reunion

The light in the woods this morning was expansive. Not the laser like beams that can focus attention to specific places. This light felt inclusive and vast. Exquisite. Drawing me and Nora and Yogi into the next dark but inviting place.

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It is no longer just me and Nora on the extended morning walks. Yogi is of a size and need for expending energy that necessitates some serious exercise as well. While Nora does her usual romp and dash, Yogi practices being ‘with me’, the command I use for heel.

image Photo by Molly Krifka

I don’t dare let him off leash in the larger woods yet. We do practice off leash and recall in the smaller woods behind the meadow, and he knows all the benchmark points for re-connecting after one of his impulsive dashes. It does my heart good to see him run full tilt untethered, lumbering with grace is the only way I can describe the speed with which he takes off after his sister. But I am all too aware of the relatively short distance between me and him that allows him to tune me out and continue his merry way. We still have a lot of practice to do. In the meantime, our walks in the woods while Nora is off leash are interesting and clearly challenging me to open to yet another form of experiencing this place.

I just couldn’t take in enough of the light this morning. Accentuating how long it has been. Even the tree that has recently crashed down to block the path seemed to beckon.

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The entire walk felt like a reunion with green and rock and wood and hush cool path that extended way beyond me. I couldn’t help but reflect on this past month of Molly being home and our annual Ford family reunion. How family reunion can feel so different than this kind of reunion with vastness. Coming together with core family is exciting and challenging all at the same time. It allows us to rest in specifics along a thread of time that feels familiar and safe. But this thread that originates in memory can also be restrictive if clear awareness and care is not exercised. We can easily get lost in the laser like focused light of something past which might not hold room for the path of expansiveness that each of our lives has taken and led us to. We love and we want and we revel and laugh and sometimes we cry. It feels like there is never enough time to truly share the depth of who we are in our individual lives and how that might actually expand who we are as a family. But it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t stop us. We come back year after year, to commune again, creating another twist in the thread of memory that will always bind us.

There is a particular place along this walk that I love to arrive at. It is impossible to photograph, to capture the essence of expansiveness here. This morning I stood and felt the imprint of Molly at my side as she had been earlier in the week before here return to Peru. It was our last walk in the woods together and I wanted her to feel this place. She immediately pulled out her giant Canon camera and tried, even after I told her how difficult it would be. She finally gave up and said, ‘there’s no way to capture the depth of what is here’. Instead, she swung her lens around to the light sparkling off a small section of leaves.

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There we were, all together in focus, in light, and I know, always in love no matter what depth of experience was captured and taken home.

chapter 10 many moons – part 3

A sample chapter, offered in three parts, 
from my forthcoming book "The Yoga of Quilt-Making"

Part 3

many moons (13) many moons (12) many moons (10)

That spring of 2009 I began the more focused, technically oriented work of sewing everything together. Once each section was completed, the feel of the multitude of pieces now committed to each other carried the impulse to find backing and batting, laboriously baste the three layers of each section in place, and begin thinking about the quilting stitches that would eventually bind the ten foot length together. With the same kind of determined precision, I looked up lover Richard on Facebook and sent him a message. After twenty-nine years the comet had come back around, or maybe it was a Saturn return of our connection. Either way, once contact was made, we delved right back into sharing about our lives and discovering that we had been having many of the same experiences along a similar spiritual path. After many emails of shared intimate detail he offered his belief that the more obstacles we encounter along a spiritual path, the more opportunity we have for personal growth, that we manifest people in our lives to facilitate that growth. He likened this search for our spiritual descendants as ‘living the tribe’.

As self proclaimed tribe, we engaged in months of correspondence following this remarkable discovery and re-connection. It was now almost a year since I began the quilt. My daughter was graduating from high school and would shortly leave home. I was graduating from my Energy Medicine program and would shortly find myself face to face with where and how I could maintain the kind of intimacy of experience I had come to value through my training. All the while I was steadily merging together the faces of the many moons that wanted to be seen in the quilt. Or maybe three faces of the same moon. Each had their own identity, while waves of complementary color and form kept them inextricably linked to each other. I began to feel the wind like water moving across each surface, changing the texture of the pattern, prompting another view of the face that has always been there. Each face was now a smooth finished surface of precise seams, and I quilted them reverently with undulating thick machine stitched lines that would eventually interconnect with that of the face next to it. After the three rectangular sections were joined, more wavy quilting lines were added across edges to connect and fix those particular faces in place. Even when the face of lover Richard from the past disappeared again from my life as it did that summer, I knew it would still always be there.

