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Knitting as Meditation

Doll sweater finished

Knitting is a form of meditation and it is especially appealing in the middle of winter in the northeastern United States. At this point in time, most of us have grown tired of the cold and the stark landscape, although there is beauty in bare trees and snow. The sun hangs low in the sky and the shadows are long. Still, we long to see buds on the trees getting ready to burst forth into green leaves and warm weather. The birds have been singing more lately as they know that spring is coming soon.

Knit Picks yarn

This is about making something from nothing, only a few balls of light-weight fingering yarn and a set of 3mm circular knitting needles. I am by no means an expert knitter and these were very small knitting needles. I used to knit during and after college until my children were very small, but I moved on to other things and let that fall by the wayside a long while ago. I decided to try knitting again last year after seeing the wide variety of yarns available now. I was also very inspired by my daughter-in-law Aurora’s love of knitting and yarn.

There is a rhythm to knitting, like the rise and fall of your breath in yoga or meditation. In the beginning when you sit down to knit, you have to find that rhythm as you go stitch by stitch. Or maybe that rhythm finds you. Your thought stream gradually shifts from worries about this thing or that to a calm peacefulness. By knitting you are doing something that others who have come before you have done, and you feel connected to women of the past and their communal history.

Doll sweater first sleeve

The doll sweater was built in steps and I had a pattern to follow, Rosie’s Circular Yoke Sweater, a free pattern available on ravelry, a community for yarn enthusiasts. You start with a little sleeve and it grows. Like any project, it is easiest if broken down into steps. That makes it more approachable and less daunting. This is true for most projects.

Doll sweater two sleeves

It took a while, as knitting on small needles goes slowly, but eventually I had two sleeves done. The stitch holders are for setting the two sleeves aside until it is time to join them with the body of the sweater on the circular needles.

Doll sweater joined

Joining the sleeves to the body was a little tricky. I did not quite understand how to do it, so I read the directions over and over again and tried to visualize how it would all come together in my mind. I laid the pieces out next to each other and studied them. Finally something clicked and I was able to join the pieces together. Sometimes life is like that. You might not understand something but if you give yourself time, you will see.

Doll sweater yoke

Journeys and Paths in Life

Lake sunrise

Life can take you on many journeys and down different paths. Sometimes you may be on your way down a path and realize that you want to change your direction. This may happen a few times or many times in life. It is important to listen to the small voice inside that is telling you to go a different way. Even if changing the way you are going brings you to a more difficult path than the one you were on.

Your roadtrip or journey

The art journaling piece above was from week 1 of the Wanderlust 2018 class, with the theme of your road trip or journey. I decided to show how I moved through my feelings about my life during the second half of last year. It was a time of happiness and a time of difficulty, with a lot of transitions along the way. I have come through it all with a renewed sense of self and a calmer outlook on life. My litmus test for everything now is to ask myself the question, “Is this important… does it really matter or can I let it go?”

Finding your path

The art journaling piece above was from week 2 of the Wanderlust 2018 class, with the theme of finding your path. I have been art journaling at the coffee table and using my Pelikan watercolor pan set which is not messy like acrylic paint. It is winter and it is cold in the art studio. It takes too long for the space to heat up when I want to do something in the moment, i.e. right now. In this piece I let the painting evolve as I went along and it only seemed natural to add the sun and some stylized rays of light. I am really enjoying the Wanderlust class which is run by two wonderful artists based in the UK.

Life documented week 3 - be you
The art journal piece above was from Life Documented week 3 and this is a playful take on the theme of being yourself. I love the quote! Life Documented provides free weekly art journaling prompts and I am doing the prompts along with my sister who lives about an hour away. It is great having an art journaling buddy!

Renew – One Word for 2018

One word 2018 renew

Happy New Year! I have chosen the word renew for my one word for 2018. I have been choosing a word at the new year to guide me through the coming year for 9 years now, when I first heard about this on Ali Edward’s blog in 2010. My previous words were 2017-believe, 2016-open, 2015-love, 2014-trust, 2013-grow, 2012-be, 2011-focus, and 2010-create. These words can all be found in an altered card deck that I made about 3 years ago. It is a nice practice to choose a word for the coming year… it is kind of like lighting a candle and setting an intention for the new year.

Renew has several meanings listed in the dictionary:
– To make new, fresh, or strong again
– To make new spiritually
– To begin again
– To restore to existence
– To make extensive changes in
All of these meanings have significance for me as I seek renewal, better health, and more balance in my life. Renewal for me means yoga, exercise, a healthier diet, and a healthy lifestyle. Part of this means learning to say no to things that would overextend me. I need time to myself to just be. This also means saying yes to things that would be good for me.

