Category Archives: Grief

I have arrived. I am home. 

Reading Thich Nhat Hanh yesterday, I came across the lines: “I have arrived, I am home / in the here and now. / I am solid, I am free / In the ultimate I dwell.” Last night K and I walked the labyrinth over at Boston College and the first of the lines stayed with me, adapted a little:  “I am here. I have arrived. I am home.”

I passed on the opportunity to gather with others at the State House and chose this more solitary act instead. It was too cold to watch every heel/toe/breath but I sometimes sent a prayer heavenward: “get him out peacefully”.

All that urgent yearning and: “I have arrived. I am home.”  Such contrast!

December 19 — can we call it the “new longest night” of the year? “I am home. I have arrived.”

Today, my sister and I shopped for our holiday dinner at a little Salem market called Steve’s which she insists on calling Frank’s, a fact that would amuse you if you knew my husband’s family. Anyway, bringing my bags out first so that I could return and get her bags second, I repeated: “I am home. I have arrived. I am here.” Crossing the tarmac with plastic rattling — such an ordinary moment and one that I might normally on some level rush to get through! Instead, those grounding and life affirming words: “I am home.”

On the second trip out, imagine my delight when, just after repeating, “I am here,” I looked up to see a banner half a block away reading: Where You At?

“I am here. I am home. I have arrived.”

We had liverwurst with wasabi and mayo on pumpernickel for lunch and I left in time to miss the 3:00 school and shift-change traffic. It was a “yes” day.

And just now, I finished a Pussyhat for a friend marching on Washington next month. They’re supposed to be knit and I plan to also knit a few when my pink yarn arrives, but in the meantime, this one was constructed out of a cashmere sweater, polar fleece, and wool felt. (Pussyhat Project).

Don’t ask me why or how, but it feels like “moving on”.


9/12

I was meeting with a fellow landscape-volunteer for the elementary school when her husband called. “Turn on the TV. Turn on the TV.” The friend said, “it’s Osama bin Laden”. Believe it or not, that was the first time I’d heard that name (an unthinkable state of ignorance now, with FB, twitter, etc.). We watched the towers go down in real time.K was sent home from work, the office closed. There was the fear of more planes, more death.

Because the boys were young (7 and 5), we didn’t watch the endless replays. We had a camping trip planned for the weekend and were glad to have a reason to interrupt routines, but actually drove down into North Adams at one point to buy a newspaper. A couple of times while the kids bombed around on their bicycles, K and I turned on the van engine and listened to the radio in a state of shock. I remember feeling a sense of kinship with our grandparent’s generation, listening for news about the war, huddled around a radio.

I remember how startlingly blue the sky was on 9/11. A perfect fall day. I remember reading an email from the school saying, “we have not told them.” I remember calling a friend over before I walked over to pick up the boys, embracing her and crying, “what kind of world are they growing up in?”

On Facebook yesterday (it’s 9/12 now), I watched a video clip of tolling church bells on the campus of UMass/Amherst. Not only was it a haunting sound, but the comments rolling underneath gave me chills, especially the ones saying things like, “my son was in kindergarten that day and now he’s a junior at UMass”. And then there were comments simply saying what they were doing that day. Where they were or who they lost. We will all remember.

It took days to find out if my brother was okay. He had been scheduled to fly from somewhere in Europe into D.C. to give a lecture. All the other doctors (sensibly) cancelled, but he was adamant about showing up. He first flew to somewhere in the Caribbean and next to Canada where he rented a car.

My brother, like my son, went to McGill and had crossed that border many, many times without incident. But this was post 9/11. Because he was coming from Europe, he had multiple currencies on his person — suspect. It was a one-way car rental — suspect. And then there was the Irish surname — also suspect given the long and troubled history with bombs (my sister maintains we’re related to Timothy McVeigh, but never mind that).

The police at the U.S./Canadian border thoroughly took apart the car. I don’t mean pulled him over to inspect the trunk and open a few suitcases — I mean, unbolting door panels, ripping up floor mats, lifting seat cushions.