The sum of the many transitions during that summer of 2009 led to finally completing the quilt, and into the arms of the next Richard. Partner Richard. Meeting him when I did that autumn of 2009 felt like perfect timing. He was intense, intelligent; connected to his life, land, and spiritual life in ways that attracted me wholeheartedly. We met through an internet dating service just a few months after I installed the quilt on Margaret’s wall. He occupied the center of the center of the now visible thread of spiritual friends named Richard. Whether teacher, lover, or committed companion, ‘Richard’ was a powerful presence. Each entered into a place in the flow of my growth just when I was ready. As soul-mates, each showed me an aspect of love I had been denying in myself.

Margaret was the best kind of patron. She believed in me and my work even if I didn’t. And she was willing to pay for it. The value I placed on the work of the quilt went unquestioned. When I told her that the fee she was be paying me would be financing my trip to California to engage in a one on one intensive session with one of my teachers there, to continue to explore where this path in front of me was leading, she smiled, and showed me the goosebumps on her arm. Our work together was done.

********

Partner Richard pulled the thread of trust a little too tight, and it would be several years before discovering that I wasn’t ready for the unconditional trust in love we desired and aspired to in partnership. We worked really hard together. There was ample common ground, and there was ample conflict. We pushed each other to our limits. It was with great sadness after a year and a half that we ended our relationship. The gift this time was of feeling clarity, and from this, a quality of love and acceptance in letting go.

I am grateful to Margaret for her generosity and her intuitive understanding that what was meant to emerge, would emerge. It doesn’t matter that ‘Richard’ to her will never hold the same meaning it does for me. She simply gets to live with this expression of the many faces of love I discovered in the process, every day.

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chapter 10 many moons – part 2

A sample chapter, offered in three parts, 
from my forthcoming book "The Yoga of Quilt-Making"

Part 2

many moons (13) many moons (12) many moons (10)

I became very clear about how to proceed. The quilt would be constructed in three sections. I took advantage of my computer graphic skills and the large printer in my office to make templates for each moon. There wasn’t any logic or rationale to why each moon came out the way it did. My eye guided the composition. I chose a varied palette of textures and types of fabric to work with, wools, cottons, hand dyed and commercial alike, prioritizing the blues and reds that Margaret seemed to be drawn to. Each of the three moonscapes would be fully composed and quilted before being attached together to form the final ten foot length.

I spent the better part of six months composing. My tiny studio and design wall couldn’t contain the energy of what I was feeling. Each time I came in to work, I had to lay all the pieces all out on the floor in sequence anew, to see relationships as they were developing. I would work for a day or two, and then walk away for weeks. I didn’t feel rushed or compelled to move fast. Sometimes I would enter the studio, look at what was developing, move just one piece into a new place, and walk out. Another day I would get caught up in the frenzied feeling of not being able to leave until there was both a visible and viscerally felt completion of the moonscape I was focused on.

By spring of 2009 the design was complete, hundreds of pieces of fabric pinned together. It was order restored, with sections of fabric pieces fitting together just the way they were supposed to. I loved how the moons seemed to emerge from and at the same time merge with the context in which they lived. The number three played out again in the beautiful hand dyed piece of fabric that occupied and seemed to scroll through the center of the center moon, as if to draw me into some magical meaning or to some place I might be resisting going to. I hadn’t thought about the dream of the fat man for awhile but it came back now as if remind me that it still occupied the center of me in a significant way.

