Pullin’ Weeds and Pickin’ Stones

After daily sustained effort, it looks like the weeds are finally losing the battle. I’m literally picking the weeds out of the stones, so I thought I could refer to my previous post about gardening and quilting.

Speaking of, I inched along and got this done:

(View from the inside)

It has been a week since Mother’s Day, and as I pulled weeds, I found myself thinking about mothers, and mothering, and me.

Maybe it’s because I spent Mother’s Day alone. More accurately, it was spent with my husband, who made me the mother of four wonderful grown adult children. Because our dog was convalescing from surgery, we had to stay home. The one offspring that wanted to come over chose to stay home with her dog instead. But the other two within driving distance didn’t make the effort to drop in with a card or a hug. So it was a very quiet day for us two old folks. I grew up in a large family and being alone was a treat during those years. But now that I can be alone, I find myself checking in with my feelings about it. I can only surmise that my kids knew I’d be fine without them gathered around me on Mother’s Day. And I was.

I was born of Depression-era parents. They grew up with the facts of ration cards, iron lungs, and hunger. Yet they’d talk about their childhoods with fondness; recalling good times shared with extended family. I realize now that the want, the worry of big brothers fighting abroad in the war, the silver stars appearing in neighbor’s windows, basically, the fear – was swept under their childhood rugs. It was the only way to get on and grow up and get out. And you didn’t give your parents any guff. They had more than enough to deal with already. I think about my grandmother, mothering her thirteen children through all of this. What did she feel on Mother’s Day?

My childhood was spent in the midcentury modern years, and all dad and mom wanted was for me and my sibs to enjoy being kids. They didn’t indulge us, but they didn’t pressure us to grow up before our time. We were good kids, so we did our part by pursuing carefree childhoods, and didn’t give them much guff. When problems arose, my parents swept them under the rug and ignored them. Was that still the best strategy to use now that the Depression and WW2 were over? On Mother’s Day, did my mom think about her own childhood and compare it with the one she provided for us?

Then it was my turn. The fear of polio and poverty were updated to new threats to my precious children. My parents worried about the bad influences that may have lurked in our neighborhood and school. But I had the entire world, filled with both good and evil, lurking behind the keys of my kid’s computer keypads. Instead of being exposed to the one odd kid who knew how to make smoke bombs; my own children could have access to lots more dangerous information than that if left unsupervised on the internet.

So we did our best to restrain and control computer use. As we struggled to keep the monsters at bay on the darker side of the web, our own precious children would give us guff from their side. I didn’t like being put into this position at all.

I loved being a mother, but mothering was no fun at all.

During their turbulent teen years, I heard a great quote – “You can’t parent effectively from a place of fear”. I had an instant attitude adjustment. From that time, I chose to recall the promises of God and put them in front of my motherly worries and fears.

I think of the mother of Jesus. How did she manage to mother Jesus without worry and fear being her constant companions? She had the ultimate evil attacking her Son from the day He was born in that lowly manger. I can’t even imagine how she held up as the plan unfolded and revealed what would happen to Him in order to save the world from sin and death. I can only surmise that she knew that she was not alone.

History

Reading through the Bible continues on this national holiday. I squeezed in a little sewing, too. Quilt of Valor blocks are collected at our County Fair, so I’m one seam away from completing one:

I just finished the book of Nehemiah. He was a governor over the land of Judea, which was under Persian rule. The benevolent Persian leader believed in giving his extended kingdom more local control. So Nehemiah was his man in Judea. Having the freedom to do so, Nehemiah took it upon himself to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. It was in need of a wall in order to protect the temple which was newly restored under the leadership of Ezra.

What struck me was the fact that he did so at great personal sacrifice. As a governor, he could have indulged in an easy life of advantage and privilege. Instead, he chose to take on an unpopular task which caused career suicide. He didn’t accept any of the governmental resources that would make him personally prosperous. He worked tirelessly and suffered many enemies. Against all odds, the job got done and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s Memorial Day today. We remember not only loved ones who have passed on, but also all military personnel who have served with their lives on our behalf. It’s a solemn day, even though we spend it eating hot dogs and waving our flags at our barbecues.

I was thinking; you won’t make it into any history book without having made a great personal sacrifice of some sort. Remember the email that went around years ago about the personal plights of the signers of the Constitution? And besides John, we remember that all the disciples died martyr’s deaths.