I may have gotten some of those details wrong, but you get the gist.

What I don’t remember — is what we said to our sons, our young and impressionable and fairly innocent sons. What did I say?

 

P.S. That’s a SoulCollage card referring directly to the attacks of 9/11 and also referring indirectly to my maternal grandfather (using magazine images), who came to NYC in 1923, spent decades working in the bowels of ships while raising a family in Park Slope, Brooklyn, before moving up to Newburgh, NY.

P.P.S. The creepiest local connection was that the Boston hijackers spent their final night on this earth in a hotel less than a mile down the road. The place has since been razed and an apartment building sits there now.

P.P.S. A good friend of mine move to Battery Park sometime later and when we visited her, we went to Ground Zero. It was awful. One of the worst things? Looking at the dust on nearby building knowing that it had DNA in it.

First person shooter


Little did I know when I started a quilt based on a figure from a first person shooter video game, how ugly its relevance would become.

It began as a visual expression of the need to defend my personal boundaries. And also, a bit of a sad wondering about what our children will be doing decades from now to protect their own sacred selves. Or their access to water. Or their privacy. Or or or. The first time I used this image was in a Sketchbook Project.

This is what I think every day, many times a day: If we don’t get money out of politics, things will continue to go to shit.Does anyone else think the slide to ruin has picked up its pace? The way I see it, corporate interests are contaminating democracy more and more quickly such that we are approaching a tipping point — in a parallel rhythm to the quickening pile-up of the consequences of climate change. Needless to say, overturning Citizens United would represent only a baby step in the right direction. And Trump? I can’t watch election coverage right now.

Who are we as a nation if gun reform cannot be achieved after the Pulse massacre? If we lack the political will to ignore the money, I kinda think we’re doomed — to revolution or extinction or both. No wonder I wake up nights. And that’s not even getting near the personal turmoil that keeps me wringing my hands. No wonder I’m now stitching a saccharine cliche. Something about the key to my heart.

(Those whitish lines are made by couching two rows of floss with a fair number of stitches — I can’t wait to try Jude’s wandering running stitch, but this is not that).

Sent-Hearts for Charleston Quilt

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I shipped the “Hearts for Charleston” quilt last week and the Mother Emanuel’s Memorabilia Committee ought to have received it by now. I’m glad the quilt made it there before the first anniversary of the massacre (June 17).

There is so much to say about this project — how it came together, how much it meant for the ten participants, what each of us learned about the lives lost — but posting about the quilt’s creation doesn’t feel respectful at the moment. If you’re curious, a lot of the process along with links to the makers can be found in the sidebar category “Hearts for Charleston Quilt”.  I expect some narrative and documentation to follow. But not now.

Here are photos of the nine people who lost their lives last summer.

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Charleston Shooting

People stand outside as parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Charleston, S.C., four days after a mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Blocks were made to honor: Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Susie Jackson, Rev. and Senator Clementa Pinckney, Ethel Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr.

After reading this Post and Courier article, we also decided to honor the five people in the church that night who survived: Felicia Sanders and her granddaughter (Felicia is Tywanza Sanders’ mother), Polly Sheppard, and Jennifer Pinckney (Rev. Clementa’s widow) and her daughter.

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Kathy Dorfer stitched “Love heals” on her block (and enclosed this with her square)

The contrast between slow cloth and swift violence was evident all along the way, repeatedly reminding us of the ruthless speed of the news cycle, the continuing savage treatment of blacks in this country, and the permanence of this kind of loss.

I wanted the recipients to be able to hang the quilt upon receipt if desired, so I enclosed a four foot long dowel. That meant I had to use a long, narrow box. It bothered me how much the box looked like the size and shape of a container that would house a rifle. I said as much to the clerk — the staid one with the frizzy bleached hair. To her credit, she didn’t look at me like I was crazy. But she did say the most inane thing to reassure me: “Oh don’t worry, you answered all the questions.”