I had been rummaging around in my stuff for years looking for the actual documentation of this dream. What I remembered clearly was driving along a country road with my husband and we stop at a small body of water to the right. It is a perfect circle, feels like a pond. There is a large man treading water right in the center of this pond, dark curly hair and wire rimmed glasses. And even though I can only see his head, I know he is very big and Buddha-like, fat. He has the most angelic smile on his face, looking at me. I enter the water to his right and he turns to face me as I swim gently toward him, feeling his smile as I approach. Just as I reach him, I wake up. Even though I could recall it so clearly, I was sure I had written it detail by intimate detail into one of my diaries. I’d been scouring all my writing back to 1995, desperate for the validation that my memory was true. I even remember telling my mother back then about a series of dreams I was having about ‘being in love with a fat man’ and that I thought this was a metaphor for an unconditional love of my husband at the time no matter what his physical form.

Looking again now through my archives, I found a diary from 1980 that I didn’t even know I still had, written when I was twenty-two years old. Just the first few dozen pages had entries, seven of which were written to ‘Richard’. As I read these entries a strange familiarity passed through me. I feel a peace I have been longing to feel, maintaining and even heightening my energy level and desire to grow, and yet it isn’t the frantic longing and anxious questioning that I have always experienced. The peace I feel is one of total understanding – of the spirit – we of the words possess such an infinity of soul that I thought did not exist in this world….I just want to experience the awe of the love I feel.

I was writing to a Richard of twenty-nine years ago.

I was on fire all over again. The way he used to make me feel. Like the obsession with finding the dream about teacher Richard, I couldn’t let go of the surge of memory that returned with this lover Richard of the past. I was an archaeologist who had just discovered a life-changing artifact. I was a dancer, dancing a choreographed dance with an irresistible partner to all the dreaming I had done together with this man. I thought I had been in love then too.

Finding the diary from so long ago felt like some kind of divine intervention. I was still negotiating unfamiliar waters of emotional turmoil but whatever had opened in me had stayed open to feeling waves that kept me firmly in a flow of questioning every love relationship with a man I’d ever had. How had I forgotten about this lover Richard of the past, the one who wrote me love poems and saw me the way I saw myself when I went deep inside? Curious about where he might be now, it didn’t take but a moment to find him through an internet search, and there he was looking into my soul once again from the photograph in a Wikipedia entry chronicling his life and career. Successful playwright, comedian, artist, writer, father. I was twenty-two years old again, feeling very stylish with my long thick hair flowing out of a Barbra Streisand style cap, the kind she wore in her movie ‘What’s Up Doc’, subdued after a rowdy weekend just spent with a college friend, on my way back to New York, waiting for the train to start moving again after its stop in Philadelphia. He was standing in the aisle, handsome with shocking blue eyes and a slightly-crooked mouth that was demanding to be seen. He was staring at me across the empty seat that he politely asked to sit in. I don’t think it was even ten minutes before he had me doubled over in hysterical laughter with a spontaneously inspired chihuahua routine. He had my heart before we even pulled into NYC. We exchanged numbers on the platform at Penn station. Our love affair took off like a comet, intense and hot. And like a comet, when the short life of the flare couldn’t be sustained, the love affair ended abruptly. We were together four months. And then he was gone.

to be continued…

chapter 10 many moons

A sample chapter, offered in three parts, 
from my forthcoming book "The Yoga of Quilt-Making"

Part 1

many moons (13) many moons (12) many moons (10)

The making of Many Moons was a year and a half long endeavor that began the day I sat with Margaret in the spring of 2008 waiting for our kids to finish their swim practice. We knew each other best as yogi friends participating in a local ‘Yoga Sutra’ discussion group together. But instead of diving into a conversation about the path to enlightenment that day, we were discussing best places to buy fabric. Sitting at the edge of the pool with the background music of rhythmic slap and splash, I shared about my recent quilting work, and she shared about recent sewing projects she was enjoying with her daughter. She asked about seeing my quilts, saying she had an oddly shaped wall in her kitchen great room that she was reserving for fabric art, maybe I had something? There was no pause, no thinking this over, she simply followed me home right after practice to look at what I had to offer. I laid all my finished pieces out on the floor of my small home studio. On her knees, she flipped through the stack of finished quilts like pages of a book, expressing her delight with oooh’s and ahhhh’s, stopping at a few she really liked, knowing they were all the wrong size for her wall. Eventually she looked up and with the expression of one ready to make a commitment and asked, Do you do commission work? Me smiling, Of course. That settled it. I went to her house the next day, measured the wall the quilt would be living on, and began to dream.

