It is very hard for me to write about this part because of the strange joy I feel about it.
Just before Mama’s passing, I joined the American Tapestry Alliance, created a design and cartoon for my next tapestry, and talked to Pam about her tapestry retreats. At first I was inquiring about her ad in the ATA newsletter because I felt sure that there had to be a typo – how could this incredible opportunity be affordable? Weaving tapestry with other tapestry weavers in an Oregon cabin on a Pacific sea cliff?
I hardly had a chance to talk to Mama about it, but I mentioned how passionate I felt about going to live on the West Coast because I feel that I belong there. “What’s keeping you from going? Me?” she asked.
“Well, yeah,” I answered, in a tone that implied obviousness. Then I felt the awkwardness of the answer and made a joke, as I often did, about her outliving me. Seriously, I always thought that she might well live into her 100s. She had the toughness and the genes for it. I added that of course, also I am married and I have a job that I love, but yes, I would not want to leave her.
A few days later that conversation would haunt me for weeks when I heard from all sides that the widely held opinion that my mother had chosen her time to die. That she didn’t want to be a burden. That she had discussed many things with my sister concerning her final wishes that very week of our conversation, during what we now know was her last week with us.
I don’t think that my mother chose to die but I do think that she was willing to let go of her life once it became time. I hope that I will feel the same.
Now my life would turn toward looking at my future without her. Becoming an adult at age 53. Feeling no need to get her approval concerning my choices, which was always a problem between us. We are all very critical personalities in my family. I loved her, but her passing brought me a certain freedom that I can’t deny if I am to be honest about it. I was always caught in the stress of trying to please her and trying to please my soul. It was an impossible situation. I don’t have to justify my life to anyone but my Self now. Wow.
I still grieve, but life will always be different now. I feel that if my mother’s spirit is still watching, she would be pleased with me, mistakes and all. She finally understands.
I began 2014 in an upward spiral of creativity. With my tendinitis and back pain much improved, my mind turned again to tapestry. I was having a great time weaving and sewing these fabric pieces, inspired and mentored from afar by Jude Hill. I am still sewing these because they are fun and portable. However, I have not yet decided what to do with them. For now, they are enough just being what they are.
We cancel our vacation to Cahokia and go to Lake Waccamaw instead, and bring Mama back to Marietta from the rehab facility and Lisa’s house. She seems to be recovering well and begins living independently again. I realize that we need to get moving on adding the second bathroom in case she needs to come stay with us some, so I start gathering estimates.
Mama gets sick again and returns to the hospital. This time it seems under control and they place a drain tube on the fluid around her kidney. I leave for a week-long indigo dyeing workshop five hours away in Gatlinburg, Tennessee after Mama assures me that she will be okay until I get back. The next morning, I get the call from my sister. Mama died of a quick heart attack, and her last words to the nurse are “I hope you have a good life.” She certainly had a great full life.
I am a childless woman by choice, and somewhat eccentric, and rather childlike myself. I think that not being a parent makes you less mature and more focused on selfish pursuits instead of say, regular meals and bedtime and general responsibility toward other people if you don’t fill that space with other people. When my mother used to ask me about grandbabies, I said that I would be glad to provide them if I could leave them for the weekend with a food bowl and a litterbox. So, she accepted the grandkits as her grandbabies from my side of the family.
With a beginning like that, I guess that this will be a different year end wrap up than the others. I didn’t mean to start out with that. It just happened.
I lost my mother in June. I lost my father in 1986. Nothing makes you grow up faster than when you no longer have your parents to turn to, whether through death or disease or having to become their caretakers.
I no longer have to dread this event – this life without her. It has happened.
I no longer have to worry about how long she would be able to live independently, how a nursing home might be paid for, whether she might have to be moved away from the community she loved, how her suffering would increase from day to day, both physically and mentally.
I no longer have to dread inheriting her home with my sister. It has happened. It is not fun. It is full of hoarded magazines, packed closets, knick-knacks from the 1950s, one hundred thousand pieces of paper that have to be inspected, empty frames and matboard under the beds, and requires that we pay extra bills in utilities, taxes, and maintenance for an unknown, probably years-long, amount of time in a poor county where I no longer wish to live and where houses take years to sell for far under their value.
It is full of memories and surprises and love.
It is full of how much I am like her, and how much we differ.