Service men and women have all made personal sacrifices to our country, but they won’t be found in the history books. They probably don’t want to be, because humility seems to come with the heroism. I’d like to thank them here, and tell them that on this Memorial Day, we remember.

Inch by Inch

This is happening row by row. One more border to go and Good Fortune top is done.Do you remember this song? It’s about growing a garden, but the lyrics could just as easily be about growing a quilt.

(Garden Song)

Inch by inch, row by row,

We’re gonna make this garden grow.

All we need is a rake and a hoe and a piece of solid ground. . .

(Quilt version: All we need is a needle and thread and piece of solid fabric . . . “)

Quilters are oftentimes also gardeners. This is no coincidence. We understand that it doesn’t take a Herculean effort to make the gorgeous end products. It only takes a bit of time stitching here, and dropping a row of seeds in the ground there. I spend a minute or two pulling little weeds each time I pass by the garden, and I sew a seam or two each time I pass by the machine. In time, little snippets of effort add up to something big and beautiful.

I’ve heard non-quilters look at a finished quilt and say “Oh I could NEVER do that – how much TIME did it take you?”

Honestly, I didn’t notice any huge chunks of time taken from my life to produce the garden bed or the quilts. They just grew as I caught moments to play in them now and then.

We all have time in common. How we pass the 24 hours we are given each day is our choice. I listened to Leah Day’s recent podcast and the guest spoke about those choices. She said we can either waste, spend, or invest the time we are given.

By the way, Pete Seeger wrote the song, so of course it’s a metaphor. We experience life events that move us in leaps and bounds, but for the most part we live incrementally – in the moments strung together.

Okay, I just googled the lyrics, and learned that Arlo Guthrie co-wrote the song. And the version I knew is different from the original. But these favorite verses are the same:

“Pullin’ weeds and pickin’ stones

We are made of dreams and bones

Need a place to call my own

‘Cause the time is close at hand

Grain for grain, sun and rain

Find my way in nature’s chain

Till my body and my brain

Tell the music of the land”

P.S. I’m reading through Chronicles word by word, so the Bible Sampler Quilt is still inching forward. It’ll be back.

In the Lovely Month of May

I haven’t posted in awhile because I’ve been away travelling, and reading Chronicles. The Bible Sampler Quilt is still in the making, I’ll have a block to share when I reach the book of Esther.

There was discussion this morning on Bonnie Hunter’s quilting board about Mother’s Day/birthday gift hits and misses. I’ll say that the best gift I received from my husband was a bicycle; an electric one so that I can keep up with him. And May is the perfect month to ride bikes. Not too hot, not too cold, everything’s in bloom. I’ve been trying to get a solo ride in every day, and I’ve just come back from one.

The brain is unleashed from the fetters of home when you’re out riding a bike. There’s nothing that can be done back there because you’re too busy flying over the land on two wheels. The imagination can also take flight on a bicycle ride. I spin nostalgic odes to the long-gone neighbors I miss so much as I coast past their houses. I compose the most thoughtful and unusually clever blogposts from the seat of my bike.

I tried to get to the iPad right away to share something of that with you, but I was too slow. And interrupted with a question about the mail. And I have so much to do that I can’t devote too much time to remembering anything right now.

Oh well, I’m sure they weren’t THAT great after all.

So I suppose the purpose of this post, besides checking in after so long an absence, is to encourage you to ride your bike! This cool dry May weather won’t last much longer. As Pa says in The Darling Buds of May, it’s “purfick”.

I’ll also share a quilt photo. So here’s a recent finish; completed just in time for a new arrival. You’ll see that I’ve been influenced by Bonnie Hunter to save my “bonus” HSTs. The other half of the ear units appear as pinwheels below:Fancy Foxes by Elizabeth Hartman

And speaking of bonus triangles, here’s my current WIP: I’m halfway through adding border #2 – the green bonus HSTs – to my Good Fortune quilt.

Just Dropping In

I am still here. I have to report that I am listening to the Bible on YouTube lately. I am not as strong aurally as I am visually, so I’ve listened through 1 and 2 Kings a couple of times each. There are so many kings to keep track of, and I want to make sure I haven’t missed anything. Besides kings, there’s Elijah and Elisha, and Jezebel. Right? Extraordinary and amazing things took place. I know that my goal was to read through the Bible, not complete an in-depth study of each book. But the scriptures are so very rich and laden with layers of significance, I feel like I’m doing a “Bible Lite”. Instead of digging into the word and staying there awhile, I choose to let the quilt blocks propel me forward.