One of the many extraordinary aspects of making this piece on commission was the way Margaret engaged with the process. I had picked the palette of color and fabric that I knew resonated for her. But beyond that, she felt no need to be involved. When I asked if she wanted to review some sketches I had made for a conceptual design she said, No, I trust that what you make will be exactly right. I had permission to follow the energy of what was developing without conditions, without an agenda. And where I was growing used to this in my own process and work, it was the first time I consciously experienced such unconditional trust from another, and the creative freedom that can result.

It would be months before I actually began making something. Margaret was in no hurry, and I was waiting for inspiration. It finally came with a series of photographs taken at Cape Cod walking the beach during low tide on the bay side, where the retreating water would leave evocative patterns in a vast expanse of sand. I was a year divorced. I had just finished the third year of my Energy Medicine Training. I was in love. I knew that much. But there was nothing clear about the feeling. I couldn’t grasp what honestly expressed love looked or felt like. I was living with this emotion from inside a tightly wound ball that had begun to unravel. I couldn’t dare focus on the possibility that I might be in love with my teacher Richard, that it might have been this love that finally broke my marriage beyond repair. I drifted along those broad stretches alone after each low tide feeling the grief that seemed to be with me all the time now. I was mesmerized by the beautiful grooves that would pull me along and then suddenly morph into something else as another stream merged with it. I was in love. I would follow a specific combination of shadow and water in each rivulet with my eyes, while feeling the silky texture of the tender ridges collapse under my footsteps. This vast terrain was so exposed in the retreating tide, so vulnerable to the slightest intervention. How could I not pay attention to what was shifting inside of me too?

My connection to teacher Richard was held by the firm boundaries of a teacher student relationship. Famous throughout the school for his hugs, he would simply open his arms and wait for you to enter his enormous energetic field. His large arms would enfold ever so gently but firmly and here he would stay for what seemed like a very long time. It was impossible not to sigh and settle in trust in one of his hugs. At the end of a class weekend during the first year of our training, I waited to be the last to say goodbye to him, wanting one of his famous hugs in the worst way. Open and vulnerable from the transformative work of the weekend, I would be returning home to a husband who was resentful of the process I had chosen to engage in, and two children who were sensing the shifts occurring in their mother, but with no clear understanding why. It would be years before I understood that the intimacy that felt so intermittently captivating from this work could be something constant. In the meantime, I needed the validation of physical heart to heart with another human being.

Standing there that night in a hug with teacher Richard, something light and timeless opened in me. I heard sobs even in the absence of tears. Deep resonant sobs that infused every molecule of the space I seemed to be suspended in. Were they my sobs or Richard’s? Maybe universal collective sobs? I would never know. The hug ended. We said goodnight, the outside face of this simple ritual exchange of two people parting ordinary and typical. But for me, everything changed in that moment. The trajectory of whatever path I had been on up to that moment veered off in a very different direction. I was sure that what I had experienced was some kind of love. Not like any kind of love I thought I knew. This love had the terrifying power to catapult me completely and irrevocably into unknown territory. And even though I knew Richard was just being my teacher, I couldn’t extricate myself from the man. I drove home dazzled by the reel that had begun running in my head, flashing through every love I thought I had experienced with every man I thought was ‘the one’. It was then that I remembered the dream about ‘the fat man in the water that I am in love with’. I realized Richard was the image of the man in the dream. Driving the highway in a kind of numb I could only feel when caught in a lie, this felt ten times worse because I didn’t even know there had been a lie to catch. I had been so sure that dream was about my husband John.

A few months after this experience I read,

“Real teachers leave no traces. They’re like the wind at night rushing right through you and totally changing you but leaving everything unchanged, even your greatest weaknesses; blowing away every idea of what you thought you were and leaving you as you always have been, since the beginning.” (Peter Kingsley, The Dark Places of Wisdom)

Teacher aside, I was lost to a torrent of emotion. I surrendered. The only thing I could do was strap myself in and go along for the ride. Months of dark night of the soul sleeplessness followed. It was a poignant time with my husband. He was convinced I was having an affair, and I was terrified of the affair of the heart I knew I was engaged in. I didn’t know how to tell him about my experience with teacher Richard without shattering the illusion of love that was still tethering me to my marriage. That tether finally snapped one night when he found me huddled in a corner of the living room couch in the dark of wee hours. He demanded to know what was wrong with me. When I couldn’t offer anything coherent beyond, something is opening in me and I don’t know what it is, he simply and definitively told me he didn’t want to go there with me.