Answered all the questions? You mean about shipping things “liquid, fragile, perishable, and potentially hazardous” – the questions that I, and presumably lots of other people, routinely lie about? Oh well, I’m guessing the box was opened.

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I insured the quilt for $500, but if it offers some of the comfort that quilts have been offering since the dawn of needles and cloth, I will consider it priceless.
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Participants: Liz Ackert of Texas, Hazel Cindy Monte of Washington,  Maggie Rose of New Jersey, Gillan Wang of Massachusetts, Kathy Dorfer of California, Nancy Erisman also of California,
Dana Webb of Washington, Kristin Anne Freeman of Montana, Mo Orkiszewski of Australia.

To read more, click on category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt” here
or find me on instagram (deeamallon) using category as hashtag

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

Hearts for Charleston Quilt – Depayne Middleton Doctor

IMG_3241This is the back of the heart dedicated to Depayne Middleton Doctor. She was 49 when she was slain last June during a Bible study circle at the Emanuel AME in Charleston. She left behind four daughters. So many people came to her funeral, they had to set up televisions in an overflow room in order to accommodate another 150 people.
IMG_3243According to “The Post and Courier”: ‘Middleton Doctor retired in 2005 as Charleston County director of the Community Block Grant Program. Last year, she began working for Southern Wesleyan University as admissions coordinator for the school’s Charleston learning center.’

The same article quotes a friend saying of Middleton Doctor’s singing voice: “So angelic it could move the very depth of your heart… How do you describe an angel?”

I made this heart and it was meant to capture a very rich personality, with some of the expansiveness of the heavens (the dotted dark cloths look like night skies to me).

Find out more about this remarkable woman and the family she left behind here.

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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

disappearing, disappeared

IMG_2349The “Hearts for Charleston” quilt has been set aside for personal, holiday sewing. But I wanted to post some of the photos that I continue to obsessively create on my iPhone (with the dianaphoto app).  For some reason, these photos have a way of making the awful shooting of June 17, 2015 more real to me. Perhaps it’s their haunting quality. Or maybe it’s the way that the heart can be made to disappear and how that hints at loss in a potent way.

This pink heart with a shibori’d circle will be dedicated to Myra Thompson, who was 59 at the time of her death. A proper post will follow down the road, but here are some of the photos, starting with the ‘straight up’ quilt block front and ending with the actual block’s back.


  
      

To read more about the “Hearts for Charleston” quilt project,
please refer to the the sidebar category
of the same name.

Hearts for Charleston — Gillan

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Next up: Gillan Wang — a Newton, Mass. fiber artist who brings her talent and wit to a variety of styles. She took my year long class awhile back and has gone on to show in galleries and host several successful “Newton Open Studios”. Some of her work is functional, like fiber bowls, some is illustration-driven, while other pieces are more conceptual. Here is her website: ArtbyGillanIMG_2323

Each of the congregants is represented by beads spelling out their initials.  And, each set of initials is linked, by stitch, to a star. There’s “MT” for Myra Thompson and “SCS” for Sharonda Coleman Singleton.

IMG_2325Gillan chose commercial prints depicting celestial scenes, along with a deep blue silk, and some strips of indigo. Woven together, these strips create a night time sky. By stitching the initials of the deceased on these fabrics, she places them in heaven.

Only one small red heart speaks to the tragedy.

  She used a transparent star-patterned sheer for the primary heart. It is wonderful how we can see the underlying patterning! And there’s a stamped spiral on the right that seems to go to or from one of the background stars, continuing the theme of shooting stars. By surrounding the heart with bugle beads, Gillan added luster and definition.

All in all, I love the sparkly, star-studded surface. It speaks to expansion, healing, and a universe that is big enough to hold all our joy and pain. There is also a child-like quality to this piece that brings in a welcome sense of innocence. 
This square will catch the light in many varied ways and hopefully please the onlookers.

Thank you, Gillan!!

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