I have been reading a lot lately and wanted to share the pile of books on my coffee table that I am enjoying. I am pretty much a nonfiction reader and I like to read inspirational books from the writer’s viewpoint and see how other people experience their world. Books expose you to new ideas and help you to transcend and transform your life to something better. I have some books on my iPad but there is something magical about a book that you can hold in your hands.

Dec 2017 books

I have slowly begun art journaling again after a long hiatus. This has been somewhat tentative at first and has been happening at my coffee table with an art-to-go tote bag. I have a small art studio downstairs which is combined with a home office, library, and quilting/sewing studio. I have not been working on my art or quilting down there at all and my intention is to spend some time art journaling in the studio so that I can paint and get messy. I am doing 3 year-long art journal prompts/workshops this year… Wanderlust 2018, Journal52 2018,and Documented Life 2018. I did this art journaling page last week to celebrate that I am going to Squam Art Workshops in June which I am very excited about! I sent in my deposit and registration forms this week and also put in for vacation time at work.

Squam art journal

I have been doing a lot of crocheting the past 6 months as it is easy and portable. Knitting and crocheting are very meditational processes and crocheting was very comforting for me when I was going through medical treatments and not feeling very well. Here is my Sunday shawl that I recently completed. I found the pattern on Ravelry which is like the Facebook for knitters and crocheters. I am looking forward to renewal and growth in the new year!

Sunday shawl

Christmas in Connecticut

XMas Card

I spent the Christmas holidays with family members here at home in Connecticut over the course of the week… my children, their partners, extended family, my sisters… and I talked/ texted with family and friends who I was unable to see in person. It was a particularly memorable and heartwarming Christmas for me because of the special times that we had together. There were presents of course, but the most important part of the Christmas holiday was the feeling of love that surrounded me. There was a warm glow that enveloped me from the simple acts of sharing a meal and opening up in conversation.

Bevin tree

I actually have a small tree and that fits best in my condo. But I love Christmas trees and the tree photo above is from the Bevin House, a bed and breakfast here in town. I went there for a Writer’s Guild meeting which was great fun and we got a tour of the restored inn afterwards. It was lovely! This is the parlor as it would have appeared in the late 1800’s.

Bevin House parlor

My tree is small but it has a lot of room for my treasured ornaments which I have gathered over the years. One year my cat managed to knock the whole tree over, breaking a half dozen ornaments. Fortunately I was able to glue a few of the special ones back together. Tangerine was adopted from the Connecticut Humane Society, abandoned at age 7, but she lived a long life with me and is now passed. I will always remember the look on her face when I came into the living room from the kitchen after hearing the loud crash. Somewhere I have a photo of the fallen tree in my photo archives.

My tree 2017

Unraveling After Thanksgiving

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving day, with several small celebrations going on in different places. I went to Joe and Aurora’s the next town over and they prepared a magnificent feast. It was so nice to see my grandmother’s fine china set out on the dining room table. My son had repaired the leave for the table and he brought up 2 extra chairs from the basement so that there would be room for everyone. Afterwards we watched Christmas movies on Amazon prime… the original Miracle on 34th Street, and Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation.

Thanksgiving 2017

Back at home the next day, I did some journaling and some planning. Then I worked on crocheting my new hat. Crocheting has been getting me through some difficult health problems – it is easy to do and very meditational. I found the pattern on ravelry.com. It is the Lovely Lady Slouch Hat by Corina Gray and it uses Lion Brand Homespun yarn, a variegated bulky yarn with an interesting texture and rich colors. I got all the way to where you add the band and it just didn’t look right – it looked like a pizza, not a hat! So I set it aside.

hat pizza

I went out after dinner to the premier meeting of the East Hampton Writers Guild and found a really interesting group of people, each with a different approach to writing. Everyone gave an intro relative to their writing experience so that we could get to know each other, and everyone shared a piece of writing with the group. I had never read my work out loud to a group before and it was a good experience. There was a lot of sharing and the conversations lingered after the meeting ended.

