’s just taken me twenty-one years to be able to shift the focus to where I can truly celebrate with him as an equal partner in this journey together…

the room

All nine of us fit comfortably in this room that puts us at eye level with the water. The room is enclosed with continuous windows on two sides that allow every bit of sun and breeze and sound to come in. There are pass through windows opening to the opposite wall into a kitchen that seems to be occupied just about a hundred percent of the time for one thing or another. There is a couch on this wall facing out to the immense sky above the water that hands down, is probably the most comfortable couch I’ve had the pleasure of making my bed at night. Sleeping in the room when the rest of the house quiets is pure joy and I wake to the sun rising every morning above the eastern shore on the other side of the lake.

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The room is just big enough for my five year old nephew to romp play with my parents five year old golden retriever while everybody else is occupying the edges engaged with a book or conversation or game. One end of the room is filled with a large round table and chairs.

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There are two plush rocker chairs at the other end, one of which was the scene of the funniest moment here so far, of chair catapulting me back with such force, drink splashing on adjacent window and legs flying overhead, and the entire effort of me trying to helplessly extract myself videotaped to a symphony of gut splitting laughter that filled the room.

About twelve feet of grass outside the windows separate us from a low concrete apron just wide enough to hold a single line of chairs and the edge of the lake on the other side. There is something about being so close to the water here. From this room we can hear every little lap and ripple in calm, and the rhythmic crashing of water against the wall during storm. The thing about this room is that it holds the full range of sunny to stormy family interaction.  This week is no exception.  And what I am appreciating is how easily we roll with it all while ever so perceptively strengthening the threads that bind us all together.

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The room draws us in and draws us out. Out into the clear warm water that has held such pleasure and fun for generations of our family returning each year to the essence of clear lake water and home.

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This year, it is the endless combinations of family on paddle boards.in waterplay that dominate the landscape in front of us in the space of the lake that extends from the room, offering a constant show of brothers and cousins ranging in age from five years to twenty-one years sharing time together…

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Like the lake, the carpet of grass outside is simply an extension of the room. Here there are more chairs and toys and places to sit and eat. Looking north from this space there are bucolic scenes of dramatic skies against the promise of vessels moving swiftly with the wind.

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Looking down is water so clear in the afternoon sun that you feel you can touch the plants swaying in the gentle current below.

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or watch the playful forms of resident ducklings with their mother…

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And then there are the meals.  We’re all still talking about the memorable kebab dinner two nights ago inspired by my sister-in-law Sam, individual skewers of marinated garlic lemon chicken, salmon, tomatoes, scallions, baby peppers, and steak, all accompanied by her homemade teriyaki sauce of reduced soy, mirin & sake, a pot of garlic jasmine rice and a bowl of freshly sliced cucumbers.  A perfect combination of fresh and delicious made possible only by easy collaboration and a mutual love of making nourishment an event, everyone taking part in some way, whether to grill, set the table, pour the wine, or finish cleaning the dishes.  We managed to squeeze all nine of us around a table in the outside extension of the room in honor of this unexpectedly glorious meal that so beautifully captured the spirit of all being in the same place at the same time, a snapshot of family happy at its best..

Mostly though, when the outside fun is done, the room draws us all back in to the large round table inside around which we sit to share meals that combine all the flavors and talents of this family each day.  Last night it was a large family size frittata, grilled steak and a bowl of freshly picked cucumbers and tomatoes dressed in oil and cider vinegar. This time, Dad plays sous chef and slices the large sweet onions and local new potatoes of every color just picked that day. In a large stew sized cast iron pan, the onions are sautéed until translucent, potatoes added and cooked until just soft. Orange yellow and red baby peppers are sliced into thin rings and added. About a cup’s worth of fresh Thai basil from my parents weekly farm share is roughly chopped and added to a dozen whisked eggs. The last and most important family inspired ingredient is the feta cheese, with a half cup borrowed and crumbled from one of the large blocks that will be consumed by the time the week is over, mixed with the eggs and basil. Heat is turned to high under the pan while the egg mixture is added, stirring just enough to integrate all the ingredients and letting them set before placing in a 375 degree oven to bake. Meanwhile, steaks are lightly brushed with olive oil and grilled by brother Rob. Dad prepares yet another bowl of cucumbers and tomatoes from his own garden. The frittata is done when the top is puffy and sizzling and with a little shake of the pan, all holds firm…

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Around the table, thick slices of multicolored frittata, perfectly cooked steak, cucumbers & tomatoes are loaded onto plates, hands are linked and heartfelt blessings offered. The room is glowing, holding the love for this time together and for each other as we enjoy the end of another day.