Actually, I don’t have a quilt block to show you today. The next block in the Bible Sampler Quilt comes from the book of Esther. I’ve got both the Chronicles and a couple of books of prophets to read before I arrive at the book of Esther. But I wanted to put up a post, so I’ll show you why I’m listening rather than reading. I hit “pause” on the iPad and snapped this shot:I need my eyes and hands free. I’m not keeping up with the garden stuff very well, so plugging in the headphones allows me to make headway.

Today I’m harvesting some nopales. It occurred to me that this might be of interest to those who don’t live in the semidesert. Do you eat nopalitos? I don’t care for them myself, but I use the greens for my daily green smoothies. Nopales are very good for your blood sugar and digestion. Best of all, it’s surprisingly easy to grow them and process them.

First, you wear thick gloves and cut them from the plant. There are always stickers that embed in your skin, but as a quilter, you’re no rookie when it comes to getting poked. I’ve stacked the cactus pads that I picked on the left. I scrape the spines off with the serrated edge of the knife, and trim around the edges. Those parts fall into the sink where a basket is waiting to take them back out to the yard for compost. The trimmed pads are placed in the sink, waiting to be rinsed and sliced. I let them sit there so the mucilaginous gel can drain awhile before I bag them up.

These bags are ready for the freezer. I stack single serving portions for future use in green smoothies.

While I’m doing this, the plants outside are growing more pads at a rate that will overwhelm me. I’ll be doing this over and over again until my freezer says, “Enough!” So I try to relax and enjoy the fact that I have put up plenty, which will get me through until next spring.

Well, that’s it for now. Next time, I may be posting from the kitchen sink again. There are lots of other things in the yard needing harvesting. I’ll try to listen through each book only once so that we can get on with the quilt blocks.

37. Whirlwind

The next block in the Bible Sampler Quilt is connected with the account of Elijah being taken up into heaven by a chariot of fire. The prophet Elijah had fought the good fight, he had earned his retirement. God had arranged for his successor to be Elisha.

Now the time has come to pass the baton, but Elisha doesn’t want Elijah to leave him. What shoes he would have to fill! God worked amazing deeds through Elijah: He revived a dead child, started and ended droughts, sent down fire from heaven, just to name a few. A hard act to follow for sure.

But right before his eyes, a chariot of fire, drawn by horses of fire appears. Elijah is separated from him, a whirlwind snatches him up, and off he goes to his eternity.

Elisha is alone, the very thing he was hoping to avoid. But it’s a good thing he saw Elijah go, because it fulfilled the final prophecy Elijah spoke: that Elisha would receive a double portion of the spirit Elijah had because he witnessed the event. So Elisha knows he’s really not alone; he’s got the spirit of God in double measure. It comes as no surprise that Elisha goes on to accomplish amazing miracles and deeds.

Whirlwind

I spoke about one of the pitfalls of being a “process” quilter in my previous post. I give you Exhibit A in today’s post. It was so fun to jump in and start without a firm vision of the end product in mind. However, If I had planned well, the colors in this block would be brighter, and there would be no solid fabric used. I need to save the solids because . . . (drumroll, please) . . .

I have decided to complete a Laurie Aaron Hird trilogy of quilts.

For me, it began with the Farmer’s Wife Sampler. I absolutely loved the look of the quilt on the book’s cover, and so I made my fabric choices accordingly. I used reproduction fabrics and kept to the warm tones. I created each block individually, with its own variety of highly contrasting colors. I didn’t think about how the blocks would all look when joined together on the quilt top. It’s lovely, but I realized that my eye preferred some rest, some negative space.

My Farmers Wife Sampler Quilt Top (not quilted yet)

So my next quilt, this Bible Sampler, gave me the opportunity to tone it down a bit. I limited myself to one color per block, with white as my neutral. I can’t wait to see how it looks when I join all the blocks together.

When Laurie Aaron Hird announced her next quilt sampler book on her blog, I immediately knew two things: number one: I would make this quilt, and number two: I would use solids. I don’t know yet if the neutral will be black or white, or some other color. I’ve got plenty of time yet to decide.

Three quilts: all different, yet all connected. Visual evidence of my growth as a quilter. I haven’t yet used only solids as a design choice. I’m already separating them out as I come upon them in my stash. I have plenty. I am so excited.