Today I decided to totally unravel the pizza shaped hat and start over. Rather than feeling upset that I had made mistakes in the hat, I felt empowered by unraveling the yarn and winding it all around the skein of yarn. It made me feel that I can take back control of my life. Just going out at night when I have been going to bed real early from fatigue was a step in taking back my life. I haven’t gone out at night since July. Starting over and using a different crochet hook size and a different method to make the double crochets worked! I was so happy I was able to figure it out. My thinking has been a little fuzzy at times since July.

hat in progress

Mary in hat

There will be healing and I just need to have faith and believe. My life was unraveling but I am starting to do more things even though everything is still an effort. I went on a quilt retreat a few weeks ago. I was the first one in bed instead of one of the last ones as I was before, but that’s OK. I still had fun. I managed to make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. And I had a weekend soup marathon last weekend and made both chicken soup and pasta fagioli. These seem like small things but they are not. I have been conserving all of my energy for work and now more energy is slowly coming back for the creative things I like to do. I am looking forward to the new year!

mandala healing

Dolls Just Want to Have Fun

I seem to have gathered a doll collection since I moved to the condo and they all have fun living with me here. My dolls certainly put a smile on my face as they greet me when I come home. They never complain and they don’t make demands. They are just there in the moment with their happy little faces.

Dolls in living room

Each doll has a story and a few of them have gone off into the world and been given to others to begin a new life. I rescued Sara’s doll from a garage sale when Sara was 10 years old and her mother was downsizing for a move. I met Sara 10 years later in an advanced watercolor painting class and when we discovered the connection ( we were former neighbors) I gave Sara’s Raggedy Ann doll back to her. It was an emotional and happy reunion with a long lost and treasured childhood doll.

Sara's Raggedy Ann

I found little Raggedy Ann on a treasure hunting trip to the Red Barn in Hebron with my dear friend Kate. Kate is the kind of person who is there for you when you need support and she can tackle any task with efficiency and stamina. Kate helped me downsize the contents of my house in preparation for the move to my condo last year. It was a daunting task that was made much more manageable with her help.

Little Raggedy Ann

I gave away little Raggedy Ann during the downsizing operation. I had so many things that it was hard to decide what to keep for the move to a much smaller place. Although I know this doll made some little girl very happy, over time I grew to miss her. Recently I found a vintage pattern for the little doll on Etsy and decided to make a new one. My friend Leonora, who helped me find places to donate many of my things, found some of the fabric that I needed to make this doll. I plan to start on this project soon and it will be fun!

Raggedy Ann Supplies

I have more dolls upstairs who greet me in the morning and again in the evening. Some of them I have made, some of them belonged to my children, and there is a Raggedy Ann I found at the Durham Fair after I returned Sara’s doll to her. There is also a Hello Kitty doll and a bear that my children gave to me. Each one is special to me and brightens up my life.

Dolls upstairs

Beach Labyrinth in the Fog

Labyrinth fog 1

Yesterday I went to Hammonasset Beach to recenter myself. It is a place that I always return to when I am finding myself too far from my core self and needing realignment. I parked at the Nature Center and walked to the hidden beach carpeted with shells and sharing space with the ever present beach labyrinth. To my surprise the labyrinth had grown and was much bigger than last time I was there.

Labyrinth fog 3

I gathered stones at the edge of the tide rolling in. I had noticed that some artists in my online spaces had painted rocks with interesting designs and I wanted to try that. After I gathered a basket full of stones I sat on a driftwood log, listening to the gentle sound of the waves and watching the scenery enveloped in the misty fog. Everything had an ethereal quality and there was remembrance of times past spent on the beach in fog. Except there was no sound of a foghorn, the lighthouse being too far from where I was.

Labyrinth fog 2

When the area became empty except for me, I slowly walked the inward spiral path of the labyrinth, thinking about where I was at this moment in time and where I was going. I finally felt at peace with myself after months of turmoil that I mostly kept hidden from view. I am a very private person and find it difficult to share my inner world with anyone.

Labyrinth fog 4

Yesterday was the tipping point or turning point for me. While holding space with the beach labyrinth, I realized that I am going to be OK, that I can trust in myself and my own judgement, and that I need to do what is right for me. I can’t be all things to all people – I can only be myself. I need to listen to that still, small voice inside that is telling me I need quiet and solitude, I need air to breathe, and I need space around me so that I can feel my edges and see who I am.

Labyrinth fog 5

Contemplation and Renewal

Mercy by the Sea Labyrinth

A few weeks ago I met my two sisters for a picnic lunch at Mercy by the Sea, a retreat and conference center on the ocean in Madison, Connecticut. It is a very peaceful and tranquil place run by the Sisters of Mercy. People come here from all walks of life to seek contemplation and find renewal. We had a wonderful time walking the grounds and the labyrinth, sharing what was going on in our lives, and sitting quietly on the benches in contemplation. We went away a few hours later feeling refreshed and renewed. There was an incredible feeling of the presence of God there, or spirit or higher power or whatever you would like to call spiritual presence in the framework of your own beliefs, and we all felt it.

