I held the backdoor open for Zinnia who ran out into the early morning. I used to wake up at night when she was a puppy and let her out, and she hasn’t forgotten. Now when I wake up to go to the bathroom, she always comes with me.
For the first time in weeks, the sky was clear and I could see the stars. I looked up as Zinnia ran past me out the door and in that moment a shooting star slowly arched its way through the speckled darkness. I smiled, taking it as a good omen, then scanning the sky found the big dipper.
There’s something about seeing a familiar star pattern in the sky that is comforting. Especially at times like these when there is so much turmoil around us.
When the sun shone through the bedroom window this morning, I was delighted. A low mist hovered above the ground, but like the stars, we haven’t had sunshine in weeks.
The donkeys took up their positions, broadside to the south, absorbing the warmth in their hair like solar panels. I even chased Minnie and Flo out of the basement so they could bask in it for a while.
By the afternoon the sky clouded up again, a white cast over everything.
But I’m still remembering that the stars, including our sun, made an appearance this morning. That’ll hold me for a while.
“Belonging is the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group. It is when an individual can [be] their authentic self.” Cornell University
The music, distorted and too loud, filled my studio. Aicha, by Khaled was the first song that stood out for me when I began Bellydancing three and half years ago. And now, alone in my studio, I was dancing to it with Kathleen, Emily and Kat in our Zoom Bellydancing class.
But in my mind I was back in the Senior Center where the class was first held. Transported back in time by the music, my eyes welled with tears.
How is it that these women, who hardly knew me at the time, made me feel more known and accepted than the family I grew up in. For some reason, I was able to trust them not to ridicule me when I couldn’t even step to the beat. I still wonder what gave me the courage to open myself up to them. In those first days, if they hadn’t been so patient and kind, I would have left and never come back.
But they didn’t give up on me, and still haven’t.
Yesterday, after losing myself in a Zoom chat with my 91-year-old mother, I found myself again as I danced that night with my Tribal Sisters.
I know now that any contact with my mother is a trigger and that will not change. She, like the other members of my family, spiral me back to a time when I was voiceless and unknown. After our conversations, no matter how benign they may be, I sink into a place of self-loathing and confusion. My confidence and ability to make decisions are buried along with my sense of self.
The contrast between the two Zoom meetings yesterday was striking.
I felt bad and guilty admitting this to myself, and feel bad as I write it now. But it’s the truth. And the truth, the facts, are the thing that pulls me back to reality. Saying them out loud, without judgment, reminds me of how I was able to become who I truly am since distancing myself from family.
For some reason, I always trusted the women Bellydance with.
From the beginning, I laid myself bare, allowing myself to honestly show my inabilities and my vulnerabilities. Including literally exposing my belly for the first time since I was a seven-year-old in a bikini.
Last night as one of my teachers, Kathleen, was explaining The Ghawazee, a move I’m having trouble with, she talked about how every dancer has to find her center. It’s like a carousel horse’s pole, that grounds you and lifts you at the same time. “When you know your center”, she said, “you can shift your weight in any direction around it and never lose your balance.”
A memory of being in art school when I was in my early twenties flashed in my mind. I was trying to paint the sunlight on the wall of my kitchen and the words, “The center is missing” popped into my head”.
For the second time that night, I felt my eye brimming with tears.
What Kathleen was telling me reached beyond my physical body and into my emotional and psychological self. Could I weather the outside forces that rocked me, as long as my center was intact?
Dancing brings me back to myself. But I’m beginning to think it has as much to do with the women that I dance with. They’ve created an environment of trust where dancing together is a priority that we are all committed to.
I’m not sure, but I think it’s that commitment that holds us together. That makes us want to be kind and helpful to each other. It keeps us on our best behavior and helps us be tolerant of one another.
My whole life I’d been searching for a sense of belonging. I found it in another person when I met Jon and then in my art when I began making quilts. I feel it when I walk in the woods.
And now I know it with the women I Bellydance with.
I never thought to put my magnets on my car, but Jon likes having them on his. They’re right above the handle on the driver’s side, so he sees them every time he gets in his car.
One day he came home from Walgreens and told me that the woman at the drive-through loved my magnets and was going to check out my blog.
That’s all it takes to make me feel good.
I wasn’t sure if the magnets would do well on the car, exposed to all the elements. But my I Belong To Memagnet has been there for months and it hasn’t faded at all. So far they’ve endured the snow, rain, and sun. They even survived the snowstorm that all but buried the cars in the driveway.
Both these magnets are 4″ x 2 3/4″ and are $6 + $1 shipping for one or more. You can buy them and all my other magnets in my Etsy Shop. Just click here.
