Lauren McLean Iuppa Ayer

Poet | Artist | Optimist

Tag: quilting

Integration

One GardenOnce upon a time I had a dream of lush, sustainable, edible gardens. I dreamed about helping to build resilient communities by teaching others how to grow food no matter the size of your yard, or even if you didn’t have a yard. That dream was called OneGarden, and it was filled with projects, plant information, sustainable gardening tips, and more.

It would be easy to say I have new dreams now, but it would probably be more accurate to say my dreams have evolved. It takes more than a garden to build resilience in our lives and our communities. And the gardens we do cultivate are at the mercy of our increasingly erratic climate. Still, they hold an import place in building a resilient life–along with self-care, art, story, mindful living, and making a difference in the world at large. So rather than simply let all that juicy content disappear into the ether when the OneGardenOnline domain expires at the end of this week, I have opted for integration. Each of us is, after all, the result of our combined experiences, interests, passions, loves. And this gardening bug has been with me since grade school or before, when I used to save my pennies to buy whatever 2″ potted plants caught my fancy, creating a jungle in my half of the shared bedroom.

With the new content, you will notice a few new categories, a handful (maybe two) of new tags, and a flurry of new/old posts from the years before this site was built. Consider it a missing piece of the puzzle that, now found, clarifies just a little more of the bigger picture. And soon more missing puzzle pieces will be added. Quilts of Change has also been brought over, but there are a few others out there waiting to make the journey home. I will do my best to make any disruption to the site as painless as possible.

 

Special thanks to Christine U’Ren who designed the lovely OneGarden masthead. I will be sad to see it retired.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Future

The thing about change is that you never know where it will go. A little over three years ago things were bad. My job was bad. My living situation was bad. My relationship was bad. My health was bad. Of course I’d been working hard to change all that. At the beginning of July, 2010 I had an offer for a new job on its way, an offer in on a beautiful house in a quiet ocean-side suburb of San Francisco, a new understanding with my boyfriend after a near breakup, and  improvements in my health due to a strict new diet that banned gluten, soy, nightshades, and all sugar, as well as many other things I had been eating every day. I had even been accepted to a graduate program called Action for a Viable Future, that would help me begin to have a more positive impact on the world.

I was sure I was on my way to a better life, until one day in the middle of the month a layoff in the company I had interviewed made them retract my pending offer, my house bid was declined for a lower offer, and the graduate program was cancelled for lack of enrollment. I felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under me.

A few days later I was talking to a coworker about her recent trip to Santa Fe. She told me how she had met writer Natalie Goldberg in a cafe, how Natalie was teaching writing workshops, and that we should go. A few weeks later my friend had to pull out, but I knew I needed to get away from everything, so I booked the workshop and my flights and went alone.

That retreat was September, 2010. In January I asked for a leave of absence to spend the next year in Santa Fe studying with Natalie. They gave me six months. When that six months was over, I quit, found a more permanent address, and stayed, thinking I would finally finish that novel and become the writer I’d always known I could be.

Things don’t always work out how you expect. I did study with Natalie that year and into the next. I published some poems in local journals and papers. I even finished the first draft of that novel I’d been working on. But what I really discovered was that more than anything, what made me feel most at peace, what brought me the most joy, was returning to something I’d learned to do when I was ten–making quilts. And not just making quilts, the promise of how quilts can help make this world a better place, by comforting those who need comfort, by helping people heal from trauma and feel they are loved, by representing and commenting on injustice or pain in the world, by inviting people to become creative forces for good.

That is why I created this site and blog, this idea that by doing something I love in a way that has meaning I could make a difference not just for others but for myself. Being broken makes it harder to heal others. Heal yourself first and not only do you have more to give, you have a story you can share. A story of hope. A story of change. A story of finding joy.

I am still writing my story. I have found my passion, but having given up my high-tech salary, I now work three jobs (more when I can get freelance work) to make ends meet. I find myself stuck in a kinder, gentler version of the same trap, with little time or energy to create. Living a life that still doesn’t feel like the life I’ve longed for, the dream that moved me 1,200 miles from my family, friends, boyfriend, and home town.

And so, my life continues to evolve. In November I will have my first solo quilt show and teach my first class. It’s a good start, but I want to do more. I want to look more closely at the materials I use and the businesses I support. I want to look more closely at where and how I live. I want to look more closely at the footprint I leave. And, most importantly, I want to look more closely at the good I can do, not just for myself or the people I love, but for the people I have never met and the planet we share. And yes, I do have an idea of where this might go and what forms it may take, but if I’ve learned anything from the last three years, it’s that the path of change is seldom straight, and the glittering light in the distance might lead you away from the deeper joy of a warm hearth and encircling arms right in front of you.

Making a Difference

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with this site, this blog, this quilting life. I obviously had intentions when I named my previous website Quilts of Change. Something about making the world a better place. But it can be easy to get overwhelmed by that kind of pressure. The world’s problems feel so big, and what really can a quilter do? It’s so easy to feel like it’s all just a drop in the ocean, of little or no account. And then something happens…

That something was learning that a friend and neighbor has been diagnosed with cancer–late stage and hard to fight. She sent us a note saying she doesn’t need anything. She has a plan. She has a loving family. She has a good dog. Which is wonderful, but I have to do something. Anything so I don’t feel so incredibly helpless.

And so I quilt. And I ask myself: Will this crazy, stripy mess with its random scrawled words really make a difference? Will it really change anything? Sure, it will keep her warm when she is cold. It may remind how much she is valued and love. And there may come a time where it can lend her the extra strength she needs to make it through. It’s a lot to ask of a few scraps of colored cloth, but then again, that’s what this cloth was made for. And thank God, because suddenly, fabric in hand, I don’t feel nearly as helpless anymore. Change is a two way street. It has to start with ourselves.