Now the last morning, I look out through this space that has held so much for us this week.  It is a plain and unremarkable view at the moment but it is early and the room is just waking up…

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shadow tree and me

It’s the day before leaving for a week of vacation and I’m already anticipating bringing Nora out here for her last off leash romp tomorrow morning before taking her to the kennel to be boarded. Nervous that her freedom will be so drastically curtailed for a week, I am wishing for her spirit to expend as much energy as possible to be able to rest in her more confined environment. I know it doesn’t necessarily work this way. She will adapt and do fine I am told. But I’m still worried. With this emotion swirling around my heart, we enter the trail. The sun is doing its thing and shooting spotlights. I turn around to look at the massive trunk being illuminated right now. Like a big spotlight on my worry with the shadow of me right alongside keeping it company.

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It’s an evocative image, this shadow, tree, and me. I love the detached feeling that comes with it. Placing myself in the shadow, it is just me and the tree and I can’t see the worry anymore. So it goes with spirit. It lives and travels as need be, without emotion, moving in and out of light and shadow. Kush’s spirit left his body a week ago but my goodness, his presence is still quite strong. It lives in the shadow of his energy that had such an impact on his sister when he was alive. Desi is like a different cat now that her brother is no longer physically here. She is more vocal, more present, more affectionate, she has even stopped pooping in the bathroom sink and has resumed a more normal relationship with the litter box. I know she misses her brother but she seems more free to me. And this gives me pause.

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I have a dear friend who doesn’t believe there is a reason for suffering in dying or suffering of those left behind after death. She just can’t accept that this could be a choice or part of a plan. I think of another dear friend who shared that yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the passing of her first daughter who died in womb just before birth. This event changed her life in ways she is eternally grateful for. I think of my grandmother, whose brain died long before her body and left her communing in spirit with those around her because she no longer had coherent words. She became the most luminous spirit during that time. And now comes an unexpected surge of emotion. Gramma in this life was such a free spirit. She loved trees. Even as the last of her ability to communicate this was leaving, she would walk around the neighborhood with me touching the trees in reverence, and then sit on my porch saying how much she enjoyed being with the ancient trees that enliven this space I live in. I am my grandmothers’ granddaughter after all. And free spirit that I would be, I do wish for each living thing to find their way to be free in spirit too.

This all comes together in a quiet moment sitting at the edge of the brook. Instead of moving full steam ahead this morning, I have found a large rock to sit on and watch Nora explore in the water, waiting for the spotlight of the sun to hit me this time. I don’t have to wait long.

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I don’t have to worry about Nora. She will find her way too.

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change

Driving to the trail this morning I am blinded by the low rising sun. At 55 degrees, fall is in the air. It is a noticeable change. With the sun now coming up later, the chill in the air is accentuated as we head toward the opening to the trail.

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Even the view we walk past each morning has now changed with the high growth of corn creating noticeable new form in the landscape.

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As we cross the threshold into the forest I am immediately reminded of the morning just one month ago when I began this love affair with the trail. Being presented with a vision of a forest angel as light and as life lived through the expression of Nora’s ecstatic romping felt like needed relief from the stress and worry of a house sale that wasn’t happening. I had found my dream property and my offer was accepted contingent on the sale of my house. Now I’ve just learned that the object of my desire is going to be bought by someone else who is able to make a non-contingent offer. The possibility of this happening a few weeks ago is now official and it is time to let go. My forest angel is here again this morning to help me through this change.

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Her light is more precise this morning, as if to reinforce the knowing that change in my life is on a focused path unfolding exactly the way it is supposed to.

