Necessary Steps

Amid revisions (never ending revisions….), I’ve been working on some floating squares projects.  One is done, although a little differently than I originally pictured.

Or photographed; initially I thought it would be positioned as above.  I had wanted to hang it along the same wall where my sewing table sits, but the piece is too wide for the space.  Fortunately I could just place it on the adjacent wall, near my husband’s PC set-up.

Although that would make it difficult for me to see the quilt top from where I eat breakfast in the mornings, but such is life.

Such is life sometimes….  What if that quilt top was turned ninety degrees to the right?  At some point yesterday I did just that, and found myself not only happier with the aesthetic result, but thrilled for how that wall hanging will fit right where I wanted it in the first place.

Not that I plan to put the additional project beside it; hard to enjoy one piece with another so close.  But I am much more content with the piece on the right now that it’s been turned in that direction.  One of the beauty’s of improv quilting; make that left turn at Albuquerque, and voila!  A new facet, and placement, has been discovered.

Similarly, I’ve been feeling so blessed as I mull over The Hawk; post-it notes have been accumulating along the bottom of my computer monitor, reminding me of things I want to incorporate when the writing resumes.  Finally yesterday I stuck all those scraps to a piece of binder paper, which sits on my immediate left here in the grotto.  This room doubles as my writing cave and where fabrics are cut, ironed, then laid on the quilt wall.

I sew in the other room, gaining steps in between.  And that’s good; steps are necessary in all junctures of life.

Steps, however, add up differently depending upon which task they are applied.  Steps on my pedometer get counted at the end of the day, although I check periodically to see where I am on my usual hunt for 7K.  Steps in sewing can be measured in the trek back and forth from the sewing machine to the ironing board, or in blocks gathering on the wall.

Steps in writing….  Hehehe, that’s a completely different kettle of fish, counted in myriad ways.  Word by word in the actual creation of the story, or even before that in every researched fact.  Then there are the edits….  But in that part, I’m finding deeper layers to this tale, not that it requires more layers, crikey!  The post-it notes are breeding, bless their hearts, and as they do, I’m becoming more in touch with the whys and wherefores within this novel.

I suppose I could easily equate the quilt photos within this post to how a novel is written.  If nothing else, the shots are bright, I have nothing to conceal in this aspect of my creative life.  So much of noveling lies trapped in my gray matter so as not to spoil what has already been released, and to allow post-it notes to simmer.  Yet, considering these relevatory ideas makes my fingers itch, my writing-brain aching to be put to work.  Telling stories has been imperative in my life for coming on a decade, and having to sit on my hands when it comes to the words has been….  A lesson in patience, at the very least.  It’s also been fruitful for the story, in all I have gleaned from the current manuscript.  And in what has been eliminated; these edits aren’t only to familiarize myself with plot and characters, but to again whittle away what is unnecessary.

Sort of like turning that quilt top to the right, so it fits exactly where I want it to.  Easier with wall hangings than books, I admit, but steps nonetheless.  Now, if only my pedometer recorded all these alterations….

Planning for days ahead….

The third quote goes a little something like this….

I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.

Two noteworthy bits about this quote; it’s by one of my favourite authors since childhood.  And I only decided to include it this morning, when I saw it on my page-a-day calendar.  I’d been considering “Better angels of our natures” by Abraham Lincoln, or a Pauline verse from Romans.  But the above quote, from Laura Ingalls Wilder, truly fits in with my current faith-walk, that of relevancy vs. irrelevancy.

That comes directly from Henri Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus, my latest lunchtime read.  Nouwen’s reflections upon Christian leadership have touched me deeply, mostly due to his idea of what is relevant and what is not.  More vaguely I’ve been pondering this notion over the last several months, but Laura Ingalls Wilder sums it up perfectly today.

Simple things are indeed best, like babies, quilts, love.  Oh, and a coming-together manuscript is a nice addition too.  I just finished going through what will be the next installment of The Hawk, and I have to say I’m quite pleased with how this story is shaping up.  I’m also happy with my latest attempt at floating squares.

I wanted to practice with this score before trying it out on an Advent wall hanging, and maybe it’s the hues, or perhaps I’m getting the hang of eschewing rulers and straight edges.  Laura and her sister Mary didn’t have rotary cutters and Japanese cutting mats to make their quilts, and it all went fine for them.

