Saturday, April 26, 2014

That Nasty Nemesis

I dyed a big pink streak in my hair this week, a pretty randy gesture for this 60-something Nana.  Dying my hair is new for me (just never started) and dying it pink is really quite afar from my style and comfort zone.  Younger friends call it "hip" or "punk," neither adjectives generally ascribed to me nor desired by me.  But following a fashion or trend is not the reason I did it.  

A friend from church, a fellow teacher, a mother to two teenaged girls, and a strong beautiful woman is waging war against a rather virulent form of breast cancer.  I know a little bit about that nemesis who once visited me uninvited.  I was fortunate in that fight, the treatment was clear, defined, and successful.  Her battle may not be as easy, I fear.  She began five months of chemotherapy last week. She shaved her head this week to beat cancer to that punch; I admire that.

Her daughters streaked their hair and invited a few of us to do the same.  So I did, without hesitation.  The pink still jolts me a bit, and choosing what color to wear challenges me, but Mardi comes to mind every time I look in the mirror, and the comments this pink swoosh invite allow me to build awareness for this dreadful disease.

In addition to hair dye, I employed tools much more comfortable to me--my knitting needles.  I know the changes in body temperatures and fatigue that cancer treatment can wrought and a light, cotton summer shawl seemed in order for Mardi.  I used Cynthia's Make a Million Shawl pattern, the easy garter stitch version, and picked out this yummy yarn at her yarn store in Pine Grove Mills.  I delivered it this morning with my love and prayer for strength, comfort, and healing.

Mardi, her hair shorn but her eyes and smile as bright as ever, looked beautiful, her shoulders wrapped in it.  In those seemingly impossible situations when we stand by so helplessly, even small gestures matter...I know they do.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Week Hope

Holy Week, that solemn reflective walk toward Easter, is upon us, and the church calendar is filled with services from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  Yesterday, our church held a Holy Week service of different ilk--Spirituals, Prophecies, and Songs:  A Celebration of Hope.  Our amazing musical director organized and directed an ecumenical concert of choirs, bells, dance, and instrument, giving voice to hope-giving, life-affirming songs born of the suffering of our African American brothers and sisters. It was a spirit-moving evening unlike any I have attended during Easter week. After it was over, someone, who knows her fair share of sorrow, exclaimed, "I am now ready for Easter!"

As part of this orchestration of music and dance, our sewing group was asked to coordinate a quilt exhibit.  Legend and lore has it that abolitionists employed symbols as code sewn into quilts to help signal safe passage on the underground railroad, thus the connection between spirituals and quilts.  Our group was pleased to include the visual art of quilting into the this celebration.  

We put out a call for quilts that held family history and story.  The response was enthusiastic, over 50 quilts spanning the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries were promised for our display.   Yesterday, we spent hours of aesthetic and tactile joy, arranging these fabric artifacts on quilt stands around our church, their stories clothes-pinned to their tops.

The artistry and craftwomanship was amazing!   Beautiful embroidery and appliqué

as well as incredible piecing and hand stitching.

 The stories told by these family heirlooms and artifacts were truly touching:

a granddaughter's year in Germany...

a son's struggle with MS and a friend's battle with breast cancer...

a quilt with historical significance for our parish, made by the wife of Dr. John Harkins, a former pastor who served Grace Lutheran for 38 years, from 1918 until 1956.  

Our sewing group displayed our in-process collection of two dozen quilts we are making for Lutheran World Relief, coverings destined for people in need wherever that need may exist or arise.

In times of sorrow, art (in whatever form it might take--music, song, dance, painting or fabric) has the power to transport and transform, recasting toil and strife into strength, hope and faith.  In the midst of our Easter journey this week, it is good to pause, listen and look in reaffirmation of where ultimately our hope and future lie.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cataloging This and That

Even though I have been focused on variety of  other endeavors lately (traveling to Nicaragua, going to Baltimore, helping organize a quilt show at church), I still have been knitting.  Last month, I finished this sweater for my daughter, in lieu of her birthday socks.  She requested a sweater like the one I made for her son, so I made one, using my one of favorite go-to patterns and my favorite go-to yarns.  Once again, I realized why I don't knit many adult-sized sweaters; it takes a lot of knitting to make bigger sweaters, especially this design, an oversized comfy sweater/sweatshirt.  One thing I enjoyed in making this was fastening on these buttons, lifted from my mother's sewing box.  I wrapped it up for Barbara in a swarth of fabric designed by her high school friend Jay McCarroll

This week, I finished a pair of socks for a soon-to-be birthday boy.  Goodness..can't believe my baby boy will be 35 next week.  This yarn was sure  fun!

And if I really want to be complete with the accounting my current creative output, I probably should mention that right before Nicaragua I pieced together a little scrappy quilt for my husband to look at while I was gone.  It was really fun to just sew a bunch of leftover strings together to make this little lap quilt for our television room--so many project and people memories in the strips of fabrics.  I really like the back on this one, pieced from yellow ticking, a muslin remnant and some cool stripey material. 

This week I ordered some yarn on sale, with visions of Christmas in my head. Our sewing group tied up some of our Lutheran World Relief quilts in preparation for a big quilt display and concert next week at our church (I am sure that will be the topic of my post next week).  

Spring is here...finally. Green is rising from the brown winter ground, birds are singing more joyously, outdoor occupations resume, and it seems a collected sign of relief and exhalation of joy resounds.  Thursday night, Jim fired up the grilled and chicken, and then after supper, we pulled out our bicycles, pedaling through campus for an evening ride.  We saw the most beautiful sunset. Oh yes....Spring and all her pleasures!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

World Without End

Our daughter is a painter. Have I mentioned that before?  And have I mentioned how proud (and blessed) we are to have this gentle, accomplished, and grace-filled woman in our lives?  As an artist who creates images exploring context within the seeming chaos swirling amid the technological and media-driven life of the 21st century, Barbara seeks to find and explore "idiosyncratic order amidst disorder."  Exactly how do we make meaning out of chaos?

 Last night her solo show opened at The Schulman Project  a neat little gallery in north Baltimore, situated in the middle of a charming (in "Charm City") street, lined with shops, restaurants, and galleries.  It was this neighborhood's "First Friday," and it was a  soft April evening, perfect for strolling down the avenue.  A steady stream of people--invitees, friends, and casual passers-by, walked in and circled throughout the gallery, making for a warm night of art and conversation.

Our family converged on the reunions, rarer than we'd like, are sweet, indeed.

The name of Barbara's show is "World Without End."  

 An allusion to a doxology, a liturgical hymn of praise, "world without end" is the title of this show comprising Barbara's paintings.  Word nerd that I am, I was curious about the etymology of the word "doxology":

  mid 17th cent.: via medieval Latin from Greek doxologia, from doxa ‘appearance, glory’ (from dokein ‘seem’) + -logia (see -logy).

When teaching young writers, I frequently purported that the title chosen to name a writing is worth pondering, just as their parents thought long and hard about bestowing on them the names they carry. The juxtaposition of my daughter's contemporary and abstract paintings and images, her colorful and joyful considerations of life in the 21st century, to a doxology, a phrase with deep ecclesiastical and liturgical roots, is pleasing and oh-so-very right; her work and her life are, especially to her father and to me, a certain and sweet hymn of praise.

... As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.