We’ve finally gotten some satisfying rainy days here in California—one after another, with lightly overcast days in between. We’ve had a near-week of sunshine, but most of this March has seen the sun poking its head out occasionally before retreating behind the comfort of clouds. It’s felt a bit like Oregon, and that’s okay by me. It’s rare, welcome, and relaxing.
I’ve spent more time indoors, making myself cross eyed knitting and crocheting scarves with very fine yarn. An old Peace Corps friend, Linda, was trying to get rid of the yarn she no longer plans to use for weaving, so my friend Lisa and I drove up to Ukiah to accommodate her. We brought back bags full of many beautifully colored and textured yarns. I’m determined to use them, in spite of the fact that they resemble thread more than yarn. I’m working on patience and perseverance.
The repetitive practice of crocheting and knitting may be the closest I’ve ever come to meditation. But it’s not true meditation, I don’t think, because my mind keeps going. The slow, meandering pace of thinking, however, is very relaxing, and there’s no predetermined destination. I’m free to wander, to follow my mind on curving roads, diverging paths, and elaborate loop trails. It’s taken me to ruminations about political absurdities and social regressions. It’s led me to replay refrains of my past – conversations with family that went well and disputes that didn’t, interventions with clients that worked and those that fell flat. It’s nudged me in the direction of moderated motivation which easily morphs into lazy loops of neurons chasing their tails. It’s allowed me to gaze out the window and bounce a thought off the oak tree trunk or toss an idea at the cactus plant or roll out a plan on the flagstone patio.
My fabric art meditation has also given me the space to think about the subtle influences in my life. My friend Lisa, for instance, rejuvenated my involvement in the expansive hobby of non-loom weaving by bringing yarn and knitting needles with her to our summer retreat in Oregon. My childhood friend Kelly, having learned from her fight against throat cancer, nudges me along the path of seeking remedies to prolong my life. My friend Cathy has gently led me to a place where I can plan calmly and rationally for facing death.
My brother has always been an inspiration for writing, not because he’s a writer himself (although he has churned out many a humorous observation in a pinch), but because he’s a discriminating reader. He can distinguish between good writing and not so good writing and, along with his wife, Carol, was the closest approximation to any “intended audience” I might have had during my lifetime of writing.
My father, mother and sister sparked and/or perpetuated my interest in gardening. I still think of my father when pulling weeds out and flipping them over so they’re covered by their soil-encrusted roots. (“That’s the only way to really kill them,” he said.)
I recently learned that a retired colleague of my husband’s, an older man named Ray who, along with his wife Donnie, taught graphic arts and illustration, was once a trumpet player in the Air Force marching band that sometimes played at the China Lake Navy Base when I lived there as a child. I no doubt saw some of the performances, since we never missed a parade or celebration. Can I rightfully claim that this ex-colleague of my husband’s influenced my love of military march music?
My initial interest in learning to make pottery was inspired by a college friend who was a potter. It seemed beyond my skill level at the time I knew her, but when I was in New York working at the United Nations and saw an ad for pottery classes in Greenwich Village, I went for it. Fast forward through many decades of on & off potting, and I finally did my first kiln firing at home a couple of weeks ago. It was only the initial (bisque) firing, but it was exciting loading the kiln and checking it every hour until it had reached the required 1900-plus degree temp. And another colleague of my husband’s, Kathy, who is now the lab technician in the art department, significantly influenced my ability to buy and load the kiln, just by virtue of my knowing I had access to her expertise.
And Marc, my husband? I guess I can’t really consider his influence subtle. He has, by dint of his own proactive nature, kept me involved in the visual arts and satisfied any longing I still had for travel while sharing with me the most attractive and engaging home I’ve ever had. And I’ve implied this before: He encouraged me to trade my passive acceptance of life for a persistent will to live. This past weekend, we took the walk to “Lupine Hill” which we had taken after my surgery about a year ago. This year, the Lupine and the California Poppies were flourishing, and this year, I pushed the edges of my walking envelope and we explored a couple of ridges near our house. I came back exhausted, but refreshed by the opportunity to challenge my new limitations. It’s partly due to his prompts and encouragement that I’m still hiking, gardening, and making pottery.
This is just a spritz of the influences I’ve absorbed; in my lifetime it’s been a deluge, and I’ve always relished singing in the rain.