Or maybe I’m nostalgic for simpler times due to immersing myself in the early 1960s; yes, life is a little complicated for Lynne Snyder, but she’s a homemaker at heart, what with baking pies and tending to her husband.  While I don’t bake pies, I am a stay-at-home….  Wife, artist, writer, and I’m blessed by that existence.  And I’m equally graced by realizing the worth of my role, which isn’t loud or flashy.  Nouwen writes that seeking relevancy isn’t required for future leaders in the priesthood or ministry.  He states that leaders in the twenty-first century should strive for irrelevance amid modern times, permitting him or her to enter into “a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success and to bring the light of Jesus there”.

The current make-up, definitely subject to change....

The current make-up, definitely subject to change….

Two quotes for one in this last of a three quotes in how many ever days it takes challenge.  These ideas aren’t sexy, nor easily hash-tagged, but they are the elements that make up my beliefs, and how I want to live my life.  Sometimes I feel stuck in two worlds, and I am, one in which I now dwell, and that for which I am destined.  It’s hard, at times, because being relevant seems all this world wants to be.  As a writer, I’m supposed to make my work easily marketable, branded even, as if it’s merely commodity.  As an artist, my unique view puts the proper depth in whatever medium I am putzing around in.  As a Christian….  And there it become murky, one realm spilling onto another in an ethereal manner that perhaps most can’t see.  But I see it; I feel it in everything I do, say, consider.  And more and more I want my life stripped of all that is not relevant to my growth as a lover of Christ.

Thankfully Jesus doesn’t seem to include forgoing sports in that day-by-day alteration, whew!  Yet other pastimes have slipped by the wayside, leaving room for tending to family, admiring grandchildren, fashioning improv quilts, and building stories.  All of these parts, many others too, are stepping stones to another life which is veiled from most, even from myself at times.  “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”  John 16:12 makes it three quotes in one post, dude!   Yet all that Christ has to say comes simply, thank the lord, or my poor brain would be lost.  Simplicity that might look archaic to some is my goal, a foolishness at times, certainly.  Yet so easy, blissfully so, if grasped with hands eager for the effortless love that comes not from our own making.

Special thanks to Laura Bruno Lilly for inspiring the last three posts.  Quotepeace my friend.

My life before writing….

Equally I could add quilting to that title, but today’s quote truly hits home for me when it comes to prose.  I found this quote literally in a drawer; been cleaning out here and there, and here was this collection of sentences, not even a name to go with it.  Here’s the quote, and at the end of this post, I’ll add the author.  Perhaps you won’t even need the prompt.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.  Now put foundations under them.

When we lived in Great Britain, I played around with words; journal entries, poems, faith-based essays too.  But my heart and soul ached to spin a fictional tale; I’ve always wanted to write a novel.  Yet I was busy, embracing life in a different country, homeschooling three kids, cross-stitching like there was no tomorrow.  Oh and putzing around with literature but not in a wholly fulfilling manner.

Working on yet another cross-stitch, 2006....

Working on yet another cross-stitch, 2006….

I liked my meanderings with pen and paper, but how I longed for a project far deeper than two or three pages at a time. (Be careful what you wish for; you might find an enormous Hawk loitering from the corner of your eye….)

Fountains Abbey, 1999....

Fountains Abbey, 1999….

Now I look back at those years with such fondness, both for the thrill of England, being at home with my kids, stitching and crocheting and….  I was growing in faith and knowledge for all the words that tumbled with ease from eighth grade C+ typing fingers which hit like a tornado once we returned to America, to my home state of California.  All those authorial dreams came true in the Golden State; I wrote and wrote as if those airborne castles were as sturdy as ones enjoyed in the UK; Skipton was a fave, plus how many abbeys and cathedrals and massive stone monuments that weren’t going anywhere.

Fountains Abbey, 1999....

Fountains Abbey, 1999….

I did it; I actually became a writer!

But, before we moved home, ahhh….  Sometimes a dream haunts, tearing down that which we have managed in the here and now.  I was fortunate that wishing to write fiction never ate away at me, maybe I was too occupied with my life as a wife and mum.  However, my dream made an impression on my eldest, who in our last autumn in Yorkshire urged me to participate in National Novel Writing Month.  Suddenly I had a focus for this desire, and I grasped it with both hands, and have yet to relinquish the reins of that horse.  The Hawk might be lingering, but it’s not all that far away.

