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Posts Tagged ‘wanderings’

Family Quilt

Just recently my mother-in-law gave me a very special gift.  A quilt, hand made by her, fabrics chosen with care to reflect things that I care about – fabric with letters because of my writing, with books because I love to read, with wine, well, because I like to drink wine, and with a cabin in the woods, to show where my heart is at peace.  There is a hand quilted border of hearts, stitched by the lovely ladies of a quilting society – average age of 90 I believe.  It is a beautiful piece of work that I was so honored to receive.  As I sat and looked at it the other day, I realized that while the pieces of the quilt are pretty, it is putting them all together that makes them beautiful.  It occurred to me that our family is like that too.  Our family is a quilt of many pieces that make up a beautiful whole.

There are different names for quilt patterns.  There is the bears paw, or the birds in the air.  There is the double square and grandmother’s cross.  There’s the wheel of fortune and the wedding knot.  While each pattern is beautiful on it’s own, they are just pretty squares of fabric until they are sewn together, backed with fabric, and quilted in place.  When I look at my family, I see us more as a crazy quilt – made up of irregular pieces, exotic fabrics and embellished in different ways.   Individually, we are all unique.   There is my sister, beautiful like my mother.  She is a teacher at heart, lover of all the things in the forest, at times insecure, at times fearless, always full of faith.  There is my younger brother, who creates masterpieces with his video camera, so assured and certain and the grin of a little boy.   There is my older brother, troubled, anxious, fearful but caring beyond words for all pieces of this quilt.  There is my brother-in-law, hardworking, with an engineer’s mind and logic, determined to provide safety and comfort for his family.  My sister-in-law is another creator – with her camera she shows the beauty of the world around us.   Three nephews – the warrior, the dreamer and the curious. Two grandchildren – the actress and the imp.  My sons, handsome and strong, one a scholar, one a man who creates with his hands.  My husband, loving and patient with us all.  We are all the pieces of this crazy quilt called family.  And the backing?  The stitching?  That would be my mother and my father.  The fabric and thread that holds us and binds us.

We are not a new quilt, fresh and clean like the one I just got.  We have been worn and torn, washed and mended.  At times the quilt seems too heavy, too warm, like a heavy wool blanket on a hot summer night.  We push it off, fold it down at the end of the bed.  At others, it is the warmth that is needed to sustain us through the cold and we reach for it with gratitude.

There is a label on the inside of my quilt, with a blessing.  It says:

“May green be the grass you walk on,

May blue be the sky above you,

May pure be the joy that surrounds you,

May true be the hearts that love you.”

Our grass has not always been green, nor have our skies always been blue.  We have not always been surrounded in joy, we have had our share of heartache, sadness and worry.  But the hearts that love us are true, and they are the warmth of our family quilt.

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Eventide

It is twilight here in the north woods.  That time of evening when the sun is tinting the clouds peach against the blue sky and yet the trees across the lake are darkening to a deep green.  No breeze bothers the glass surface of the water.  Birds trill their evening song, and an occasional frog croaks to his mate.  It’s that peaceful time of day where, if you are still enough you can hear the footfalls of deer as they make their way down to drink and see fairy lights begin to blink in the forest.  While all times of the year are magical in these forests, spring seems more so.

There is a special feeling in the woods at this time of year.  A soft carpet of green blankets the forest floor, inviting you to stray from the trail and take a stroll to the horizon.  Spring means renewal and regrowth, and as I wander through the trees I see the physical manifestations, young trees reaching up toward the sky, the soft green of new leaves on old trees.  I spot the brilliant white of trillium, a sure sign that winter is done.  First one, then two and then a whole swath upon the hillside.  More, I feel the hope that spring brings.  It seems to be in the very air that I breathe.

This winter was long and hard.  Temperatures well below zero and record snow falls mirrored the gloom in our lives.  A business closing, a son who lost his way, anxiety, anger and fear mixed with prayers.  And as the air warmed, the snow melted, anxiety began to lessen.  Spring in the north woods brings more ease, more hope.  If the forest can survive, and revive, if the trillium can once again bloom, so too can this family. Just as I saw first one, then two, then a trail of white flowers leading off, I believe there will be one prayer answered, then two, then a trail of blessings in this next year.

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I’m spending a lot of time lately driving through the countryside on small country roads.  It is both restful, and stressful.  How can it be both?  I’m teaching my 17-year-old to drive.  In Indiana teenagers can now have to wait until they are 16 1/2 before they can get their license.  My son has waited until he is 17 and 3/4,  he will be 3 months shy of his 18th birthday before he completes the required 40 hours of driving and take his test, a fact that is hard for me to understand.  I wanted my license the day I turned 16, I couldn’t wait for the independence that piece of paper represented. I started driving in the corn fields that surrounded our house well before I turned 15 and took drivers ed.  The freedom to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, providing of course that I could use the car.  It was a symbol of growing up and I wanted desperately to be grown up.  My oldest son also wanted, and got, his license as soon as he turned 16.  Although I actually needed him to have his license at that point, living in the mountains of Colorado, in light of everything he managed to do that he wasn’t supposed to, there were many days when I wished I hadn’t let him get his license.  Yes, hindsight is twenty – twenty.

The current 17-year-old has been in absolutely no hurry to achieve that state of independence.  I have been the one that has pushed him to learn to drive.  I had to threaten to ground him to get him to study for the written exam necessary to get his learner’s permit.  I set a deadline by when he had to have taken it.  That was a year ago.  And he really hasn’t cared much about getting behind the wheel to practice actually driving.  Until recently.  I’m not sure what actually jump started him.  Maybe it was the fact that his girlfriend has now been driving for 4 months.  Maybe he wants to find a way to have some privacy with said girlfriend. (Hmm…maybe he shouldn’t get his license?)  Or maybe it was just a turn on the chronological wheel.  Whatever the reason, I am now spending time as a passenger traveling the byways of Indiana.  We haven’t made it to the highways yet.

For the most part, he is doing well.  Everyday he gains confidence in his driving skills, and my knuckles become a little less white (there are some indentations in the passenger side armrest, I’m sure they will go away in time).  For the most part I’ve stopped pushing my foot down as if I’m stamping on the brakes.  I’ve learned to communicate more clearly EXACTLY what action he needs to take RIGHT NOW.  And I’m actually starting to look around at the country we are driving through.

I love watching the rolling fields, green with spring planted corn.  We’ve had enough rain this year that it looks like it will be “knee-high by the 4th of July”.  Stands of trees, tall and strong against the summer sun, dot the landscape, usually surrounding  a farm homestead.  Sometimes the houses are compact and neat, white sided, fronted with neatly planted flower beds a riot in color.  Sometimes they are huge old Victorians, faded paint shadowed by ancient oaks.  Crumbling stone and concrete silos stand next to towering blue Harvestors.  Occasionally we come upon a stately old brick, with ivy climbing all the way to the top stories.  What stories each of these must hold.  How many generations were born, how many fought the earth, the wind, the rain and the sun to rest a living out of the ground, to keep this land as theirs?  How many did the earth, the wind, the rain and the sun claim as payment?   How many gave in, sold out, and moved to the city or sought greener pastures further west?  Who built that stone silo that now slowly crumbles back into the ground?  If we stopped, would the farmer driving a tractor through his field tell us the stories of his land?

We don’t stop, of course.  We have a mission to complete.  15 more hours behind the wheel before he can take his test.  15 more hours behind the wheel before he reaches another stage in his independence.  15 more hours behind the wheel while I watch the Indiana countryside roll by, and decide whether I am happy, or sad,  that he finally wants his independence.

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