Now, back to the Bible. I have to respond to the parts I’ve read in between the quilt block passages before I move on. Second Samuel broke my heart. King David had a son, Absalom, that he loved. Their relationship was complex, and it ended badly. Absalom was rebellious, and he died before his father. Isn’t that a parent’s worst nightmare?

I remember when I first held my own firstborn in my arms. My love for her was so beyond what I ever could have imagined. At times, this profound love actually made me shudder. I realized (maybe it was the first time I thought about this) that she held the power to crush me within her tiny body. To realize that someone outside of myself can affect my deepest emotions made me uncomfortable. Then when I was expecting my second baby, I worried that I may not love her as fiercely as the first. Silly me. When she arrived, I learned the true nature of love. It multiplies to infinity and beyond, it has no end, it’s not a fixed substance that has to be sliced like a pizza pie. My third, and then my fourth child were loved as profoundly and as completely as the first.

When Absalom died in battle (leading a rebellion against his father David, by the way) King David was absolutely heartbroken. His advisors actually had to tell him to get a grip, because he had won the battle at the expense of many men who were also sons and husbands and fathers. But I can forgive David his grief. Even though his son didn’t turn out the way he had hoped, he couldn’t turn off his love for Absalom.

36. I Wish

What kind of quilter are you? What’s your favorite part? The plan, the process, or the product?

The planner first analyzes the pattern start to finish, cuts all the pieces at once, then arranges the project in assembly line fashion. There is no hurry and it could be put down and taken up over months or even years. She employs baggies and sticky notes and boxes and bins that keep the pieces regimented in perfect order.

The process quilter gets inspired by something she sees that happens to work with something that’s already in her stash. She jumps right in, cutting up those stash pieces to see how they look. After being pleasantly surprised, she proceeds to the next step, and the next, letting the quilt direct her decisions as it grows. She intentionally has no end in sight to her project. She enjoys lingering in the middle. When she does finally finish; she’s a bit melancholy that the serendipitous surprises have come to an end.

Finally, there is the completer. She begins with the end in mind. She goes to the store with pattern and maybe a coupon firm in hand, and combat shops for the project. She may have a deadline imposed on her, or a group challenge she’s joined. As she pushes pieces under the needle, her mind is pushing ahead to the next step, then the next. The vision of the finished project is the carrot dangling in her head. The thrill comes when she is done-de-done-done. Ta Da!

Of course we aren’t exclusively one type over the others, but I sure can identify with the second one. My favorite part of the process is the part I’m doing just then. Maybe the middle child is most comfortable in the middle of things. Hmmm, this is true of me in all aspects of life. Something to think about. But there are pitfalls that come with this method.

One: the overall vision evolves beyond the initial inspiration. Example: my inspiration for the Bible Sampler Quilt came from Jane Stickles. When pulling from my stash, I purposely chose muted, warm colors with a white neutral. But now as I photograph my blocks and share them with you, I’m finding them to be a bit too muted. It dawned on me that old quilts FADE. Jane’s quilt might very well have been bright and cheerful. I’m intentionally creating a new quilt to look OLD. That’s not good. But at this a point in the process there are no do-overs. I’ll just overcorrect with more color moving forward. Fingers crossed, it’ll balance out and brighten up. Ooh, that’s something to look forward to!

Two: You run out of fabric. What to do? You make do and change the vision. For example, I have three different colored sashings on my Farmers Wife Sampler, and two different cornerstone fabrics. I’m over it, and I know I still won’t plan ahead with yardage in my future projects. The prospect of taking desperate measures to execute a Plan B is too exciting.

I guess there are only two pitfalls, and I can live with them. But if I were to have a do over I would’ve chosen vibrant purples, the color of royalty, for this block. I was going for gold, but the Queen of Sheba deserves much more drama than what I’ve given her.

Queen’s Treasure

I’ve read through both books of Samuel and the first part of Kings. Those are some gnarly periods in history, particularly in the accounts involving women. I repeat from my last post, people are weird. But this account of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon is a pleasant one. She had heard through the grapevine that he was exceptionally wise. So she saddles up her camels and brings him the usual: gold, spices, jewels, and so on. She then proceeds to test his reputation. At this point in history Solomon is listening to God, and therefore is blessed with wisdom, virtue and integrity. He’s very popular with his people. She is satisfied and an alliance is formed. But stay tuned, because as I’ve said, people are weird.