Even though we were just visiting the grounds as guests and not attending a retreat, I came away from the visit with profound insight. Since the new year I have been struggling with balancing my tendency to do too much with my need to stay healthy. Trying to figure out how to cut back my activities when I want to do it all, and more. Focusing on what is important and what isn’t, and much of it is not important. Learning to let go of too many things being grasped too tightly and just go with the flow.

Art journaling what I love

Last week I art journaled about the things that are important to me. I have not done much art journaling over the past 6 months as I was not motivated and got involved in several quilting projects. There are only so many hours and minutes (86,400 seconds) in the day. I am learning to accept that I cannot do everything that crosses my path and need to follow my heart’s desire and do what inspires me at the moment.

I have been sidetracked by illness the past few months and I need to accept that I need a lot of time to myself right now. I was feeling unsettled and upset with myself that I was not accomplishing much and spending too much time on the couch. I usually like to run around and do a lot of different things. But I have had three medical procedures since July 3, exactly 2 months ago today, all while working full time at a brand new job. I am new baby in the house tired 🙂 Being at the retreat center made me realize that I need to accept what is right now, move through the process with grace and ease, and slow down.

I took up crocheting in July as a way of dealing with everything that was going on and found that it was a calming, meditative, centering activity. Many of my creative practices are like that and bring renewal for me. Crocheting is also very portable. I joined ravelry.com, the Facebook for yarn people, and found inspiration and patterns that I liked. I finished this shawl last week and find it so comforting to wear. I would like to design my own crochet pieces, especially after seeing the international documentary “Yarn” on Netflix, but I need to learn more about crocheting first. One day, one thing at a time.

Storyworth Brings Questions to Life

My son and his wife gave me a year-long subscription to Storyworth for Mother’s Day this year. Each week I receive a question as a prompt and at the end of the year my answers will be published as a book for me to keep. I have been enjoying my Storyworth writing assignments with the questions that Joe and Aurora preselected and would like to share last week’s entry here.

“What inventions have had the biggest impact on your day-to-day life?”

Without a doubt, digital technology has had a huge impact on my life, from music and video to websites and blogs. Mobile technology has had the biggest impact on my life with my android phone that keeps me connected with friends near and far, and my iPad tablet that opens up worlds for me to explore visually. There is creative inspiration everywhere and there are online communities that expand your social circles and horizons.

You can tailor your online experience to your own wants and needs. I choose to keep my online experience positive and make it an enjoyable place filled with inspiration and camaraderie. I tune out and walk away from any online drama or negativity. I seek out places that are beneficial to my growth and well-being. And I limit my time online… I dip in when I need to, usually in quick microbursts, then put that aside and get back to doing whatever it was that I was doing when I reached for my phone. I write. I create art. I make quilts. I crochet. I hang out with family and friends. I share things. I live my life.

Another great invention that has made my life better is condominium living. I moved to Edgemere Condos by Lake Pocotopaug last year and I am so happy here. I am not handy and don’t want the responsibility of taking care of a house. I live alone so it is nice to have good neighbors nearby. I can walk out the front door and not have to worry about anything. And when I am home it is my own little nest and retreat from the outside world. I have filled my home with all of my favorite things and it is an expression of who I am.

My place

Edgemere condos

Published in Bella Grace Magazine

Bella Grace magazine

This is magic, like a dream come true! The summer issue of Stampington & Company Bella Grace magazine will be hitting the bookstores and news stands on June 1st and “My Pajama Day”, an article about taking a day for yourself, is in this issue. I am thrilled beyond words. Getting published in a magazine has been a dream of mine for years and now it has finally become real. How did this happen? The 3 P’s… patience, persistence, and perseverance.

Bella Grace - My Pajama Day

In my article I shared the story about my day for myself with readers and I shared my feelings that came up through the course of the day. This was not easy for me to do because I am a very private person living in this world where often too much is shared without much thought or self awareness. I firmly believe that you need to have some boundaries or circles of trust and thoughtfully choose who you share with and what you share. And you need to silence the noise in order to see inside of yourself rather than the reflection of others mirrored onto you like a shiny glass window.

Some of what I shared in the article was quite ordinary and some of my thoughts ran deep. The most important thing is that I shared the essence of who I am and what matters to me. I think of myself as an ordinary person living an ordinary life but I find magic in so many simple things and that makes me not so ordinary. And I share that with others… the smallest thing can make a big difference in someone else’s life. Be the first one to reach out, to take the first step, to say those 3 words “I love you.”

It is said that every cloud has a silver lining. A disappointment or failure paves the way for something better to come into your life. A broken heart can heal and open up again to someone who truly appreciates you for who you are.

Lake sunset