For a Mother’s Day present my children and their partners signed me up for the local Chuckanut Writer’s Conference. I spent my weekend workshop/breakout times focused on memoir.
When I was finishing my doctoral dissertation, my daughter Sally, a really really good writer, gave me the best advice about a draft of the work I’d suffered over for at least 4 years; “Mom, take out all the quotes and see what you’ve got left.” That advice turned the tide. I whittled 150 pages down to 100 – that’s an exaggeration but then I was able to move toward a finished piece of writing in my words.
This morning I’m hanging out in bed with a cup of coffee, my laptop, and a pile of books from my library pick-up, plus my notebook filled with ideas from the conference. I’m whittling down my years of consciousness imposed by years of input, to see what’s left of me. This is not an eureka moment. I’m trying to do what my friend Trish did and write a letter to my birthday-is-almost-here self.
The first books I poured over were 3 quilt books. Yes, quilt books. They were a break from words words words to color, pattern and visual art created from contrasting fabrics.
I thought about that as I walked from the living room, where my sewing machine is on a fold-up table, into the kitchen past the room I call the whatsitroom. Paper litters the desk and floor. Nearby fabric scraps are neatly (well that’s a description we don’t all agree on) sorted into colorways on shelves at least for a moment.
Contrast. Eight published authors and one over the top in a fantastic way high school teacher, slam poet competitor, talked about their work and shared exercises to help make our writing sing. Not one person directly used the word “contrast.” Those of us who dabble with the color chart know that contrast makes a quilt or painting “sing.” I am at the point in my life, with limited years left, when the contrast between who I was and who I want to be is the key to making my heart sing.
The papers on the floor and nearby cupboard overflowing with paper and other arts materials stacked willynilly are reminders of “someday I’ll get to that.” I’ll create those collages – not. I’ll frame those photos or at least get them into albums – someday. Contrast that with the somewhat ordered quilting fabric, sewing supplies and yet to be finished for people I love quilts and my expanding scribbled list to write about ideas that keep my heart beating – and we all know I need to do everything I can to keep my heart beating.
My dad died when he was 97, 6 months ago. Every day from the time he was close to 70 years old, he wrote a story expressing his thoughts and memories about his life. These stories are gifts to me and my family.
A sense of joy and connection serve as my compass in all things. My writing and my quiltmaking are not profound pursuits. They are ways to express who I am. It is time I do my part to give up cynicism and wrestle down my fears for the world; specifically for my grandchildren.
It’s also time to see if I can find the floor in the whatsitroom.
You can call me Still Moving out Granni.
“For our hearts are not pure; our hearts are filled with need and greed as much as with love and grace; and we wrestle with our hearts all the time. The wrestling is who we are. How we wrestle is who we are. What we want to be is never what we are. Not yet. Maybe that’s why we have these relentless engines in our chests, driving us forward toward what we might be.” ~ Brian Doyle