Heart Leaps

Today’s Quest2015 prompt from author Pam Houston asks us to consider what makes our hearts leap.

Sit quietly and ask yourself, what in the last day or week or month has made your heart leap up? Not what should, or might or always had, but what did. Make that list. Be honest, even if it surprises you. Keep the list with you this month. Add to it when it happens. Train yourself to notice. Then ask your self today, how can I arrange my life to get more of those heart leaps in it?

The list is longer than I expected, which shouldn’t surprise me. I have a lot of different interests.

  • Holding the finished 7 Blessings quilt top up to the light and watching it glow like stained glass
  • Having a fellow quester compare 7 Blessings to an Australian Opal
  • Finding, watching, and sharing Apocalypse Rhyme on Apocalypse Garden and on Facebook
  • Dreaming the future shape of the Apocalypse Garden
  • My near perfect Apocalypse Garden blogging streak (only one day missed since I started the blog on 9/30/14)
  • The Friends of the Library book sale and all its treasures, especially finding a $1 copy of the Book Lover’s Journal and a mint condition copy of The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Discovering, browsing, holding, sharing, reading books of all kinds, but especially having them in my space–more than anything else, they are my security blanket, my inspiration, my solace, and my joy
  • Finishing CS Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet (and sci-fi lit in general)
  • Watching some amazing, original, risk-taking movies, including Birdman, Twilight Angel, and an old favorite, Strictly Ballroom
  • Poetry class taught by Tony Hoagland (and his amazing reading last month)
  • Sharing and discussing poetry with my two poet cousins, MJ and Suzanne Marie. whose work and interests are uncannily similar to mine
  • Making connections with some amazing fellow questers
  • Napping in my casita’s only comfy chair with the man I love
  • The koala painting in my bathroom–every time I see it

So how can I arrange my life to get more heart leaps?

Spend more time in the bathroom? But seriously, the answer is simple–prioritize what’s important:

  • Quilting
  • Poetry
  • Books and writing (let’s just call this stories to keep it simple)
  • Movies (also stories)
  • Art
  • People
  • My blog (which is set to include all of the items on this list, plus prepping, my favorite OCD obsession)

And stop trying to second-guess what I’ve already decided to focus on in 2015–the Apocalypse Garden. Instead, I should spend my energy this month sorting out just how all that will manifest.

Unmake to Rebuild

A few minutes ago I opened today’s Quest 2015 prompt from Jason Silva, read it, and quickly closed it again.

In what ways might you artfully curate your life in 2015 to occasion serendipity, creativity and awe? 

Ontological designing says: We design our world and the world designs us back.

What are the linguistic and creative choices you can make in 2015 that will in turn act back upon you and transform you?

Improv II I don’t even know how to parse the sentences he used. Especially not at this moment. Not after journaling four new pages this morning that completely undo Monday’s post. Four pages that essentially boiled down to: what if I could just drop out? What if I could stop trying to design a livelihood and focus instead on living a life? What if I could unplug, strip down, and whittle every part of everything I own, and do, and am down to the essential?

I tried it once before when I first left my corporate tech job to move to Santa Fe and write. Back then (could it really have been only four years ago?) I was sick and exhausted and deeply unhappy and had to focus on building up instead of stripping down. Stronger now, might I finally be able to use that grit to polish myself down like a tumbled stone until every band of color, every thin thread of gold shined?

And isn’t that the point of curation vs collection? To mindfully, thoughtfully, poetically choose those few pieces that are most meaningful, most beautiful, most magical? To let one small piece of intricately designed fabric inspire the whole quilt. To let its colors, its luminosity be the door through which we invite the universe in to help us co-create our most joy-full, wonder-full, meaning-full life.

Because if I have learned anything since my first attempt to drop out–and perhaps this is only the continuation of that, not a new attempt at all–it’s that when we stop trying to control, to push through, to drive, when we stop trying to figure it all out on our own, when we open ourselves to letting things evolve, when we finally dare to name our dreams–our true dreams, not just the ones we are pretty sure we can manage to do without too much stress or trouble–the universe tends to meet us halfway. Or more than halfway.

Might 2015 be the year that I finally let it all go, give it all away, all but that one tiny seed at the core of me that must unmake itself to finally meet its destiny: a leaf, a stem, a blossom, a fruit, another seed.

So what linguistic and creative choices can I make in 2015 that will in turn act back upon me and transform me? To say no–to anything and everything that doesn’t feel deep, resonant, meaningful, and essential. And to say yes to what does: poetry, quilts, and finding/building the homestead I have dreamed of ever since I was a little girl. To drop out of the rat race of consumption and constant virtual connection, and replace it with creation and true connection. Without bludgeoning my dreams with boiling every decision I make down to the single question “but how are you going to pay for it?” Replacing it with “what might it cost if you don’t?”

LLP Marketplace and Quest2015

November has been a busy month of sewing, selling, working the day job, and setting up an online marketplace for which I am still sewing despite the fact that it launched today. And December doesn’t look any slower. Still, as my friends all keep telling me, “busy is a good thing.” What would make it a better thing: Sharing December’s exciting projects with all of you.

LLP MarketplaceAn offshoot of the Liberated Life Project, the second annual LLP Marketplace gives graduates of founder Maia Duerr’s Fall in Love with Your Work course a chance to put what they learn about creating right livelihood into practice. This year’s Marketplace includes:

  • “Buddha and the Six Supports” — a high-quality giclee print of an original Tibetan thanghka created by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo (of Threads of Awakening)
  • Beautiful note cards featuring original haiku and photography from artist Katya Lesher (of Pausing Turtle)
  • Coaching sessions from Ursula Jorch (of WorkAlchemy.com), drawing on intuitive and practical wisdom, to help you create the business (and life) you want

And maybe even my quilted journal covers if I can get my sewing done. Give it a look. Your purchase supports artists, coaches, musicians, writers, and others trying to make the leap from day jobs to dream lives.