I was walking in the woods when Jon called. “Test came back negative,” he said,” I’m going to the gym.”
I wasn’t surprised, but I was relieved. Jon’s been feeling better every day since Friday when the nurse at his doctor’s office told him to get tested for the Corona Virus and that we should both isolate. He only had one symptom of the virus, but that was enough to take the precaution.
I know who fortunate we are.
Now that Jon no longer has any symptoms and his test came back negative, we’re free to get back to life as usual. That means we can go food shopping, Jon and go to the gym and I can go to the post office instead of leaving my packages in the mailbox for our carrier to pick up.
Usually, I scoop the sheep grain directly from the bag, which I keep inside a metal garbage pail. But the new bag of grain was clumped together and I decided to dump it directly into the pail so it would be easier to scoop.
But first I turned the garbage pail over, emptying the old moldy grain that sat on the bottom of it onto the barn floor.
And there it was, the earring I lost over a year ago.
I found another earring I had lost when I was digging in my garden last summer. I had forgotten all about that earring. And one time I found a bracelet that I had lost in the small stream in the woods.
It makes me feel like the farm and the woods held onto them for safekeeping. Waiting for me to rediscover them. Like they weren’t really lost at all. They were just where I didn’t expect them to be.
No one taught me how to make a quilt. When a friend showed me the book from the Whitney Museum of the Gee’s Bend Quilts that were on display there from 2002-03, we decided to make our own.
We were both out of art school for some years. I had stopped making art, wondering if I would ever feel the pull to start again.
She lived on Long Island and I lived four hours away not far from our farm. We started collecting fabric from thrift stores and when I would visit her I’d bring the Singer sewing machine my mother bought me for my twenty-third birthday and we spend the weekend making quilts.
The quilts I saw in that book, which I now refer to as my “bible” stirred something inside of me. Besides their striking colors and individualistic uniqueness, they shouted confidence and integrity. Each with its own voice, soft, or loud, they were all bold.
I know now that my reaction to those quilts was much the same as my reaction the first time I watched the Bennington Beledi Tribal Bellydancers. It was that “in your face” attitude. The quilts and the belly dancing each had something I didn’t have. But once I had seen it, I wanted it.
Unlike myself, they were not afraid to be looked at, not afraid to be seen. They knew their own worth and they didn’t care what anyone else thought.
I learned to make quilts by making them. One piece, one quilt at a time, I figured it out as I went.
The idea of getting a quilting frame never entered my mind. From the beginning, almost 20 years ago, when tacking my quilts, I hung them from the ceiling and one by one pulled a needle with yarn through the three layers of quilt and tied it on the back.
A few years ago someone (I don’t even remember who) told me that she saw someone tacking a quilt by pulling the yarn through the whole quilt as if sewing it in giant basting stitches, then cutting and tying the yarn.
My first thought was that that’s not how I do it. And then, for the most part I forgot about it. Except sometimes when I was tacking my quilts, it would come to mind.
Then last month, when tacking my quilt I thought of it again. And this time, instead of pushing the idea away, I tried it.
Not only it is quicker, but it makes it easier to keep my tacking lines straight and evenly spaced.
I just pull the yarn through, from back to front and back again over and over as if sewing, then cut the yarn and tie it.
I think what amazed me most was how long it took me to do it. I know it was my ego that held me back. I wanted to do it my way, even if it wasn’t the best way.
One of the things I have always loved about making my quilts is that I’m the only one who can make the judgement about what it is “right” and “wrong”. Because I’m not following anyone’s rules by my own.
I’ve always had issues about people telling me what to do. I don’t like it. It’s one of the reason’s I do well working alone and running my own business. But it also can stop me from taking good advice, from learning.
I don’t want to be the kind of person who can’t change. And the more confident I am, the less defensive I’ve become.
My art has always taught me about myself. If a person is being authentic, how can it not?
When I think of how long it took me to adopt this efficient way of tacking a quilt, I’m reminded that I don’t have to shut myself in a room away from other people and ideas to create. Because I’m better at picking and choosing what works or feels “right” for me. Better at saying no, so I don’t have to hide and push people and ideas away.
And I’m better at saying “yes” when something is good for me, even if it still makes me a little uncomfortable.
Before going to be I usually sit in front of the fish tank for a while and watch the snails, fish and shrimp. Last night I put the blue light on in the tank and took some pictures. That’s when I got this self-portrait.
My face was reflected in the tree in the tank. It integrated so well, as if I was part of the tree.
My wool quilt is bigger than usual, about 85″x90″. It just turned out that way.
I finished piecing it together this morning and then made the backing form 6 king size pillowcases that a friend dropped off at the farm just yesterday. They’re have a chambray look so the fabric works really well with the wool.