Musings from MillerQuilts

Archive for July, 2002

July 2002

Monday, July 1st, 2002

I’m writing this on the longest day of the year: a special time to rejoice in the Pacific Northwest. We are good at celebrating the sun in this corner of the country, because we are sometimes without it for days on end in the rainy winter. With my schedule, I’m just rejoicing that I am spending this longest day at home, rather than on the road…

For several weeks now I’ve been mentally taking notes to give you a glimpse of what it is like being a travelling teacher of quiltmaking. High on the list of attributes is taxing, tiring, and frustrating, with the varied security obstacles now in my airport path. But I’ve often been conscious of the little wonderful things that are also involved in the physical aspect of traversing this country numerous times a year.

Getting on an airplane is almost as mindless as getting in a car for me. By watching carefully and inserting myself into the line for final boarding of an aircraft at a crucial moment, I have managed to avoid being “randomly” selected for yet one more “go-through-all-your-stuff” security check (I get in line when the security personnel are busy with one or two other passengers…)

I’ve developed boarding techniques to ensure that I don’t have to fight for overhead bin space, which could be the bane of my travelling existence. My repertoire of numerous graceful ways of asking for help getting my rollon carryon bag over my head into that space is impressive. Such help is necessary both at the beginning of the flight and at the end, when my carryon is so loaded with books that I can barely raise it to waist level, much less over my head!! Consequently, I’ve witnessed quite a range of male facial expressions, which go from aghast to “proud to help you, ma’am” to “well, no need for any more good turns today…”

Since I live on the West coast, much of my teaching involves a whole day of travel en route to the teaching assignment, and another whole day to get home. These used to feel like “wasted” days — less wasted when I could applique or knit in the airports, but of course both of those activities now involve tools (scissors, knitting needles) which would cause me no end of grief getting through the security line. But over the past couple months I’ve wanted to make those days memorable, by really “being present” and tuning in to what is around me. I’ve always been a “people-watcher”, which is a mind-saving trait when one spends so much time in airports!

But recently I’ve consciously become aware of what’s around me; aware of the way people treat each other, of what I can read on people’s faces, of conversations in the gate areas (NOT those I’d like to escape — the ones over cell phones which feature a complete lexicon of the current business “buzz words”, or an ample display of the call maker’s sense of his personal importance…)

I find particular joy in watching families travelling: in watching grandparents greeting children and grandchildren in baggage claim areas. What fun to see new mothers cradling the tiniest of babies with the fathers lurching behind them, bent over almost double from carting all the “equipment” it apparently takes to travel with a small child nowadays! Little girls with ponytails perched on their heads at incongruous angles bring a smile to my face! A recent fond memory: watching a father and young son in the gate area, playing cards together (something more complicated than “Go Fish”!!!) They were bent towards each other at odd angles over the empty seat between them, the boy wearing a baseball cap that made the tops of his ears stand out at right angles to his head …Overhearing their conversation, and the boy’s giggle of glee when he got good cards at his father’s expense, was pure joy!

On Father’s Day this year, my heart lifted when I spied a young father on one moving walkway and his two young sons (perhaps 6 and 8 years old) on an adjacent one — racewalking…the little boys could hardly keep up, their giggles were overtaking them so…and the look on the father’s face told me that they were truly cherished children…

Teaching with “designer bandaid of the day” over the bridge of my nose! Photo taken by Linda Holst of Wheatland, Wyoming. Linda was the “roving photographer” throughout the Colorado Quilt Symposium, and she would post photos from each day on large display boards with humorous captions — what a treat!

This month’s trip to Birmingham, Alabama and in Estes Park, Colorado added some memorable events to my lexicon of travelling memories!

