Digital/Virtual World · Guild Visits · Something to Think About · Zoom

To follow the notes of a disappearing bird

I work upstairs in a bedroom at the end of the house in what used to be my daughter’s room, before this penultimate child burst out into the world, leaving home at twenty, coming back only for visits — an ending I didn’t see coming, for sure. In that room, my sewing machine sits on a desk that runs underneath a double-wide window, and my view is visually sheltered there by the boughs of a silk oak tree, like a frame.

Just below the window, and sometimes climbing up the screen, is an enormous wisteria vine — no it’s really two vines — stuck in the earth some thirty years ago when we moved to this house. In the spring it’s an uncontrolled explosion of heavy blossoms, followed quickly by incessant leaves and sinewy vines and tendrils, climbing, growing, spreading, taking over the old arbor full of termites and carpenter bee holes, and reaching over the pathway to the silk oak.

Two days ago I was startled by a squirrel that leapt from the roof of our house onto the silk oak limb, and as the wisteria has its tendrils wrapped around that one, too, the whole green carpet above and just below my window was set into motion with the squirrel’s landing, a rustling that kept me watching until everything stilled and the squirrel descended down the trunk and onto to other things.

I took a leap of sorts last year when I figured out how to do everything Guild-related from this desk in front of this window: videos, Zoom lectures, demos with two cameras on camera stands that I always have to wrestle into submission for at the time, I was unaware of the fancy ones that moved at the touch of a finger. I loved the Zoom teaching, especially.

I loved all the students in their places and their spaces, their fabrics right at hand, the mess underfoot, the walking back and forth from cutting station to ironing board to sewing machine. It was a rich, varied tapestry of individuals all honing their craft, this pattern they’d chosen, and we worked together as a very long-distance team. Most of the time.

I had a few failures, when I couldn’t reach through this digital space to show them how I trimmed, or to look at the blocks arranged on a wall that was in the hallway just around the corner, with no way to show me. I’ve had classes where it was deathly silent, everyone on Mute, watching my class videos or just being extra-respectful to not bother everyone with their usual noises: phone calls to friends, TV on for company, or the singing along to the radio. I could see them having a life, but there I was at the desk, sipping my water: the girl in the digital box.

Concentrating on getting the talk set up

I loved the Guild Presentations, too: the rows and rows of shining-faced quilters, and before I start, we are all expectant, all of them present in their easy chairs, propped up against their pillow towers on their beds, or the living rooms where husbands/friends/children/dogs wander through, and at the kitchen tables, all of us beaming at each other.

As you know, I recently taught a second class for the Santa Clarita Quilt Guild and my husband asked me if I had any repeats from the first time. I hadn’t looked up the previous class, but when I saw one student’s beautiful wall, I knew she had taken from me before. The space was familiar, for, in a way, I’d spent several hours there last year.

I now have two lectures, four online classes, but almost no gigs lined up. Is this an ending? I love teaching, but maybe it’s time to take longer to watch that squirrel with her descent or
“To follow the notes of a disappearing bird
out into the trees, up and out along the farthest / branch…”

I don’t know. Maybe it’s not?

I pinned all the Blossom quilts on the design wall before class.

I recognized an ending last time I came to this familiar junction. And I recognized when I had written everything I needed to say at another place in time. But this is all sort of unfamiliar to me now, for I don’t think I’m done, but yet somehow it feels like it might be that way. Or, it might not.

I gave the final scheduled lecture for 2021 last week. It was a hybrid: with a small cohort in their Guild’s usual meeting place at the Fellowship Hall, and the rest of us on Zoom. It was an interesting push-pull, a tension between the recent months of Covid and our isolation and this guild meeting was kind of at the reverse place — wanting to get out, but also wanting to stay in.

I recognized the impulse. Here in California we are all feeling sort of safe with masking in place, numbers down, vaccines in arms, and so we are venturing out to normalcy. However, I figured out some time ago that I would never visit a Guild in person again to teach or give a talk, much preferring the Zoom format. So perhaps this hybrid meeting was the opening of that proverbial door, the notes of that disappearing song beckoning me to the edge of a different wood, in a different territory.

