Cold and traffic

A little warmer today but not much. Honestly I’m getting sick of it. Traffic up and back to Salem was bad on Monday, making the total commute two full hours. My sister has responded well to a cortisone shot in her knee, but still isn’t walking. At least she sat up for a portion of the visit. Here at home, we are still working on getting C. organized — both physically (all his stuff!) and emotionally (lots of changes to go through). I finished the Hearts for Charleston quilt last night and took a ton of pictures this morning. I’ll have to do so again though because the light wasn’t great and fully 50% of the shots were out of focus. The morning found our computer updating to Windows 10 and nobody knows why. I didn’t want it. K didn’t say ‘yes’ to it and C doesn’t use this PC. Weird. Creepy, even. That made getting Photoshop up and running a lengthy ordeal (only to find 138 out of 264 photos out of focus). Not a good day for tools, here. Not sure what it’s a good day for.

White coral bells

Saturday I dug up some lilies of the valley for my sister, happy as anything to be working among their fragrant flowers.  Today was too cold to work outside. It was basement vacuuming and garage sorting for me. And some sewing.

Somewhere along the line, the decision was made to name all the congregants who were in the Emanual AME church the night of the mass killing. Liz Ackert (“I’m Going to Texas“) stitched these names and created the lovely hands. I struggled with placement when they were white rectangles. But once I decided to reverse appliqué them with some reproduction Civil War fabric, they found their spots. The hearts were too big. Circles seemed just right. The only label left is the one naming the ten makers. The one saying these blocks were stitched with love, in grief and outrage and with hopes for peace.

Rabbit holes and labyrinths

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Two weeks ago, I was going down various paths on the internet which sometimes feels like going down a rabbit hole. Down and down you go! Poof! There goes the morning.

Some of the search terms: charms, voodoo, voodun, sigils, veves, Celtic knots, hemlock, protection. Remarkably enough, at some point using the query “veve, protection,” I came to a site with information about Yoruban cosmology that included a picture of the walking labyrinth at Boston College. It is particularly remarkable when you consider that by then I was specifically hoping to find a symbol from my own (Irish) tradition.

And there it was: not only my tradition, but my neighborhood, and even, my alma mater (which a friend reminded me means, “nurturing mother”) (BCLS ’89). This labyrinth is less than two miles from my home. So, of course I went.
IMG_2878IMG_2890IMG_2895Based on a pattern found at Chartres Cathedral, it is a unicursal — meaning that there is only one way in and one way out. The labyrinth was built as a memorial, dedicated to the twenty-two Boston College alumni who were killed in the 9/11 attacks.
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The design was an aid to meditation because no choices needed to be made about what direction to pursue. As I walked it, I prayed for my sons, for the descendants of the enslaved, for justice and peace and healing for our country — the usual, urgent things. But braided in and around those other things, was the prayer that I could somehow come to more regularly believe in my own essential goodness. It took about an hour. Afterwards, I felt grounded and renewed.
IMG_2896I went into the library and found more lovely and potent Celtic images — I’ll save those for another time perhaps.

Here is the charm I came up with. It’s a first pass and not original.

I like how the photo on the left crops the door molding into a crucifix.

Before the labyrinth walk, we went to Montreal. After, Schenectady. This weekend we will lay down compost and mulch and I will cook chicken and wilt greens with loads of garlic and we will figure out where to put some of my son’s things.

And: I will finish the Hearts for Charleston quilt (she said, but really meaning it). The front has been done for weeks but the labeling continues. Liz Ackert helped out generously by supplying some very beautifully stitched names. I am writing up the cover letter and ‘legend’ and will photograph the piece as soon as the last labels are on. My goal — by Friday of next week.

The first anniversary of the Emanuel AME murders in Charleston is only five weeks away.

Frost and fiddle heads 

Woke to frost but – oh happy day – many of the ostrich ferns are showing signs of life. I love their dramatic unfolding: first a hint of green; then clear curls showing themselves;  and finally, the swift, miraculous reach for the sky. I am particularly grateful for their emergence because I wasn’t sure any of them survived our first year with Finn.

Thanks to Home Depot and my husband, they will be protected this season (thank you for the gardening tips, Mo!). By the way, does anyone know what you call the fern’s brown husky base? A ‘brown husky base’?