About 15 minutes before my first class in Alabama began, I tripped over a sewing machine and went down on a concrete floor, landing on my nose…the 1/4″ of college carpeting doesn’t count as cushioning…The blessing of course is that I didn’t break my nose, OR MY ARMS trying to break my fall…

One of my students had a son who had attended the college where we were — so she knew of a small regional hospital nearby. She phoned ahead and explained the situation (that “the patient” was teaching a conference: that her treatment needed to be swift, as “the show must go on”!!!!) I got the students started sewing their Strips that Sizzle from a prone, then semi-sitting, position!! I left for the hospital at 10:30, and was back in class by noon!!! I finished the workshop that day, though I was feeling a bit shaky…but that night, I had a hard time falling asleep — because all my mind wanted to do was relive the fall…

So then on I went to the wonderful Colorado Quilt Symposium — to an elevation of 8,000 feet in Estes Park, with steri-strips holding the gash on my nose together!!!! I had a couple days off before the Symposium began — and I had to figure out what to do about my appearance. The steri-strips weren’t hiding the wound well enough, and it was still leaking as I arrived there. (Didn’t want to gross my students out, after all!!!!!) Just before leaving Alabama, I bought large shaded blue sunglasses, in case my face developed a couple of impressive black eyes…

Once in Colorado I went in search of nose disguises…I started with “transparent” bandaids — but all that did was perch a very white square of gauze front and center on my face. Back I went to the drugstore to check out the “designer” bandaids — my choice was “Barbie” bandaids, Harry Potter ones, the Pop Art ones I actually used, or bandaids featuring two cartoon characters I’m not familiar with!! Consequently, I wore “pop art” bandaids over my injury all week, and they were the talk of the Symposium!! I had a different one for each day to “match” my outfit, of course; so even if my nose had healed the second day, I would have had to keep up the Bandaid Parade…

My roommate on this entire trip was Rachel Clark of Santa Cruz, California, whose wearable art (and sense of humor) is known far and wide. When she stated one of her clothing theories in the fashion shows she presented this week, I knew I had a solution to my nose problem. Rachel’s theory on figure flaws is: “if you can’t disguise it, decorate it!!!!” So I took this advice to heart with my bandaids this week. It was great fun.

One never knows how smoothly one’s air travel process is going to be. The trip home this time was one of the most arduous I’ve had for a while. On top of extra security checks, my two checked bags were four and five pounds overweight, respectively, when I arrived in Denver. The airline personnel made me rectify the situation on the spot; so en route home I carried way too much on my person all day. This was more difficult, of course, because it was at the end of a ten-day trip, when my energy was already flagging…

My son David with my Patches just before the evening’s artmaking began! Patches appears to be trying to discouraging David from doing anything that would interfere with her being cuddled all evening…

But what a joy to drive home from the Seattle airport that night — the scenery was more and more lovely and soul-restoring, the farther west I drove…and I got home in time to enjoy the last vestiges of a beautiful sunset…This yard, thanks to the previous owners, is such a delightful surprise to come home to, as there are always new things blooming, and everything seems twice as lush as it was when I left…

And this week I am welcoming a number of visitors to my new place — first and foremost, my son David who is in Seattle working this summer before his last year of graduate study in Directing at Rutgers University. It is not practical for him to live here with me while working in Seattle — after all, I’m now an hour’s ferry ride from downtown! But what a joy to have him see my new place, and to experience it with me for a couple of days! One night we made art together — not in the studio, but up on the kitchen island and the diningroom table — ah, treasured motherhood memories!!!

Quilt top in progress — my niece Monica Thompson’s graduation quilt.

This month in the studio I finished “Monica’s Garden”, a graduation quilt in the series I am making for my nine nieces and nephews as they graduate from high school. I make Strips that Sizzle or Easy Pieces quilt tops, make the backing, and have my friend Patsi Hanseth sandwich and “in the ditch, between the blocks” quilt them to control that initial bulk we all face when we begin the machine quilting of a large project. Then I machine quilt words of love and good wishes for that niece or nephew as they face the college experience and the rest of their life. What a joyous experience — for the first quilt, I developed quite a list of words: “love, hope, caffeine, laughter, all-nighters, friends, good grades, perseverence, perspective”, (etc. etc. etc.!) When I did quilts for the next two nephews who graduated two years later, the list of words tripled…what a fantastic connection with a young person who may live thousands of miles away, but who nevertheless has a big place in your heart…

Strips that Sizzle and Easy Pieces blocks are so fast to make, and they yield wonderful rich quilts that teach me something about value and color with each one I make! Monica’s quilt features blocks (the flower ones) that are from my (impressive!!) collection of “leftover” blocks. What a joy to use those blocks as a jumping-off place! They remind me of what was going on in my life as I made them in the first place…

Till next month, Happy Summer…