I was home just long enough to pack the car with everything I would need for a five-day quilting retreat – a perfect place, I thought, to continue work on Project UP (Unclogging the Pipes – getting stuff off my unfinished list in order to clear the way for fresh, creative ideas.) There was big quilt entitled "Solay’s World", begun when grandson Solay was 2; now, he’ll soon be 8. And there was my self-portrait, me at 67, also much behind schedule.
At the retreat, I spent two days on Solay’s World and was ready to throw in the towel and go home again. This quilt will be beautiful when it is done, but it’s such hard slogging to do all that careful and methodical measuring and cutting. I could see that it is definitely off-kilter. I was all tied up in knots. This is so not me!
And so on the third day I pulled out my latest unfinished self-portrait and breathed again. This project is one of a series. My first self-portrait was started 7 or 8 years ago, and finally completed a few weeks ago as part of Project UP.
The woman in this mandala is contemplating where she is in life, realizing that her life is a sum of the events and teachings she’s experienced. Some are life-giving, and some have caused damage. As she reflects on it all, she realizes some heavy baggage should be left behind, but some she can keep and nurture. New life will result – a better life and more honest.
Three years ago, about to turn 65, I once again turned to self-portraiture. The talking crow first made its appearance as an introduction to this blog. Its beak is open, and from it flows golden beads. This crow, like me, had something to say, and the time had come to say it.
What a year that was! I was often in a state of euphoria – I’d finally begun work on a long-held dream to combine my love of writing and quilting to speak about issues and ponder questions common to women of a “certain age.” It turned out that at least some of my “14" readers were younger women, and men, too, so perhaps these issues and questions are universal.
Approaching my 66th birthday, I created this self-portrait as a reflection of my happy state of mind:
As I approached my 67th birthday, I journalled about and sketched the next portrait, again on a crow theme (of course! – by now, I am known as the old crow. That’s okay with me.) In my journal, I wrote: “I am coming to another birthday, and my life has loose ends. I think it would be a good idea to work on a crow piece that reflects this theme. What are my loose ends? What do you do with loose ends? You weave them together to create a tapestry, that’s what!”
I pulled out a background I had pieced years before, and added a crow. The old crow is white – as is my hair. It was a beginning. Months later, as the theme developed within, I added Planet Earth, holding it in place with some threads and glittery bits. The crow’s loose ends were being woven into the fabric that is the world we live in. That was another step. A month or so ago, thinking of Project UP, I did some more digging and came across this beautiful quote:
In the tapestry of life, we’re all connected. Each of us is connected to those around us, helping each other be who we are, weaving a perfect picture together.
-- Anita Moorjani
After that insight, it was pure joy to finish this piece. I added more threads in various colours, and my own unique thread, fuzzy and nubby.
Much of the joy I experienced came from the encouragement and suggestions that my quilty sisters made to help me make it as meaningful as possible. These friends are living proof “that each of us is connected to those around us, helping each other be who we are.” As a grand finale, I added a moon and more glittering planets to show how big and beautiful this universe is that we are privileged to live and love and play in.
Eleven months late, it is finished!
I’ve journalled about my next piece in this series, and have a good idea of where I’m going with it.My birthday is in a few weeks, but this new piece will be a while in the making. Stayed tuned...but don’t hold your breath!