I am learning to quilt. Well actually, until just this moment, I have been devoted to learning about quilting. My neighbor, Mary Ann, is a quilter — a master quilter, if there is such a thing — with skills gathered over a lifetime of avid focus. She and Jim live in a house filled with quilted beauty: quilts on beds and quilts in lovely stacks on benches. But the show stoppers for me were the gorgeous pieces lovingly displayed on walls; sheer art work. I was in awe. Mary Ann and Jim are good and kind neighbors. They allow me to steal their grandchildren for play dates and a no nonsense invitation to dinner at their house is what helped me first step out of my post-surgical trauma. Mary Ann knows the best therapy for when life back hands you is to keep your hands busy. Mary Ann is teaching me to quilt.
Now, I am a crafty person. There are other descriptors that have more appeal to me — creative, artistic, handy — but I will settle for crafty. I am someone who likes to make things. I can knit with the best of them and I do so left-handed, which deserves a badge for sheer bravery. Also, I am intense about the depths of my craftiness. For example, I don’t just knit. I raised alpacas and had their fiber spun into yarn just to my liking and now I knit wondrous pieces of treasured joy from the fruits of that labor.
I have a room of my own to house all of my creative endeavors. That sounds extravagant, but it’s what keeps me off the dining room table, the living room floor, and the kitchen counter. I was always spreading out everywhere. I love my room and I especially appreciate that, being a room, it has doors of its very own to shut out doggy mayhem, if need be, and to hide the creative explosion of a project in process — my version of cleaning up for company.
Mary Ann has a room, too. In her room, I do not judge the scope of her stash of fabric and, in my room, she does not judge the size of my stash of yarn. That’s how we knew we would be fast friends. I have spent time with her walking me through the basics of quilting and I am also doing my own due diligence on YouTube and gobbling up other resources to understand the intricacies of this craft. It is a whole new world of creative expression and skill. The rubber is hitting the road today though when I pick up the rotary cutter and start slashing my own beautiful lengths of fabric into small strips and pieces.
I am making a quilt aptly named “After the Storm”. If all goes well, it will look like this:
In quilting, the act of taking small bits of fabric and putting them together to create an intricate design is called piece work. Learning to quilt is keeping my hands busy as I quietly process what has happened to me, what it means to be me, living with cancer. That is piece work, too; taking the torn apart bits of my life and thoughtfully piecing them back together in a new mosaic. Piece work or peace work, either spelling works here. It is therapy.
Quilting isn’t my only therapy. I have started physical therapy with the most amazingly understanding and skilled PT, Cindy Miller. She is tearing me apart and piecing me together, giving me hope that I will have myself back some day if we just keep working on it. My healing mastectomy scars have taken a tight grip on me, frustrating me and bringing woeful tears of pity to my eyes. Cindy works on me and she gives me exercises to work on myself and we use how I sit in the saddle as the measure of our success. Legs is the latest therapist in that realm. I am still crooked; contracted on the right, compensating by bulging to the left. Dammit. But it’s better, waaay better.
Legs is a benevolent partner with an utter willingness to listen and to offer up what I have asked. He makes me feel like we are riding from the heart, not the body where the pieces may not be all in the right place.
What does Legs think of all of this? Well, I’m not sure he takes this at all as seriously as I do. He does, after all, have a cleverly humorous side to him. Today after my ride, Gordy swung a leg over Legs. It was cute as heck watching the two of them amble around.
“Wait”, I said, “let me take your picture!”
Here’s the gem I got.
Legs’ good buddy, Loosa, was also doing a stint as horse extraordinaire. Mary Ann and Jim’s granddaughter, Brooke, turned six and for her birthday we set up her first pony riding experience. I was excited, but then I was taken back a bit when the usually bubbly Brooke showed up quite somber and shy.
It took me a moment to understand the very large difference between the idea of a pony ride and the way-up-there experience of actually being on a horse for a newly-minted six-year-old. Brooke is brave though and Papa and Nana were with and so the riding commenced. Loosa listened very carefully to that little darling on his back and did what she asked him to do — turn left, turn right, walk on, whoa.
We all felt pretty proud of ourselves when it was done and that’s therapy, too. Pouring a little love on something — or someone — and watching the beauty of the moment present itself, watching a smile grow on a somber face. Another little piece of the mosaic that becomes the fabric of life going forward. So many good pieces to work with. So much love in my heart for this.