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.
I walked into my studio after having left Jon at the hospital to have his Heart Catheterization. It was Monday morning and I knew my day would be filled with waiting. Waiting to hear from the surgeon that Jon was ok. Waiting to talk to him on the phone since I couldn’t see him in the hospital, waiting to pick him up and bring him home.
I’m not good at waiting.
As I do every Monday morning, I put my laptop on my desk, but as I plugged it in I saw one little red shoe on my altar.
I closed my eyes and teared up. “Cindy,” I said out loud and smiled.
Since Cindy gave them to me years ago, the red doll shoes have sat on top of the old painted spice box that hangs above the altar in my studio.
Cindy always understood the symbolism of the red boots that found their way into so many pieces of my art. It was something we shared from the beginning of our friendship.
“…I read Alice Hoffman’s “Blackbird House”. I wrote on my blog in 2010. “Very Witchy, (I may have to make Rita a pair of red boots.)”
Rita was my alter ego at the time and she appeared in many quilts and fabric paintings including my quilt Silence Of Aprons, which Cindy bought. I left Rita behind many years ago, but the red/pink boots still appear in my work from time to time.
They are a symbol of my individuality, finding my voice and refusal to compromise my life anymore.
Between Cindy and me, the red boots became synonymous with Dorothy’s ruby slippers and the idea that we’ve always had the power in us to be our true selves.
Cindy died in May.
But I had no doubt when I saw the one red shoe, not on the spice box where it always is, but on my altar that it was a message from Cindy. I believe that since she can’t text me anymore (although I did get a call from her cell phone, without a voicemail, shortly after she died) she communicated in a way she could.
It seems to me that Cindy was letting me know that she was thinking of me. And what a comfort it was at that moment to hear from her.
It will be my second apron quilt. The first one was called The Silence of Aprons the title inspire by the poem by Carl Sandburg.
This time I got an email from Tess asking me if I would make a quilt from her grandmothers aprons. They hold memories of many Sunday dinners and Tess’ Neno was obviously a very special person. I liked the idea of making the quilt and the love and emotion I sensed in the email, so told Tess to send the aprons.
For some reason I kept picturing a worn and lovingly stained white canvas full length apron. I knew there was more than one, but that was all I could see in my mind. The box arrived on Friday, and what a surprise when I opened it up and saw all the colorful aprons. I picked the green flowered one out first, falling in love with the fabric. When I read Tess’ note I found out that this was her favorite too and she asked if I could put it into the quilt intact. Well, I haven’t started designing it yet, but I’m going to try very hard to get that apron in whole, stings and all.
If I get this done before the Fiber Festival at the Adirondack Museum on September 15th, I’m planning on hanging it there for the day. (Tess already gave me the ok) It’s a nice example of how I recycle fabric, since you’ll actually be able to see at least one whole apron.
So here it is, step one of Neno’s Apron Quilt. I’ll let you know what happens next.
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.
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.
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.