Our English village late on a summer's evening, June 2006....

Our English village late on a summer’s evening, June 2006….

I suppose I could use Henry David Thoreau’s quote not only to bolster writing hopes, but to also remind myself the end is near.  Or it’s closer; every day I reread that book, I’m closing in on the day more writing commences.  I long to tell anyone who dreams of writing that your dream is possible, one word at a time.  That is how to build the foundation, and sometimes it requires as much sweat and labour as those who constructed Fountains Abbey, Byland Abbey, and York Cathedral.  But it is indeed doable, and with every written word, the dream is solidified as part of your nature, as necessary as breathing.  I love to sew and cook, I don’t even mind throwing clothes in the wash.  But I need to create stories via written language.  Some stories are better than others, some will never see the light of day.  But for whatever reason they had to be written, if for no other purpose than to push me toward the next.

And to make that next tale less grammatically cumbersome, you see.

Regardless of the shape and scope of your dream, don’t permit it to waft so far above you that it becomes irretrievable.  Every castle is conquerable; the ruins of Fountains Abbey were one of our favourite places to visit.  Now it stands not as a solitary fortress for monks, but as an open, teachable vista where imaginations can liberate the most impossible idea.  I think Thoreau could have substituted abbey for castle; either way, step by step, word by word, build toward your dream.  The bliss upon reaching that goal satisfies in a most beautiful, soothing way….

One of my fave views of Fountains Abbey, 1999....

One of my fave views of Fountains Abbey, 1999….

Three quotes in how many ever days it takes….

My friend Laura tagged me in a blog challenge; three quotes in three days.  I accepted that challenge, noting that it would definitely take me more than three days, to which she didn’t object.  I love a friend who is flexible, hee hee.

A happy grandma with a Little Miss….

Since then, I’ve spent time with my kids and grandkids, pondered the first Father’s Day without my dad, but my son-in-law is now a parent.  Life evolves; from relatives to quilt-making techniques to books.

My son and the Burrito holding court.

My son and the Burrito holding court.

Oh yeah, books, The Hawk, ahem….  I can’t recall what I was last reading in that story, it has been that many days away.  Yet my sister is recovering well, I have hordes of new family photographs, including a shot of Dad stuck away in a box of ancient personal treasures.  I don’t know when this picture was taken, other than sometime in the 1980s.  I probably took it, but why?  That I will never know.

But I am still hoping to get back to writing sometime next month.  Today’s quote is clearly tied into The Hawk, even if I found the quote after the writing began.  GK Chesterton’s words solidified Sam Ahern and Seth Gordon’s experiences in Korea, and I have these words on an index card on my desk, always in view: The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.

He still likes being swaddled, while she appreciates unfettered limbs.

He still likes being swaddled, while she appreciates unfettered limbs.

I can’t tell you where and when I found that quote, a moment as lost as when I snapped the picture of Dad.  But I will say those words cleared up a great deal within my mind for Sam and Seth, who went to Korea for very different reasons.  Now I just need to expand upon those purposes, one chapter at a time.

From yesterday, taken by Little Miss' other grandma.

From yesterday, taken by Little Miss’ other grandma.

But first, some revising, or rather refreshing this author of that story, those reasons, that purpose.  The purpose of The Hawk is….  Ahhh, well, that I won’t give away, in no small part because I am still discovering that purpose myself.  But when I’m pointed in the right direction, smooth sailing exists.  Now to just squirrel away the time to write; it’s coming, of that I am certain!

Helping out at home….

This has been the sort of year that wherever I lay my head is home.  The past week I’ve been staying with my youngest and the Burrito, heading to my sister’s house while she recuperates.  I’m in my hometown, where at the beginning of this year I tended to my daughter and her baby, then my father.  Now it’s Sis’ turn….

Well, and my youngest and her offspring.  I’m the sort with free time and a calling to nurture.  2015 has been a year full of medical occurrences in which my presence has been welcomed.  I do miss my hubby, no question, but I’m also blessed with a large family.  I’ll be going back to Silicon Valley tomorrow, maybe even in time to see some of the Warriors’ victory parade!  But if I miss it, that’s okay.  Golden State took the 2015 NBA championship, and perhaps this autumn, I’ll be sporting a royal blue hoodie with yellow print on the front.