Quest 2015

The newest offering from Jeffrey Davis, founder of Tracking Wonder, Quest 2015 promises to help participants “gain a fresh way to envision your best 12 months far beyond ineffective resolutions, goal-setting, and vision boards.”

Also concerned with right livelihood, Jeffery focuses on transforming artists, writers, coaches, and social-preneurs from dreamers to Business Artists. And although I have a full schedule and miles to go before I sleep, I just couldn’t turn down this opportunity to get help and inspiration in honing my focus for 2015, and hopefully with finally finding a way to spread some of that busy throughout the year instead of saving it all for the least three months.


The Importance of Percolation

I have a quilt on my board that’s been there for months. Okay, to be honest, I currently have six quilts on my boards in varying states of completion, but this one feels different. I sketched the design and selected the primary fabrics back in February, and cut out the background, backing, and key elements in March, but have made not a stitch of progress since then, and that’s getting to me. And it seems the longer I stare at it, the harder it is for me to figure out how to get it back on track.

One the one hand, it’s already a success. It served as inspiration for my 2013 SAQA donation quilt, Superpower: Flight! (see it and other auction quilts here). Still, though, I can’t seem to let it go, and not just because it’s a key piece in my November show. It begs to be finished. I just haven’t known how. Then, a couple of weeks ago I went with a two friends to the Museum of International Folk Art to see the “Plain Geometry: Amish Quilts” exhibit and while we were there we popped in to see another exhibit of Japanese kites.

I didn’t think too much more about it until a few days ago when I looked up at my board and saw the sad Flight fabric longing to live up to its name and new what had been missing. It didn’t want to be just another static rectangle. It wanted to soar.

Since then I’ve been arguing with myself. Do I really want to redesign it? Do I really want to start from scratch when the fabric is already cut out? Wouldn’t it just be easier to just finish what’s already up there? Yes, it would, but also, no, it wouldn’t. If it was that easy I would have been done in March when I started it. So now it’s back to the drawing board to re-imagine Flight as a kite.


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).

Over-Commitment as Motivation

A few weeks ago I wrote about resolutions and about how this year I didn’t plan to make any. Instead, I’ve decided to motivate myself using a tactic that flies in the face of everything I’ve been trying to achieve since deciding to quit my job and move to New Mexico. I have decided to over-commit. Will it add stress back into my life? Yes. But it will be a different kind of stress than I left behind. Writer Jeff Goins explained the rationale for this seemingly counter-intuitive tactic best in his guest post for Zen Habits:

“The adage “under-promise and over-deliver” is a farce. It only propagates the status quo. Real difference-makers push boundaries. They test, prod, and poke until something gives. You can do this, too, by saying “yes” to more things than you’re comfortable with. Learn to stretch yourself. You might be surprised by what you’re actually capable of. Your confidence will grow, too.”

And so, I have committed to a number of new things. I joined a writing group, took on a coaching job, became co-leader of my quilting group, and signed up to create two quilts for a March quilting show. Yes, March. This March. And believe me, that last one is taking me way out of my comfort zone. Not just because of the deadlines, but because I’ve also decided to make my first two art quilts.

Challenge 1: Create a quilt using the fabrics of blind New Mexico artist George Mendoza

Challenge 2: Create an Irish-themed quilt (the show opens on Saint Patrick’s Day)

I have already come up with both designs, sketched them, bought the fabrics, but that’s as far as I got. Until today, when I started work on Challenge 1.

I’m still not sure how the clouds will work and I may change the direction of the lightning, but I got the base fabric (flowers) and second layer (rain) out of the bag and onto the board which is a good first step. Second step — finish sewing the two quilts that are due on February 13th, but that’s another post altogether (as is Challenge 2).


Anatomy of a Quilter

I am a fourth generation quilter. Like my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother before me, I have always been captivated by the feel and sight of different fabrics, by transforming scraps into comforting works of art. I made my first patchwork quilt when I was 10 years old. It was a simple strip quilt made from leftover fabrics from quilts and clothes my mother had made. Since then I have made more than 20 quilts in a variety of sizes, all traditional patchwork patterns, but have longed to break away from right angles and other geometry into the freedom of art quilting.


Quilt ideas come to me the same way poetry does. Something catches my eye or mind — a color, a pattern, a feeling, an idea. When that happens with words, I clear my mind, pick up a pen, and let the words rush out. When it happens with quilts, I make a bee-line for the closest fabric store (in town or online) and let the colors and patterns swim together until a picture comes out. When it does, I sketch it, post it on my cork board, and get to work. I especially love quilting challenges because they force me to break out of my usual thought patterns and let the fabric or topic speak to me.

It has been years since I’ve made a quilt, but since moving from San Francisco to Santa Fe I am alive with inspiration. My board is crammed with ideas, some my own, and others inspired by challenges. I am currently working on three quilts: a traditional patterned donation quilt for Quilts of Valor that was inspired by a memoir I’ve been working on about my grandfather who fought in WWII, a challenge quilt featuring the fabrics of local blind painter George Mendoza, and a St. Patrick’s day challenge quilt featuring the Green Man drawn from my graduate school research on the same topic. Oh yes, and of course my Pizza Quilt. What better way to embrace Santa Fe than a southwest-style quilt made for me by my new guild sisters. 2012 is going to be an exciting year.