It is full of her humanity, her soul, her seventy years living in the same house as a wife, mother, artist, Christian, widow, traveler, community leader, friend, girlfriend, and independent woman.
Is it any wonder that I feel overwhelmed? Thank God I am not facing this alone. Without my sister and brother I don’t know how I’d do it.
Looks like I will have to make this year end post a four-parter.
In January, I let go of trying to get the Greensboro Fiber Guild going, and I let go of the idea of graduating by May since the class that I needed to do so looked like four months of misery. The “Whatever” book seemed to set a theme. Reclaiming a despised response for positive use. I ended up using this book for my journal during the fall.
I bought a used Macomber Add-a-Harness loom in great condition in February for only $500, but I’ve yet to weave on it! I have an ambitious project planned for double weave rag rugs and have been measuring the warp for this project ever since February (with a long break in summer and fall).
Back yard clean-up dominated April. In hindsight, I am amazed at how much we got done, and how awful it looks now. I had a lot of hopes for getting my food garden back up and running back then, hopes that were pretty much dashed by June. Sandy bought a lovely garden swing for my Christmas present, where I rested and listened to birdsong between bouts of yanking out vinca and honeysuckle and English ivy and wild yam and dreamed about tomatoes turning red on the vine.
In May I moved some herbs and ferns and shade-loving plants to my small front yard, a garden that I plan to expand this year with more hostas and foxgloves and lenten roses. Sandy and I spent time at Lake Waccamaw where I played with natural and fiber-reactive dyes and we tried to rescue a sick duckling. I went kayaking on Lake Orange with Missy. I also said an amicable goodbye to Elements Gallery at the end of May. Being in an art co-op had been one of my dreams, but it turned out that I’m happier on my own. Great group of artists, though, and I feel privileged to have been a part of it.
I had an incredibly full and satisfying summer.
An early June dyeing workshop with Dede Styles taught me a lot. I learned why a lot of my experimentation at Lake Waccamaw didn’t work out! Sandy and I had a beautiful weekend in Asheville. We LOVE Asheville and Black Mountain, and we stay in a cheap motel in Black Mountain to make it affordable. I went to my first Moral Monday rally in Raleigh with my friend Deb – and discovered that my sister and brother-in-law had been going to them regularly! My brother-in-law was one of the early 900+ non-violent demonstrators to be arrested. His trial is coming up soon. I am so proud of him. I joined a couple of my childhood friends at the beach where my friend, Jojo Hammond, played at a Wilmington music spot. My sister, brother-in-law, and grand nephew were involved in an tragic rescue attempt at Lake Waccamaw which left them reeling. I went back to the lake and spent more time with them.
July was SO FULL. The absolute highlight of my year was my week-long workshop with my art goddess India Flint at Madeline Island School of the Arts in Lake Superior. It’s difficult to choose photos from this trip. I posted and photographed extensively and here is the link to the posts and the photos.
I went back to one more Moral Monday rally, and I feel that I am a part of an important and powerful movement. We shall see if we are successful when the next election rolls around, but it will be a tough road and may take a long time to correct the direction of our once-moderate state due to the gerrymandering and heavy spending by Tea Party Republicans and ALEC.
August was no less amazing. I was full of inspiration from my time with India and played a lot with bundling fabrics and eco-dyeing. I moved my studio into the front room of the house. I started the last class of my BA in Studio Art. But the really huge life event happened unexpectedly and suddenly when we went to Petsmart for some cat food late one evening and returned with these guys, who immediately set to wrecking the house, terrorizing the older cats, emptying our bank accounts, and wiggling into our hearts.
Even though I knew that I needed to spend all my spare time (that is, other than planning and going to my mother’s 90th birthday party) in my Ceramics III class, a class that I was woefully unprepared for, I was excited about dyeing with goldenrod and began an exciting multi-media project that involving dye plants from the farm and a ceramic box with relief maps. Dyeing and plant prints on paper inspired ceramic book covers.
Too busy in the ceramics studio and playing with the kittens to post much in October. All baskets have been converted from their original uses to being toys for the boys.
In November, suddenly, lots of blog posts. I decided to take a different, simpler tack and concentrate on posting two photos per day, one representing my activities or feelings that day, and one with some detail of my home, yard, or nearby walks. The idea is to get me blogging regularly again, keep me creative, keep me looking for the little things that I might take for granted.