The Burrito keeping cool at Sis' house.

The Burrito keeping cool at Sis’ house.

However….  Right now it’s HOT in the Sacramento Valley, although early in the morning, it’s cool.  And quiet; daughter and grandson are snoozing, I have a cuppa, and my sis has her better half and best friend to assist.  I’ll traipse over there for lunch, compiling a grocery list before I say Hasta La Vista later tonight.  Both my sis and I are creatures of well-ingrained habits, and right now we’re equally fish out of water, what with her sore backside and slow steps and me living north of my typical climes.  Yet it hasn’t felt odd, well, she says her left hip is tight, and maybe her left leg is a tad shorter than it used to be.  Last night we took a fairly long walk around her neighborhood, she with crutches, myself and her best friend at her side.  Sis went further than she had first announced, then we turned around, for as she said, she didn’t want to be stupid.  Recovery from this procedure is going well, but she doesn’t want to rush it.  Similarly, I’m in no hurry to get home, in that I’ve enjoyed tending to those I love.  Fantastic conversations have been shared, good food has been gobbled, the Warriors won, although Sis is a Cavs’ fan.  She took that loss gracefully, one careful foot in front of the other.

Sis’ kitties spar on her bed; perhaps one likes Steph Curry, the other LeBron James….

I’ve made some inroads towards the first quilt in The Stanford Series; I’ll be first attempting Christopher Burkett’s Morning Storm.  Did a little fabric shopping yesterday while Sis napped, coming away with some vibrant greens to complement the navy blue I already have.  I picked up some dark blue fat quarters as well, and thread; I always need thread.  I also chose a yellow fat quarter in a subtle print, might need to return for some brown.

My grandmother with my son circa 1990.  Not quite Sis with the Burrito, but a good facsimile...

My grandmother with my son circa 1990. Not quite Sis with the Burrito, but a good facsimile…

Sis can’t wait to see the fruits of my labours, and I can’t wait to see her without crutches.  I believe she inherited her arthritis from our paternal grandmother, to whom she shares a strong resemblance.  I’m blessed to not have any sort of arthritic pain, and this with my sister has reminded me how precious is good health.  None of us are getting any younger, not even the Burrito or Little Miss.

Well, maybe Buttercup is ageless, but she’s a special girl.  I’m sure Sis feels the same toward her kittens, who were ever so pleased for her return.  And I know my husband is looking forward to my homecoming.  It won’t be as exuberant as the Warriors’ victory parade, but even for all the fun I’ve had over the last few days, my true home is at the side of the man I love most.

I have many homes, again another wonderful treasure.  And the best one is waiting for me, filled with my beloveds, plenty of quilts, loads of great books, and endless cuppas.  One of these days, one of these days….

On the mend….

Been hanging out at the hospital with my sister and her husband for the last few days.  Sis is improving, will probably go home today.  I’ll tag along, visiting my youngest and the burrito as well.  This week has offered me several intriguing vistas upon which to expand within familial ties, in art, and another chapter in a year full of medical sagas.  But this event is about achieving a better quality of life; my sister had terrible arthritis in her hip, and now she’s the proud owner of a new hip joint, and will begin incorporating that space-age replacement into her day-to-day.

My role has been that of a cheerleader, chauffeuring my brother-in-law between the hospital and our house, and keeping family and friends in the loop.  But I have been the pleased recipient of artistic gifts; the facility where Sis has been is also full of fabulous pieces of art, from photos and cibachromes to aquatic etchings, woodblocks, and prints of paintings.  A couple of Van Gogh posters are framed near Sis’ room, and I’ve accumulated nearly twenty snapshots of amazing art, which I want to turn into quilts of various sizes.  Photos by Jeffrey Becom first caught my eye, followed by Christopher Burkett’s cibachromes.  Then came Loretta Bennett’s aquatic etchings, and suddenly my improv quilting had a focus.  How cool to fashion wall hangings and perhaps even larger comforters, based upon these pieces of artwork?

