Many things I might have said today. And I kept my mouth shut. So many times I was asked To come and say the same things Everybody was saying, no end To the yes-yes, yes-yes, me-too, me too.
The aprons of silence covered me. A wire and hatch held my tongue. I spit nails into an abyss and listened. I shut off the gabble of Jones, Johnson, Smith, All whose names take pages in the city directory.
I fixed up a padded cell and lugged it around. I locked myself in and nobody knew it. Only the keeper and the kept in the hoosegow Knew it-on the streets, in the post office, On the cars, into the railroad station Where the caller was calling, “All a-board, All a-board for . . . Blaa-blaa . . . Blaa-blaa, Blaa-blaa . . . and all points northwest . . . all a-board Here I took along my own hoosegow And did business with my own thoughts. Do you see? It must be the aprons of silence.
Vintage linens piled up on the floor around me as I pulled them out of the pale green wooden cabinet. I was looking for just the right piece, even though I had no idea what it would be. But I knew I’d know it when I saw it.
Most of the linens have flowers embroidered on them, I put aside a pillowcase that was a possibility and a tablecloth with blue flowers printed on it. Then I remembered the Victorian Women. I knew I had several linens with Victorian Women embroidered on them.
When I pulled out the apron, my search was over.
It’s like the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Although I didn’t know what the pieces were until I finished the apron.
The apron with the Victorian woman and umbrella was gathered at the apron string as most aprons are. But I wanted it to hang flat on my body so the words would be visible. The first thing I did was cut the apron string off and replace it with a piece of muslin.
I thought I’d write the words with marker than paint them, but as I drew the words, I liked how the woman was still visible through the sketchy marker. I also liked the feeling of spontaneity.
The apron is a symbol of women and their traditional place in society. It would cover the part of my body that the government is trying to have control over. And it’s a form of protection.
The apron also made me think of the Carl Sanberg Poem Aprons Of Silence, which inspired one of my early quilts, with the same name.
I am determined, although not always successful, not to be silenced about anything in my life anymore, including when it comes to my right to have control over my body, and essentially, my life.
I’ll admit I’m never comfortable when it comes to the “call and answer” that goes on in any big gathering. Even at concerts, I’m not one to sing along. Maybe it reminds me of being in church where I was taught to say things I never really understood. Or maybe it’s the legacy of my own inability to speak up.
So I kept to applauding and zagareeting when I was moved, and I made my feelings known with the apron tied around my waist.
When I got home, I hung the apron in my studio for the next march or rally.
“Jung wrote that the way to discover your myth, to discern your true identity is to observe your dreams, observe your conscious choices, keep a journal, see which images and stories surface and resonate and speak to you. Look at stories and symbols and see which reflect your heart and soul.”
I read all of Jon’s blog posts. Sometimes he asks me to read them before he puts them up, when he wants to know what I think. Last week he wrote about my trip to India and when I read in it Carl Jung’s idea of how to discover your own myth and identity, it stuck with me.
I kept going back to it, because it I saw myself, my life so clearly in it. All the things Jung mentions, observing dreams and conscious choices, keeping a journal and paying attention to the images and stories that surface and resonate and speak to you.
All these things are just what I’ve been doing for the past seven or eight years with my art and my blog.
By being aware of the archetypes and the stories and images of the past and present, the ones that have meaning for me, I’ve been discovering who I really am.
And what I want my life to be.
It started when I was inspired by the aesthetics and philosophy from the women of Gees Bend to make my quilts. Like any artist studying the master, I borrowed from them until my quilts started to bear my own signature, my own voice. It was, through Carl Sandburg’s poem Aprons of Silence and the quilt I made from his words that I was able to understand the depth of my voicelessness and my desire to be heard.
Finding my strength, I stitched affirmations on hundreds of potholders. Words like “I Am” and ” A Strong Center and Open Heart”, until I believed it of myself.
I looked to Clarissa Pinkham Estes interpretations of the fairy tales I grew up with and never understood what they meant until I was in my 50’s. And I looked further to the ancient goddesses, to their images and symbols.
I told my dreams to anyone who would listen, speaking them out loud, writing them down, and making them into art, so that I could interpret their true meaning. I took images and feelings from the space between waking and sleeping and brought them to my work.
And then I wrote about it all on my blog, a new and at first, difficult, way for me to communicate. It was frightening for me to speak out, it was dangerous.
I posted my images for anyone who wanted to see them. And I took the stories of the people who sent me messages on my blog as seriously as I took the ancient myths. Because, I believe, it doesn’t matter who or where the story comes from, it only matters that they spark something in me.
