doing the work

The molecules of spring in the air tease. I am itching to start a new quilt. New beginnings are just below the surface of the barely visible ground, still covered in a thin blanket of white on this cold late March morning. It’s that time of year that invites shedding, purging, and finishing. Closets have been cleaned out, preparations for a full body cleanse have been made, but all of my winter projects beg to be finished before I take on anything new. It’s time to do the work.

I spent the better part of the past week finishing the quilting of a dolphin inspired design that I had abandoned long ago. I had been too ambitious all those years ago, making a raw edge applique piece too big to accomplish the competent finish I desired. In an impusive moment, I had cut the whole thing up into pieces, thinking it would be easier to manage the machine quilted lines I was making. I remember feeling disappontment after sewing two pieces back together, how challenging it could be to make a curved seam under normal circumstances, but add batting and another layer of cloth, well, what a silly idea that had been. I had only ended up with an ievitable pucker and bulge never fully exorcised after mutilple rippings and re-sewings. All the pieces went into a bag after that, to be buried out of sight out of mind. I don’t know if it was the early call of spring or the call of this quilt to come out of hiding, but the urge to unearth the bag and iron out the long folded pieces for re-assembling on the design wall came hard and fast recently. Within three days I finished the last bits of quilting, sewed all the pieces together without the frustration of years ago, and fashioned a system of appliqued strips to enclose the seams. It would be a lot of extra work. Would it be worth it?

These winter months in the wake of my father’s passing have been quiet, as if inviting me to finally, cross over into a different way of occupying time. Not in the usual bursts of deadline driven effort that have characterized the tempo of my career as an architect and paid my mortgage. Everything about life at this time now feels, magically, more immediate. There is the time spent doing daily home health care work with elders, to being a daily presence for my daughter who is temporarily living at home again. Hours spent sewing, with needle and thread or yarn or fabric in my hands just becomes an extension of this new sense of dailyness that for some reason, holds the energy of Dad for me.

While sewing, a recently finished quilt that occupied wall space next to the worktable distracted me. It wasn’t right. I wasn’t in love. I was disturbed by the aspects of this quilt that, tweaked just a little, could easily evoke the feeling of a swastika. I had loved the making of the blocks of this quilt, large free form shapes in primary colors that were inspired by drama often seen in evening skies. As I sat and pinned and appliqued for the hours and hours it took to finish the back of the dolphin quilt, the flow of the work evntually led to a flash of clarity and courage to cut up this finished sky quilt into nine equal pieces. Which led to an entirely different way of assemblage that would require even more pinning and sewing of a system of self bindings into place.


More extra work. And worth every moment for the transformation that became possible.

Doing the work hasn’t just led to completion. It has led to spaces where change is possible.

Then there are the many feet of knitting that has filled odd hours throughout this winter. Almost twenty-four feet to be exact, four scarves worth, three bound off with many many tails of yarn beginnings and ends to be woven in to make the finished edges.


This work is equally repetitive, also hidden in the end, never seen except while in the process of its doing. It is the work of practice, of staying present to the beauty of a moment, however that might be manifesting. I have many hours in front of me of threading the ends of yarn into a large needle and finding just the right path for each one to disappear into. Is this what happens in death then? The thread of our life remaining interwoven into the memory of something worth remembering but now unseen, all traces of that thread’s beginning and end now consumed by the unknown?

Doing the work puts me in direct contact with this unknown. I wouldn’t have it any other way.




2 thoughts on “doing the work

  1. Thank you for that gift Of sharing your work and your thoughts. 2 days ago was the 7th anniversary of Keith’s passing. There is comfort in your words and I will keep thinking of them. Bernice


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