Buzzing

Let me start with the easy stuff, the stuff that’s in my hands all the time: cloth, needle, thread, shapes, stitching.

While I’ve called this the #dungeonofcute on Instagram, I am happy that I finished it, and that it is really cute. I set up a place on my blog to corral all the handouts I made while working through this. I made a series of tip sheets that collect all the disparate information that Lori Holt presents on her blog, and hopefully will serve to help those who decide to jump in to Bee Happy. Borders are up next.

I started to wonder why this was so hard for me. There is the matter of all that stitching. By hand. It is also a quilt of medium tones and values, and while I do like those quilts, I tend to be more comfortable using stronger contrasts. And maybe I’m not as patient as I could be? And maybe because I felt like I was always buying her fabric, so everything could neatly “fit in together”? Sunshine and rainbows and unicorns and charming motifs and flowers and buzzing bees?

This week has provided us all with a way of looking at the side we don’t often see, the side that gets hidden behind a tidy facade. I’m a Pollyana from way back, and am always looking for the rainbows and the hearts and flowers. But there were more than a few things in the past few days to knock me around. It was that kind of week.

From this, the (mildest of) images, to the videos and pictures generated by another visitor to Lafayette Park, the news stories chronicling the fights and the hate and the soldiers and the protestors and the (unneeded) clashing.

This week, our Instagram feeds filled with these sorts of images:

House in my neighborhood

Then a couple of days ago, I was surprised to see this statue from Alexandria, Virginia in my southern California newspaper. I’d walked past this statue often when I lived there, and thought it a rather simple memorial.

The art critic calls it a “racist civic sculpture celebrating white supremecy.” Its location in Alexandria is right where the main street through town gives way to a bigger highway, shuffling the traffic over to bridges and it faces south, away from the town. It was, when I was there, a mostly ignored statue. Is it okay to admit to liking this simple memorial in an area full of memorials, a soldier contemplating his fallen comrades? But this week, given our new vantage point, and out of necessity, it came down. And as my historian sister says, a lot of ink has been spilled on this topic recently.

So, this week I sewed.

This week I listened and watched.

I spent time in my garden, catching a glimpse of a late-blooming peony. I read through news stories of the protests, stunned at more instances of thoughtlessness. I would step away from the television and computer every night then lay awake in the dark, wondering what kind of senseless world I was living in, when people were singled out for how they look. I had no answers, just a lot of tired mornings, when I would repeat the cycle again. I wanted to make it all happy, turn the cloth under, hide the fraying and the raw edges, but I was being asked to see it from another view, a richer, more nuanced, and painful view.

A flower for George

I wish I could wrap up this post in a tidy little package, give a neat turn, but this is not that kind of week. This is the kind of week where you wonder. This is the kind of week where you decide what you want your country to be. This is the kind of week that you pay attention to what’s on the other side of things, knowing that they can make all the difference.

12 thoughts on “Buzzing

  1. Honestly, I don’t think I know what to say or think Elizabeth, just there has to be a better way…. We certainly have our own problems with indigenous people too. If only we could stitch everyone together with needle and thread. You Bee Happy quilt is pretty, and such a lot of work. All that handstitcing is a real labour of love. It will be treasured by the lucky recipient, I’m sure.

  2. It’s hard (if you are a white privileged person) not to be defensive during all this upheaval. We can’t rewrite history or ignore it if it makes us uncomfortable. We can learn from it and make changes for the better. I think of my core values and what I taught my children. J-O-Y. Jesus – Others – Yourself. No matter the skin color or economic level or education level. Work hard, be kind, acknowledge blessings in your life. be a blessing to others. Every day is a new beginning….draw a line and start again. I appreciate you sharing your quilts and your talents and your thoughts Elizabeth. Thank you! 🙂

  3. Your column reminded me of what a friend once said to me as she was watching me do some needlepoint. She remarked that from her view it was all knots and ends and chaos but the other side was beautiful. She mused that we sometimes only see the chaos but God sees the other side. I find it very difficult to see beyond the hate and darkness. I am immobilized by all that is happening. Today I will try to focus on the good. The rest will be there tomorrow to try and fix. Your words are always welcome.

  4. It could be that the juxtaposition of all the bright, cheery, and happy has just been too jarring given all the existential turmoil that 2020 seems to have revealed laying below the surface. Regardless, congratulations for sitting with it all and getting the quilt top finished and ready for the borders. May we all sit with the current state of our nation and come up with a path forward and lasting change.

  5. Wise words Elizabeth that do inspire us to “think with our hearts” as Sarah said. Your quilt is beautiful and so cheery. Perhaps we can all keep seeing the colour when we watch the news and live our lives and our world just might become a better place. 🌺

  6. Speechless. That is how I have felt in so many ways this past week. And yet I have had many meaningful talks within my family. It starts there.Today I will choose to be happy!

  7. Your quilt is darling. I don’t know how to articulate my feelings for where we find ourselves in this country. It makes me sober, solemn, sad and prayerful.

  8. I have no words for what is happening, I do know that I must educate myself more so I can counter the “all lives matter” people. The post by @fashion_hendricks is a good one. I love how the sun shining through the reverse side of your quilt has given it quite a different look, well done on getting it ready for the next stage.

  9. I’m distressed too. I’m distressed by the murder of George Floyd. I’m distressed that this has already happened countless times, in your country and mine (Canada), and yet here we are again. But I am also heartened by the protests. I am hoping that this is a turning point in our collective history. I reject the phrase “all lives matter” because — of course!! — that’s not the point. I see the rallying cry, Black Lives Matter!, as a retort to the many, many instances where Black lives have been made not to matter, as in this most recent tragic instance. I stand with this movement and I am trying to ‘do the work’ necessary — to learn more about anti Black racism, to study history better, to reflect on practices within the institutions I’m part of — my workplace, for example. This is how we stitch things together. We can do better, but we’ve got to work at it. As quilters, we’re patient people. We know that every small action contributes to the whole. We plug away and plug away! Let’s do that now. Let’s examine each small thing we do and change it so that we can make a whole that is better than the whole we are at the moment.

  10. Elizabeth, that last comment, PTP, was me. I was logged in from another account and didn’t realize. I’m happy to own my words and didn’t want to leave you wondering who it was. 🙂

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