One Foot

One Foot

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What Does a Quilt Mean?

A Quilt Loved Since 1935

Last week I wrapped and sent a nap-sized quilt to my daughter-in-law for Christmas.  It may be received in any manner of ways - perhaps delight; perhaps surprise at the good fortune of receiving still another quilt from me.  Regardless, it was made with love and I can count on that message being clear.
In a modern world, bed coverings can be purchased much more easily than made.  Some prefer fleece over cotton anyway.  Why waste time making them in this instant availability world?  The answer lies in making a physical symbol of love and relationship.
          Love is such a confusing state of being, it’s surprising we manage secure personalities at all.  Love from parents, once thought to be unconditional, can be snatched away in a divorce or death.  With it can go grandparents’ love, family and even community love.  Even when all relationships are intact, there are times in life when we feel alone and unloved and I believe there should be many physical symbols to remind us of loving times.
          From the beginning of life, we should have soft bears to hug and swaddling clothes to remind us of a mother’s embrace.  As we grow, we should have special “things” that mark our milestones and celebrate our relationships.   Rings and watches and girly necklaces still symbolize special moments and to abandon their significance would be a loss.
My cat insists on checking each quilt for comfort
 To me, a quilt represents a unique love for another.  Grandmas don’t make one for each grandchild without thought and love.  Often, every stitch represents the love and concern she has had for each, even when separated by half a world. Quilts that mark occasions are symbols just as surely.  Bride quilts, graduation quilts and quilts that go to college dorms hold within them a love to bring comfort whenever needed.
          The hug each of us needs when we have a heavy heart is present in the soul of each quilt.  It is placed there lovingly by the maker and remains even with the passage of time.   
          So when my daughter-in-law opens her gift quilt, the message that it was made with love is there.  She may not need a hug at that moment, but it will always be there when she does.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Does God Have a Sense of Humor?

Have you ever had a gut-wrenching decision to make that rips at your very soul – no matter which “way” you decide, the factors are weighted heavily?  I have had a couple of decisions like that in my life.  In both cases, I prayed and pondered for weeks about the path I would take and I remember talking to God about it, pleading, “God, would you give me a sign?  Anything, please, I just need a little help here.”
            Of course, I didn’t see any bolts of lightning or have spiritual apparitions appear to me, but I always thought that if I meditated on it long enough, I would probably make the decision that would be most pleasing to God.  Like most folks, I’ve found myself in self-made quandaries I shouldn’t have been in, have made bad judgments, and have been blessed by more grace of God than I deserve.   
            So when my lilac bushes started blooming at Thanksgiving this year, I couldn’t help but shake my head in puzzlement and ask, “Hmmm, is this a sign?  If so, what did I need help with? You trying to tell me something, Lord?”
            It hasn’t been a good last six months, what with the stress of the fire at the farmhouse and illness in the family, but either we’re coping with the stress, or most of the problems are working themselves out, so I hadn’t actually been asking for a sign lately.  On the other hand, who am I to pass up a good sign?
            At first, I thought the blooming of one of my favorite flowers was a nice way to show the promise of hope and peace that would come into my life as my circumstantial problems were resolved.  Even a month ago I was like a cartoon character with wide-eyed lunacy on my face screaming “I have one nerve left and you’re on it.” My friends allowed me a little space as I worked through that stage.
            Later, I thought of the lovely fragrance I was enjoying and how often fragrance is an essential part of our spiritual walk.  A baby quilt I am currently working on is covered with tiny roses and set within the pattern of a cross and I recall the story that one frequently can smell the scent of roses when passing a statue or image of the Blessed Mother.  The upcoming season of Advent is filled with fragrance – not only of incense in the worship service, but also in Christmas greenery and the burning of candles.
            Finally, though, I thought I might be overworking the “sign” a bit (you think?), and remembered that God does have a pretty good sense of humor.  Having allowed myself some four months of self-absorption in my issues, I can imagine that God might think it a little funny to make me also see the lighter, more beautiful and sensual moments in life.  It’s a funny thing those lilacs.  It has been cool this week and the blossoms have lasted far beyond expectancy.  A good joke lasts a while and often makes you think.
            Today is a really good day to move on.  I pulled through these last weeks without asking for a sign, but I’m thinking…….do you suppose there is even a chance for roses at Christmas?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Children of Tomorrow

            This week I was reading through my old GRIT magazines one last time before passing them on to a friend.  An article on the Homestead Act of 1863 caught my eye with some interesting statistics.
            According to this author, “most of the 33 million school children today have never set foot on a farm; only two of every 100 Americans now live on a farm, and less that 1% of the 300 million people in our country claim farming as their occupation.”[i]
            “For heaven’s sake,” I thought in response, “Why is it that hundreds of families in this area are buying rural lots and building ranchettes?”  I reflected that this and surrounding counties are covered with rural homes.  “What, then, are these folks seeking?  Privacy?  Freedom from regulation? More room? Perceived quiet?”
            The reasons are endless, I’m sure.  Many I personally know like animals, especially horses, chickens and dogs.  Others like to garden.  One guy I know likes to drive his tractor and “work.”
            Whatever the reason, rural living seems to fit, in some way, each person’s definition of “the good life” – just like our homesteading ancestors.
            It seems to me the rural quest revolves around “Work” and what we believe is meaningful work.  Our ancestors knew farming occupations, weather it was growing wine grapes or pigs.  Another generation combined industrial work with continued rural or small town self-sufficient practices.  Even today in France and England, families continue to be largely self-sufficient and in America self-sufficiency has been re-discovered with enthusiasm.  Some view it as economic survival
            The statistics given in the article covering the anniversary of the Homestead Act may well represent modern living that swung too far from the earth.  None of us want our children clueless about what a cow looks or smells like any more than we would want them clueless about whales or bears.  We certainly don’t want our children to think of ducks as animated cartoon or computer characters.
            People who are seeking rural lives want meaningful lives, however that is defined.  Others do their best to get themselves and families to parks or zoos.  The difference is that a rural home affords an opportunity to “grow things,” which is a way to practice daily the care and feeding not only of self, but others, be it a bean or a dog.
            I have a great respect for families who have found a way to connect with “growing things” even though they are city bound.  Even if it is a bean plant on the patio or a rabbit in the backyard, there is hope that we could feed ourselves if we had to.
There will never be another time when the government gives land to us to homestead (pity), but perhaps there is hope as we swing back toward self-sufficient living practices,  hope that a few more children will have set feet upon a farm, will experience some aspect of life that recalls that food comes from “growing things,” that our land is one of abundance, and that each of us has a place in the process.