This and every story I read or image I saw that touched me influenced my work. I brought it right in, often not even understanding its meaning, but feeling its pull. I internalized it. And I trusted it.
Because of all of this, all I’ve done so far, I’ve come to understand and see who I really am. Not who I think I am or who other people may believe me to be. But to see the light of my true self.
So where does this leave me?
Last week I got a letter with a check in it for my trip to India and a note from Sherry. She wrote: ” …thank you for stepping up and agreeing to undertake this challenge, and for you generosity in showing your art”.
I had to read it twice.
Because I didn’t see what I was doing as challenging and generous. To me, what I do seems almost selfish. Because both these things, making this trip to India and sharing my art are both things I want to do so much.
But when I think about it, I can see what Sherry is saying. Because I haven’t always felt this way. I used to be too afraid to show my work and couldn’t even have dreamed of taking a trip like the one I’m taking to India.
But now I can see the myth that is mine. It is my story, my life.
And this “challenge”, as Sherry calls it, is a part of it.
It’s happening because I asked for it. And I asked for it, because I now know it’s my story.
I don’t know what will come of it. How it will turn out. But I’m going to do what I have to, to step up to it. And answer my calling. To live the myth that I now understand to me mine.
I just need to put the batting and backing and tack Aprons of Silence.
I have lots of ideas for Rita. I think Rita howling at the moon is next. ( I got some composition ideas from a religious icon painting I saw at the Frick Collection) .
I’m planning on making a small Rita quilted wall hanging (and some one of a kind potholders) for the Gallery 99 in Glens Falls in February It will be a 3 day show in the old Empire Theater on South St. and everything there will be $99 or less. I’m not sure of the theme of that one yet, maybe Naked as the Desert or The third eye, Center of Intuition.
I just got it, the design for Silence of aprons. As usual, when it’s right, you know it. “Aprons of Silence” will be stitched on the pink strip to the right and there will probably be a partial border of the green print fabric at the top, I’ll tweak it as I go. This is it, now to sew.
Did a couple of versions of the Rita Quilt today. I like the iconic shape of the apron flanked by Rita’s and the simplicity of the design which draws attention to the Rita panels. Except for the thin blue piece to the right (Aprons of Silence will be stitched here) and the Rita panels, the rest of the fabric is aprons.
This is the first design which I think is distracting, it has too much going on…
As I was making a fire in the stove in my studio this morning I heard a commotion by sewing machine. When I looked around I found a bluebird stuck between my desk and the wall. I picked it up. It roosted on my finger, but it’s mouth was open as if gasping for air. I brought it outside thinking it would fly away, but it just sat on my hand. Within moments, Mother, the barn cat came running towards me. It was as if she somehow knew the bird was in my studio and was waiting for it.
I brought the blue bird back in the studio and set it on a branch in a box. It roosted quietly and I soon noticed that it’s beak was closed. It was probably just startled. I brought him outside and this time as Mother came towards us, the bluebird flew out of my hand, over the barn and out of sight.
The appearance of the bluebird felt mystical to me, so I googled it. It turns out that it’s a symbol of transition or passage. The color blue is associated with the throat chakra and creative expression.
The perfect way to begin my day working on my first Rita Quilt “Aprons of Silence”
These are my 2nd and 3rd attempts at “Sad Rita” the second is the finished piece that I’ll use in the quilt. The slope of the shoulders and long face made all the difference.
Yesterday I spent the day working in the studio. I didn’t listen to music or some of my favorite radio shows (Speaking of Faith, Selected shorts) I listened to the wind blowing the dry leaves still on the tress and the ones already fallen. Twice the wind blew my studio door open. When ever this happens I welcome it and say “thanks for visiting” as I close the door. I love the way the wind comes and stirs everything up. Natural pruning as the dead branches finally come down, leaves creating dry eddy’s. The gardens are thin and the colors spare but intense. I feel it too, the change outside and in. Time to rearrange the furniture.
I have 2 handbag orders left to complete. I started working on one yesterday and I know these two will be my last. They just don’t hold the creative interest they used to, I’ve figured them out and find my mind moving on even as I work on them. Thanks to so many of you, I’ve sold all the quilts I had on sale. It was hard to let go of some of them, but I think it’s necessary to move on. So something has ended which means something new will begin.
Between selling the quilts and buying a new sewing machine I’ve made space for new ideas and means of carrying them out. I have a series of quilts in mind based on a girl named Rita. The first new quilt will be “Aprons of Silence” inspired by the Carl Sandburg poem. It feels good to get back to the quilts and I can also imagine their “potholder offspring”.