Change. Another one of those great words that oozes ambiguity and nuanced meaning. Change is the result of something that has experienced time. Change is what is left when a piece of the whole is removed. Change is discovering that when the spire is ripped off, the castle still remains.

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Change is getting to the end of a path to watch Nora go one way while saying, “No, we’re going the other way this morning”, and feel the ease that comes with gratitude as she looks at me with tilted head and cocked ear before turning 180 degrees and trotting in the direction of the other way.

Change is in accepting the truth of the illusion that even something that is still, is still always moving.

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I am amazed at the feeling of grace that has come with this dreaded change. Nora and I are approaching the last stretch of the trail that runs along the brook again and we are met by Sam and his human Abby, Maggie and Ruby and their human Brett, and a little further down Miss Darcy (her name is Darcy but I can’t help it, Darcy and Nora together sound like something out of a Jane Austen novel…) and her human whose name I don’t know yet, smile. We stand around and chat as the dogs literally folick. In just one month I have become part of a whole new community in a place I love. It will be a new layer of community for me no matter where I land, whether back into the changed landscape of my current home, or into a new landscape of another place.

Emerging out into the open field we are met with sun bouncing off sunflowers. How I love sunflowers! Capturing this swaying beauty against the open sky is an affirmation of the change I feel already.

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It’s as if the cork has been let out of the bottle and the good stuff can now be enjoyed after a month of maturing.

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Almost to the car, I turn around and note the change a hour can make as the sun coaxes even the corn to grow just a little bit more today…

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reversal

Oh, what a day! First look out the window is dark with morning fog. Driving to the trail  with headlights on and anticipating a misty adventure, we are greeted instead with bright light pushing through the fog. I get out my camera right away for a photo of luminous light purple against dark green.

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Moving toward the dark of the forest but still out in the open of the wood chip path, the diffused light produces evocative scenes of middle range against middle range.

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And once fully into the trail and the womb like enclosure of the forest there is a full reversal: dark tree trunks against the sun-kissed tops of corn stalks beyond.

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I have been fighting a cold and it is firmly lodged in my chest right now. I can’t remember the last time sick accomplished such a successful invasion. No surprise that it is taking hold now. My dormant adolescent disappointment has not only been awakened and brought to the surface these past months, it has been challenged beyond all reason and I feel a breaking point approaching. Days of painful emotion have morphed into painful breath. To even be able to take a deep breath without coughing requires a clear conscious awareness of bringing air into the lungs slow gentle gentle slow. Like the slowing of wheels on a train that need to stop completely before the conductor throws the switch to reverse the direction of the train….

I can still sense the fog. It hovers, yielding to moments of sun burning through.

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Its presence offers a layer of calm and clarity to being here now that is counter-intuitive to the character of something that typically obscures vision. Now firmly held in the embrace of my beloved trail, I am aware of a crispness of senses, of clean sheets snapping in the wind sending out a scent of fresh like no other.  And we are simultaneously cocooned within an extraordinary light that seems to be contained by the fog.

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As a teenager, I expected everything to be as I expected. I expected life to be fair.  Simple right? For instance, I was a good driver. So why didn’t I pass my road test until the third time? I’ll never forget standing in the dining room with my mother just after receiving the notice of the second failure. She said to me, “I know it doesn’t seem like it right now, but there will come a day when you look back on this and laugh.” Oh, did I want to spit nails in response.

My relationship to disappointment during those years included everything and anything I actually wanted, from pierced ears, to being popular, to the ultimate of romantic love. Being gullible didn’t help.  I became a target for all sorts of silliness but would pout or cry in reaction often not befitting the actual episode, laughable in many cases, and despite my brothers mission to show me the humor, I would just become even more serious or angry. It’s just what I did. Of course there are all sorts of reasons I could dig out of the archives if I really wanted to. But somehow the reasons don’t matter anymore. The only thing that seems to matter right now is to bring about a reversal of this painful pattern and let the first responder be laughter instead.

Moving at a steady pace I know even before hitting the halfway point that we will continue all the way up to the overlook at Mt. Orient this morning. I’m sweating and breathing hard now and yet the awkwardness of taking a full breath seems be gone. It feels really good. Everything about where we are right now actually feels good.  The degree of comfort and focused light seems to be increasing with the altitude and the dramatic changes in character of the trail from one moment to the next.