Perhaps.

I’ll still be quilting, I’ll still be writing here on this website. I have a thousand-and-one projects lined up, and I may yet figure out how to schedule my own classes, turning students loose in my videos and handouts and structure. And I know Santa Clarita wants me to come back, too.

Stay tuned.


“Some Ants for Henry,” by Ralph Black
[….]
To begin each day among the weeds, crouched
   and hungry for a sign of complete desire, this
is my small prayer. To pull a blade of grass and watch
   a single globe of dew fade and blink out.
To follow the notes of a disappearing bird
   out into the trees, up and out along the farthest
branch, laying my fingers against the pulse
   of that blue-fletched, warbling throat.
Such moments can kill a man, or startle him back
   to his senses. [….]
(from here)

Chuck Nohara

Chuck Nohara Redux

chucknohara0916_4

(Redux: brought back, from the Latin word meaning returning, — or — from reducere to lead back.  First Known Use: 1860. So now you know.)

Well…I posted this photo recently, musing about how many more of these little suckers I was going to make.  Since they come from 2″ line drawings in Chuck Nohara’s book, any size is possible, but Susan and I went with 6″ finished.  Which is fun.  And small.  And I still have to make all the sashing and all that, so it has come to the time to think about sizing.

I tend to like square quilts.  And with four more, this quilt would be square.  I know I have 4 per month, three more months, but RETURNING to my senses, I realized I was pretty much done.  As one of the more fun quilt projects I’ve done, by teaming up with Susan gave me great motivation to get things done (because I knew she would).  If you jump in, try hooking up with the Instagram group and letting the motivation of those women pull you along.  But still, it’s time for me to be done.

So here are my four final blocks:

remaining-chuck-nohara

I chose from the rest of what we’d identified as the last blocks of the year, pulling forward ones that I thought would blend with what I already have.  This also gives me a chance to take off my least favorite block and move it to the back (I’m not telling which one it is). Susan and I have also agreed to make each other a signature block, but keep it a surprise, so I have that one too.  Whatever is leftover after all this will go on the back.

Christina Xu, in her article “Your Project Deserves a Good Death,” notes that:

Most of the people I know are compulsive starters. We constantly create new projects, companies, organizations, and events; sometimes, we even get roped into adopting other people’s projects and entities…Almost all of them will not be the last thing we start.

She goes on to say that we don’t often know how to finish up, or end, all these projects we’ve started (we quilters call them UFOs).

xu-on-endings-quote_2

She notes there are five categories of projects-that-won’t-quit, with “The Indefinite Life Support” being the first.  That’s when we keep a project going way past the time it should be allowed to lapse.  Think of all those 100 block projects you’ve been seeing all summer.  Some actually do go all the way, but I say, if you get to #47 and you’ve learned what you had to learn, and you are ready to move on. . . then don’t feel guilty for not having A Complete Set.

Another category is “The Marathon,” when you carry on a project to the very end, but it burns you out or causes harm.  I had two of those this year: the Halloween quilt-a-long, and the Oh Christmas Tree quilt-a-long.  I loved doing both of them and have two lovely quilt tops to show for my efforts, but when I got to the part in Oh Christmas Tree where the pattern was wrong, it threw a big wrench into my Enthusiasm Works and I really had to run my own marathon to get that project finished (we corrected it).  Doing one quilt-a-long is huge, but two was like running two marathons at once.

She closes her article by noting the good reasons for declaring an end to some things:

Accepting the possibility of the end means periodically taking a critical look at your work and recognizing when its time has passed. Letting go of a project or an organization returns all of the resources it’s tying up — funding, attention, time, the emotional labor contributed by you and others — to the ecosystem. Whether by you or others, those resources will be recombined into new, surprising forms….The end of something, when unrushed and deliberate, is a time for celebration as well as closure.

And so I celebrate the end of the Chuck Nohara project. I still have several blocks to make, and then there is all that sashing, but it feels like a good time to wrap up this portion and move on.

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