[i] Schleicher, Jerry.  “Birth of America’s Breadbasket,” GRIT, July/August, 2010.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Won't Be Gone Long . . . You come too."

Recently I was the guest of my son and his family in New Mexico – hopefully a helpful one as I tried to assist with my not-quite eleven year old grandson.  My son had some rather serious surgery earlier in the week and my daughter-in-law needed an assist with the routines while he was hospitalized.
Of course I had many precious moments with my grandson while there; I love the hugs and kisses and the revelations of new information he has acquired.  What a difference these modern television shows make to a person’s knowledge base!  My favorite time of the day, however, is the walk to and from school, which takes a little over ten minutes. 
Slow walks must stimulate thought.  At least, there are many who feel a good walk stimulates creativity and reflective thought, and I can personally attest to the clearing of the mind, a bit of problem solving, and the development of story ideas while walking in my neighborhood green area.  My grandson is already exhibiting the positive benefits of a walk and shares many thoughtful questions and ideas.
I remember our walks last year, when he was exploring the ideas of friendship and loyalty and trying to make sense of “best” friendships.  I was so impressed with his ability to reason out some of his ideas and seek genuine answers to his questions.  This year he was still wrestling with friendships, but is exploring emotions like anger and jealousy.  A typical pre-teen, he wants to know how others see him and how he fits into the social circle. 
            I treasure the trust he has shared with me as we talk.  As a young girl, I didn’t have a trusted person to talk with and was tortured with the very questions my grandson has.  That may explain why I was a painfully shy and withdrawn teen.   Of course, we also do a bit of simple catching up and chatting.  It is just nice to stroll along with my favorite little person having a good conversation.
            I can’t help but wonder how often we miss these golden opportunities to interact with a child, a family member, a friend, or even someone we just met in a way that might be helpful.   As a practicing teacher, I used to marvel at how many total strangers would walk up to me in a store or park and spill their burden of a current problem.  What? Did I have a secret tattoo on my forehead that said “Tell me all!”? No, I just had the habit of looking into a child’s face with a look that told him I was listening and I soon found that message was easily picked up by others.
            Walks are a wonderful way to connect to another person.  It fills the need to talk about the small things, to share your worries and laugh at things that seemed so critical just hours before. 
It is a beautiful fall day today.  The sun is shining; there is a fall breeze that carries the musty smell of turning leaves and roasting chili.  This must be heaven.  This kind of day makes me think of a poem by one of favorite poets – Robert Frost.  The Pasture had to have been written on a day just like today as he prepared to walk to the spring and clear the leaves away.  I wish we could all issue that warm invitation for a walk that promises quiet companionship and undemanding closeness –

“I sha'n't be gone long.—You come too.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

From a Loss Comes Gratitude

I spent this afternoon at the farm, a little over five weeks after the fire that destroyed the house.  Although there was a light rain, I knew the trees were suffering both from the heat of the fire and the dryness of another year without adequate rainfall.  I wanted to give each tree a good drink with the hope that the current rain would be both cleansing and life-giving.

Plants and trees have always amazed me with their resilience.  I have seen the aftermath of forest and prairie fires and the resurgence of plant growth is nothing short of miraculous.  Although I will lose some trees, those who were only wounded rather than killed are trying to make their comeback, even if terribly confused.

I am most impressed with the catalpa tree from New Mexico that suffered heat so intense that half its branches burned off or were blackened and charred.  Two weeks after the fire, new branches sprouted at the base and by today the living half was sending shoots to the area of loss.  The cooler weather sent a message of spring to its damaged growth system and it is now in bloom as well.

The year-old maple tree has sent up a shoot in a Hail Mary attempt at life.  Resurrection lilies continue to shoot up among new growth of prairie sage.  The oak leaf hydrangea, although burned off at the ground, has sprouted a healthy new plant.  Spring bulbs are trying to surface in the blackened earth.

Of course, I miss the house terribly (especially in the rain) but I see the farm in a different light now.  It will be a few months before we start to build again, but from these surprising signs of life that spring from terrible wounds I draw hope.  All of God’s creation is built to fight for life, adapt, and recover.

I am blessed.  I am blessed with land that is loaned to my family for a while.  It teaches me daily.

Fall and winter have always been my favorite time at the farm.  I love to walk the pastures, delight in watching the turkey mating dance in its craziness, and I love watching the he-men enjoy the deer hunt.  The combination of farm memories and happy current moments produce in me hope, gratefulness, and trust.

Ann Voskamp, another writer blessed with land, states, “The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness.”

I am indeed grateful.

All is grace.