My Year of Quilts

When I think about quilts the first word that comes to mind is COMFORT. Maybe that’s why when I returned home after one of the worst holidays on record, all I wanted to do was make myself a quilt.

I started with a blanket made of 12″ blocks cut from old sweatshirts. It was the dead of winter and I wanted something comfy to snuggle up in. At first that was all I could think about, but slowly, with each stitch I realized the sewing itself was helping me feel better. So when I finished the sweatshirt quilt, I decided to keep sewing–to see how many quilts I could make in a single year. My thought was, that if that cozy quilt could help comfort me, maybe a different type of quilt could help me work through the other emotions swimming around in my head. And even if they didn’t, I’d at least have a set of quilts ready for show. And just to make sure I kept on track, I booked a one-woman show starting the first of November.

So here’s the break-down for those who want to follow along:

  • Quilts needed for show: at least 12
  • Quilts completed so far: 3 from last year, 2 from this year (one donated to SAQA)
  • Quilts in progress: 5 (in various states of completion)
  • Days left before show: 127

So yes, I have some work to do. I’ll keep you posted as I go (when I find time between sewing, that is).

How a Brutal Election and a Natural Disaster Helped Me Find My Calling

Looking back on these last few weeks (months?) it’s not hard to imagine that the Mayan apocalypse theories are true. The ugliest election I’ve ever seen filled the airwaves and internet with poison and vitriol. A gargantuan super-storm flooded huge sections of Manhattan and wiped out power for millions along the eastern seaboard. Terrified victims slammed the doors in strangers faces refusing to help those in desperate need of saving. This country, this planet is coming apart at the seams, and it’s not just the liberal in me that believes that. Hate has no place in family values. Neither does violence. Neither does fear. And we are a family, like it or not. We need to learn how to get along. Our survival as a nation and as a species depends on it.

The election is over, but declaring a winner and a loser is far from the end of the struggle. This election only underscored the fact that we are a people divided. That there are critical issues that need addressing yesterday. Yes, the election is over. Now it’s time to clean up the mess.

You may wonder what all this has to do with my calling. It started with this blog post written by congressional candidate Colin Beavan (aka No Impact Man). In it was a call to action.

We all have to start dedicating some of our lives to these problems. Not just voting for the right people. Not just leaving comments on blogs. Not just having intense conversations over coffee.

So what then?

Here’s a thought. Decide to dedicate five to ten hours a week to helping figure out what to do. Then use those five to ten hours to bring your personal gifts to the search for societal solutions and the means of implementing them.

If you are an artist or musician or writer, use your talents to bring more and more attention to our problems and the quest for the solution. Be a constant reminder of the peril our society and world faces.

Overall, though, my point here is that all of us have a role to play in our cultural healing. There is no leader who can tell us how to contribute. Each of us has to look around us and use our own minds and souls to see what needs doing and how we are best suited to do it. Each of us must contribute in our own way. 

What is the one thing you know how to do? What is the one thing you can dedicate a slice of your life to? 

Those last questions are ones I’ve spent a lot of time struggling with, but for some reason, reading them in this context gave me a whole new perspective.

What do I know how to do? Write and sew.

What is the one thing I can dedicate a slice of my life to? Combining those two things to raise awareness of the suffering I see in the world, and doing my part to heal it.

That suffering may take different forms — recovery after natural (or man-made) disaster, coping with the fallout of war, living with the legacy of hate in all its forms, the planetary crisis of global warming, poverty and hunger to name a few.

I have found and purchased a new URL. I have outlined the new site and the things I hope to do (both online and beyond). I have committed to writing and sewing every weekday. I’m finally on the road. And from my joy at my first few steps I will ask you my version of the questions Colin asked:

What cause matters most to you?

What can you do about it?

For more inspiration, check out: How to Change the World (Hint: It’s Not Voting)

In the Thick of It

I have never really lived in a place with winter. Not since I was a little girl and spent a couple of white, wet seasons in upstate New York. I never even learned to ski, thanks to a paranoid gymnastics coach, so I skipped all those Tahoe trips so many of my friends took, and still take.

I have to admit, I was afraid of it. Afraid of the way it might chill me to the bone, especially given how easily I have always gotten cold. Afraid of the slick sidewalks and icy roads. And yes, I was also afraid of what I might do, stuck here in one tiny room longing for my garden and for spring to come.

I have always been able to garden all year through. San Francisco’s temperate climate means there is always something to do — rake, mulch, plant, trim. The garden is always calling you. But not here. Here the garden is sleeping beneath it’s thick, white winter blanket. You can’t even hear it breathing the world is so quiet thanks to the snow.

I never believed I’d actually say this, but I am in love with winter. In love with the white. In love with the silence. In love with the way the world slows down. It is such an amazing blessing, all this space and time I never knew I longed for.

There is a whole world in this one room, free of the demands of the garden. I have found time to get back to hobbies and projects too long put aside. I have started making quilts again. I have been writing. I have this whole new old life that my lust for greenery had pushed aside, and I am loving it. And I want to share it with you. Because while I am reveling in letting the garden lie fallow, the blog shouldn’t have to. There is enough growth in this one room to keep this space thriving no matter how hard or how long it snows.

Of course that means some things will have to change. This blog will need to stretch out and make room. It will sometimes need to peer into cupboards. It will sometimes need to look out at the world. It will need to find the connection between plant and fabric and word and stone. And there is a connection. It’s called Home.