Friday, October 3, 2008


Okay, so I still can’t work on the quilt that I’m supposed to be working on, and I finally figured out why. The quilt is of one of my favorite places—the Ashton Friends Meeting House on the Sandy Spring Friends School campus. The place symbolizes peace, stillness, and happiness to me.

Right now, I am not peaceful, though I go to meeting and take yoga three times a week. My life is in chaos, so I’m seeking serenity, but I’m not there yet. Neither am I still. I can’t even sit still in meeting anymore, and that’s unusual. I even fudge a little when I’m in relaxation pose in yoga, focusing on my breathing or tensing and releasing my muscles, trying to settle into much needed stillness. As for happiness, I can’t remember ever feeling more sadness and grief than I do right now.

So, how can I make an authentic quilt of this place when I don’t feel any of the emotions it evokes?

I can’t.

So today I started on a felted wool quilt using scraps from my maternal grandmother’s clothing, sweaters my husband shrank in the wash, and sweaters I gathered from dorm students’ leavings at SSFS. This quilt will have a rough felted wool front, with velvet sashing. The back will be soft cotton velvet, and I’ll try to find some fancy, satiny fabric to bind it with.

This quilt feels more like my grief. It has loss—my grandmother, my sweaters, my students--but it also has the soft, quiet side of grief that is the awareness that, as Elizabeth Bishop says, “The art of losing isn’t hard to master.” Okay, so her poem is deeply ironic and sad, but it’s still true that we can learn to lose what we love and still find joy and pleasure on the other side (the v velvet on the back of the felted wool quilt). I hope that working on this quilt will help me remember this.

You can find all of Elizabeth Bishop’s poem—“One Art” here.

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