I think I’ll call it the Stanford Series, not for The Hawk’s Stanford Taylor (although it’s a comical irony), but due to where my sister is being treated.  Helen and Peter Bing have donated a vast array of beautiful pieces, and I’m also a recipient of their generosity.  I have no idea which piece I’ll choose first for inspiration; I want to make some Advent floating squares wall hangings when I return home.  But then it’s a matter of picking one the photos I snapped, curating some fabrics, then interpreting that treasure via cottons and thread.  My brother-in-law was partial to Van Gogh’s The Pink Orchard, noting how Van Gogh had captured the cross-pollinating trees.  That piece is probably the most complicated, so it might sit on the backburner awhile.  But when I make it, I want to infuse it with the joy of seeing my sister on her feet, trying out that new hip.  On her second major outing, she said it finally felt like a part of her, but that it was also an odd sensation.  She is somewhat like Stanford Medical Center, being rebuilt to better serve the community.

The above shot isn’t artistic, but it’s indicative of my sister’s journey, tearing things down to improve the situation.  Fortunately Sis’ hip will heal much faster than clearing up a building site, and I’m grateful for the muse stirred within me.  There are reasons for all these moments; the key is seeing the beauty amid the chaos, even if that beauty is merely fragments.  Art encourages a positive outlook.  Thanks to the Bings and other philanthropists for surroundings patients and their families with healing, inspiring images!

The Beauty of Change

After a mild and pleasant May, summer has descended upon Northern California.  This morning at a little after six, my youngest daughter went for a walk with her son, sending me the above photo, also noting it was already hot out.  I was pleased for her foresight to get out while it wasn’t stifling, also for the gorgeous shot of her neighborhood, the quiet stillness a balm on my heart.

I’ve been faffing about with The Hawk: Part Two, and have uploaded a revised version, which now leads me to going through the novel again before attempting any writing.  I suppose I could note that my granddaughter’s belated arrival has set back the writing, but all these events occur for more reasons than my puny vision can manage.  My plan had been that by now I’d be adding to that story, but Little Miss took her time, and my sister is having surgery this week, so instead of labouring over plot and characters, I’ll be otherwise engaged.  In the meantime, I’ll reacquaint myself with the latter two-thirds of the novel so that when I do have time to write, I’ll possess a better grasp of just what is going on.

Sometimes certain parts of life get revisited more often than we plan.  That’s not a bad thing, when it comes to new babies and editing.  Summer heat however isn’t on my list of favourite things.

Still, the heat is a variable for some purpose, maybe only to appreciate cooler days when they arrive.  (Are they here yet?)  I was born and raised in the Sacramento Valley, yet eleven years spent in Yorkshire, England, turned this Golden State girl into a wilting flower when the temperature rises above 90 F.  Silicon Valley isn’t immune to scorching days, but our nights cool off more easily than in the Central Valley, thank the lord.  And due to all the bustling activity, no quilts are under the hammer.  I have a couple of placemats to hand-bind while waiting during my sister’s surgery, and if nothing else, hospitals are never hot, so I can hide out while the sun blazes.

I used my bathroom wall hanging as a comforter of sorts when my eldest was in hospital two weeks ago, draping that little quilt across my lap in the middle of the night as a baby was taking her sweet time to be born.  Now that quilt lives in the master loo, Little Miss is coming on two weeks old, time marching right along.  The Burrito is four months old, and I’m getting one step closer to delving back into a story that at times feels like it will never find completion.

Yet, The Hawk needs this time of contemplation.  The editing that took place as I revised Part Two wasn’t more than cleaning up two typos and eliminating several commas, but it has led me to reading through the rest of the tale, which for whatever reason is what this story requires.  And after going through three chapters this morning, revision is essential, what with slight sentence modification and more commas removed.  It’s keeping me in touch with this behemoth, maybe that is the most important part of this novel’s construction.  Never before has so much time elapsed within the writing process, which at times has been a little frightening.  Will I actually finish this saga has become the biggest query, but I can’t lose myself in that.  I need to stay right where I am today, which is in sticky Silicon Valley, although high clouds are providing a break in the heat.

The Hawk echoes many themes, love and war and faith.  But for me personally it’s about perseverance and the challenge of letting go.  Never before have I written in this scattershot manner, editing on the fly.  It’s akin to improv quilting, adding colours here and there without a plan.  And if I am willing to put everything on the line, not looking too far ahead, a fantastic beauty awaits, like this morning’s scene from my daughter.  I’m sure she wasn’t expecting to start her day so early, but the opportunity presented itself, and off she went, the Burrito in tow.   Her energy lifted my morning, it suffuses this post, and from there, who knows where it will lead.