My Uncle Wilton died. He was a good, kind man and will be missed by many.
The kittens were finally cleared for neutering after a couple of months of fighting ringworm. We took a long weekend trip by train to Washington DC for Sandy’s birthday, which included visiting several museums, the National Zoo, and Old Town Alexandria. Thanksgiving was at my sister’s house (little Clark Lake below is in front of her house), then at my mother’s house. I worked like crazy to get my art pieces done for my Ceramics class.
My Aunt Louise followed my Uncle Wilton a month later after 65 years of marriage. Somehow, I shrugged off my humbug and decorated for Christmas (well, more than usual, anyway). I pulled out my magic cloth that I began in Jude Hill’s Magic Diaries class over two years ago, before my hand surgery. I stitched until my hands needed a break, then I started pulling out pieces of my fabric stash to iron in preparation for weaving and more stitching. A quiet Christmas at my mother’s house was followed by a heavenly staycation in which I have mostly done absolutely nothing but read, play, watch Netflix, and clean out clutter.
I nearly forgot to say that I graduated with my BA in Studio Art, a second degree that I began way back the early 80s. I made a B+ in my Ceramics III class, which left me with a 3.51 GPA. I don’t really feel that it has made me any more of an artist, although I did benefit from the classes that I took at UNCG. I identified as an artist before, so it doesn’t surprise me that I almost left this out. I do feel a huge weight lifted – another bullet point off the bucket list.
So I leave you with still another lake photo. Water has brought me a lot of joy and some sadness this year. These reflections were very good for me. I feel enthusiastic about the year ahead and wish you a very Happy 2014.
(Alert: this post has lots of big photos and will probably load slowly.)
This, my 51st year on this go-round on Earth, was a roller coaster ride! I have also discovered, in looking back, that I really did not blog much.
In January, my focus was on healing. I had surgery in two places, my left wrist and my left palm. It took longer than I expected to heal, but I decided that I couldn’t wait any longer to play with some dye and fabric. I also painted this acrylic piece, unusual for me to paint on canvas, but it was an unusual time. I reintroduced myself to a sewing machine, inspired by the work of Jude Hill and her students, because I could not hand-stitch. These boros fascinate me – weaving strips of cloth and stitching them together pushes my buttons on so many levels.
In February, I celebrated my 51st birthday, my 7th blogiversary, and began obsessively planning our trip to Ireland. I also started weaving on my loom again, and put together a couple of little books, both of which belong to new owners now.
March was mainly focused on my paying job, as it often is. I wasn’t well enough to tackle the enormity of the garden clean-up to get the Back Forty going again full on, but I enjoyed the time I had left with my buddy Guido.
April was full of menopausal craziness and anticipating the big trip ahead, but I did take a few great photos of my hometown and nearby sites.
May was seriously all about Ireland. I couldn’t possibly pick only two of my favorite photos to post here, so I’m grabbing one from the first post.
We spent our 25th anniversary between Kenmare and a beautiful inn on the seacliffs of the Dingle Peninsula.
Our journey left me with a heartache to go back, and we both agreed that we will start planning for our retirement there.
June: I guess that I did get a little gardening done.
We spent the last week of June at Lake Waccamaw.
In July, I had a great weaving month. Mainly because I played. It is good to play.
In August, not only did this website get buggered up, my laptop got such a nasty Trojan horse that we finally wiped the hard drive. I decided that I didn’t care that much about having total control over my blog’s design, and began the move to WordPress.com. I have not regretted it.
I finished weaving my favorite piece of the year in October, a tapestry based on a photograph I took on a short hike in front of our inn near Dingle.
It was a tough month for me, though. My depression turned severe. I holed up in my bedroom more than ever. I didn’t write much in public about it. I had to send my buddy Guido over the Rainbow Bridge.
I did get by with a little help from my friends JoJo and Lauren, who invited me for a beautiful weekend in Wilmington and Wrightsville and Topsail Beaches.
November: Fun handwoven cuffs, a couple more books, Thanksgiving, hair dyeing, and some emotional healing.
In December, taking back my kitchen, getting rid of stuff, and turning the dining room into a studio became my obsession. I took on some new responsibility at Elements Gallery. Fun with marbling paper at Susanne’s, which led to this book:
Hopefully, my art mojo is back to stay for a while in 2013.