A slightly more decorative fence for the bottle tree-bed, below.Meanwhile there is still a lot of mud to deal with.   Last night, I couched black satin cording for the Sanders/Jackson label and embroidered the barber stripes. I’m finding it discordant with the other labels. Will look at it for a bit. We are off to Montreal soon in any case. Packing up Son Number One. The end of another era.

Susie Jackson and Tywanza Sanders Hearts for Charleston Quilt

 

 On June 17 last summer, the Jackson family of Charleston lost three of its members: Susie Jackson, her cousin Ethel Lance, and Susie’s nephew, Tywanza Sanders. Because Tywanza Sanders tried to shield his aunt from the shooter and then reached out to comfort her as they both lay dying, I stitched their names on the same heart. Their funeral services were held together.
img_3873Susie Jackson, the oldest person slain last summer, was a trustee of the Emanuel AME and a former member of the choir. In this article from “The Post and Courier”, she was remembered as “a family and church matriarch.” According to the same article, Ms. Jackson “volunteered in myriad ways over her many years of constant faith and fidelity.” 

Because of her love of music, I couched some black satin cording in a G clef for the back of the block.

Here’s a “Post and Courier” photo of Ms. Jackson’s son, Walter, holding his mother’s picture:

At their joint service, a rousing performance of “I Can’t Give Up Now” was sung. Here’s a link to Lee Williams singing a version of same.

This “Post and Courier” photo shows two caissons carrying the caskets of Susie Jackson and Tywanza Sanders from the church.

Before he was shot, Tywanza stood between the shooter and his Aunt Susie and said, “You don’t have to do this.”

He was said to possess a brightness of spirit and such brightness is very visible on his instragram feed.  “The Post and Courier” quoted a friend as saying of him that he had a “majestic and contagious smile few people have”.

From the next quote, you can see why the article about him was headlined: Poet, Hero, Tywanza Sanders.

“He was remembered for his artistry. A poem of his was read that spoke of social conscience and ended, “divided by color/So we are all trying to be equal.” It was titled “Tragedy.”

Mourners kept coming back to Sanders’ last moments. The family’s remembrance of him in the program said his last words were, “Where is my Aunt Susie. I’ve got to get to my Aunt Susie” as he reached for her.”

Tywanza was also entrepreneurial and hoped to establish a barber business. He already had his license and undergraduate business degree.  I am about to stitch the barber pole with the signature red, white and blue stripes.
img_2309Liz Ackert contributed some unbelievably beautiful labels recently and I will post about them this week.

On a completely pedestrian note, it continues to be unseasonably cold here. I keep thinking I can put my down-filled coats away and then finding myself wearing them. Today I added a wool scarf for my neck!

To read more about this project,
please refer to the the sidebar category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt”

To investigate this style of quilting more,
please visit the inspiring and generous master quilter, Jude Hill
  at her blog Spirit Cloth

Monastic hours

In the quiet dark then not so dark, I finished Toni Morrison’s novel, “God Help the Child”.

It’s the second morning in a row that Finn has gotten me out of bed before five. Yesterday, there were also dreams (first, the usual nightmare of a male intruder, this one around 7′ tall, then around 4:30, this one: Oprah offers me a job as her counsel. We kind of know each other, both having second homes in upstate New York. The offer is equal parts wonderful and absurd. I sputter, “but I’m not a member of the NY bar.” Then I tell her I’m working on a novel. She raises her eyebrows as if to say, ‘So? You can’t do both?’ Awake, I walk around wondering whether Dream-Oprah was a clueless benefactor or better able to see my possibilities).

Today, after the reluctant sliding of legs over the side of the bed, rummaging for slippers and socks, making coffee in the dark, I knew that the quiet would reward me.

It did.

Lots to love about the novel. Did not care for the thread of magic realism she inserted, but I never care for that much. Certainly, the story held together and drove me to its end. That matters to me more than it used to. I knew I would like it way more than the reviewer for The New York Times Book Review did. Here’s a beautiful paragraph (Adam is Booker’s murdered older brother):

Doesn’t that prose take your breath away?
I hope it warms up a little soon. I’m really sick of being cold.