The quilt finally began as an exploration of repeating forms left from the retreating waves in sand, undulating lines that could move across the very long stretch of wall wanting to be filled in Margaret’s home. I could see and feel each moment in each ripple of each photograph, a continuum of energy that could easily morph into form. I don’t know where the series of spheres came from or exactly when they appeared. It was if the waves opened up on a whim or impulse and made space for them to be seen. In sequence, like phases of a single moon capturing a moment of illumination in the cycle of its orbit. Or like many moons, with the face of a shared story.

to be continued…

the yoga of quilt-making

Walking in the woods early as the sun is making its presence known is a joy I haven’t felt in over a month. Glorious morning light coaxed the newly soaked ground to respond in an interplay of light shadow and mist. This pattern of light through the trees hold a truth whether summer or winter.

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I didn’t realize how much I had been holding my breath these past weeks, waiting for something to shift. Shockingly, the knitting and ripping back routine of the past week has continued. I literally am still at the same place I was in the edging of my shawl that I was a week ago. I’ve tried everything from ripping back just so far thinking I’ve got it, only to realize there is a big hole left behind. First I knit a few more rows thinking i can just ignore it, but i can’t. I try to fudge, pick up stitches in a creative way, thinking, oh, it is just a little blip, no one will notice, but that little fib always translates through and shows up as a hole again. I don’t give up, refuse to give in to the fact that something is way off here, that maybe the order of perfection in this pattern is permanently disrupted and there is no going back. It’s as if the challenge of knitting these days has moved into the part of my brain that I have been able to detach from in a pursuit of finding order in a new way. This part of my brain that covets the predictability of pattern and yearns for the perfection of every stitch being in the right place is clearly still alive and strong.

I needed to see that the sensibility of order being revealed through a pattern of repeated activity is no different that what I experience in the process of quilting. In the now completed winter woods quilt, each curve of stitching is like the stitch the precedes the last. They all follow and depend on each other for the order that is there to be revealed

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The knitting project has been set aside. I will come back to it after some time, after trying another technique in another chapter of the book of knitting that will allow my brain to see the order there once again.

I’ve also been working on a writing project, for several years now. The working title is ‘The Yoga of Quilt-Making’, and I suspect it will remain so. I’m at the point where the vision of the complete manuscript is finally clear. It’s exciting to be here and equally terrifying to be on the brink of making public this deeply personal piece of work. The blessed sound of the water in the brook this morning reminded me that while there will always be conscious creative flow in the structure of my work, it is the yearning for perfecting this craft of writing that has been holding me back from actually getting it out there. I have been sharing drafts of chapters with my two writing groups and receive wonderful feedback. For years I have been going back to edit, edit, edit. Write a little more. Edit edit edit. Three steps back to take one step forward until finally, the pattern that has been there all along reveals itself and I can move with confidence toward completion. Discovering order has been a passion for as long as I can remember. It is the core of my story.

I look forward to posting the first chapter in parts over the course of the next week.

The introduction to the book began with two thousand words. Was edited down to two pages, then finally down to just these two paragraphs….

THE YOGA OF QUILT-MAKING
INTRODUCTION

Every quilt has a story.

Like other spiritual traditions such as walking pilgrimage or silent meditation retreat, quilt-making is ‘a way’. It has the ability to become underlying structure for a patchwork life that informs all of one’s work in the world. It can create context for experiencing all that one can be moment by moment, stitch by stitch.

Every quilt has a story. I share life events through each telling. It’s not a timeline, but rather a chronicle of hopes and dreams interchangeable with challenges and realizations in a non–linear way. In a playground of many teachers and no one master, The Yoga of Quilt-Making is my testimony to an infinitely rich weaving of consciousness with countless moments spent in sacred space, with Love.

Namaste.

Kathy Ford, 2016