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I have been reciting the Ho’oponopono continuously, a simple prayer that consists of just four phrases, “I am sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you.” It is a prayer of forgiveness.  Recited in repetition over and over seems to have a cleansing effect. By the time we reach the lookout, I expect to see a bright view out in sunlight after vanquished fog. But of course, that’s not what it is. Instead, the still present fog has created a bright view in. The muted blending of the treetops and sky beyond only serve to remind me that hahaha and big smile, my beloved trail has led me up here not for a view out, but for a view back in.

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That’s when I feel the reversal. And the comfort of knowing I could sit here like this all day, with me, in the neutral peace of this space.

It is on the way down that my beloved shows her whole heart to me.

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It is such a shock to see this beautiful blood red presented so boldly in an otherwise muted world of gray, brown and green.

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It is completely unexpected. But maybe I am now wired to expect the unexpected and with good humor, can go to the light side with it….

single

Muggy, dark, heavy. The air is so still that I can hear the buzzing of flies from far away and yet feel every nuance of insect touch at the same time. It is a visceral feeling as true as what I am offered as a springboard for inspiration each morning. I’ve learned over the past few weeks that what will come will come to me unsolicited. Sometimes it is in the car on the way here, sometimes just as we are entering the trail, sometimes not until the final stretch. It is most often just a single word. Ironically the word this morning is ‘single’. And oh, is this a loaded word for me these days.

Nora and I haven’t even reached the entrance to the trail and I’ve pulled the camera off my shoulder to shoot a particularly compelling stand of mauve violet wildflowers against the forest beyond. There is something about the community of flowers coming together as one in their equal relationship with the community of trees beyond that have come together as one that feels significant. Flipping the switch to on, I am met with silence instead of the rrrring sound of the lens coming out in readiness. And realize that the battery is still sitting in the charger at home! The sinking feeling of disappointment is met with disbelief that I will now be having my adventure this morning without the ability to record with images. I have to let go of a knot of worry that I might not be able to share in the way I have become accustomed. I watch my attachment to this morning practice loosen its grip a bit, and feel the difference of how much having the lens between me and my beloved trail changes the way I relate.

I am single. Unattached. At this stage of life, it is a minority status. Some express envy at this status and the association of freedom that comes with it, but most remain silent. How I relate and socialize in my community changes with this status. Not being the other half of a team changes how my community relates to me. It’s all a matter of perception. Out there in culture, I can’t help feeling like that individually wrapped piece of cheese in plastic that comes in a stack isolated from the rest, instead of being stuck together with other slices sharing the same package. But out here? As Nora’s human, I am part of a team first that feels as integrally a part of the whole of this beautiful landscape as the singular tree or rock or bird. Here I can be single without even my own expectations getting in the way.

Driving back though our neighborhood and up to the house, I realize that to get lost in the notion of being single in community is an oxymoron. Something can’t be a single unless defined in relation to a double or a triple or a whole bunch. Everything is in relation. Every single thing.

All I have to do is look at one of my quilts to know this truth. It is impossible for there to be a single anything in a quilt. Sure, there are whole cloth quilts cut out of a single piece of fabric, but turning it into a quilt requires thousands of quilting stitches to bind the three layers together. Tens of thousands. A whole village worth of stitches.

On my dining room table are the three finished hand appliquéd pieces that will be joined together with other pieces of fabric to complete the whole. Right now they are each single constructions that could stand on their own. But they want to be joined together and so they shall.

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In my hoop is the piece I am currently hand quilting. Each single stitch contributes to a pattern of single circles that define the essence of this piece.

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When I am quilting it is the same feeling as being out on my beloved trail. With each stitch taken, I am one with the piece and time stops in the process.

I know that being single will continue to present its challenges to me. But being aware of the power of removing the lens or the piece of plastic that metaphorically separates me from my community will go a long way.  Heeding the inspiration that comes to me each day will go a long way.  And experiencing the visceral touch of communion with both my beloved trail outside and beloved quilts inside will go a long way.