30 September, 2009

A Different Kind of Connection

Hi to Wendy Robards who is visiting via a guest post today. Her regular home is at www.caribousmom.com where she hosts a literary blog about books, reviews, reading challenges and other word-wise thoughts. Wendy is in Maine, the place where I wrote my first (bad) book and my novel, A Disobedient Girl, so we share a connection to a place that speaks to both what she talks about in her post today and what I am talking about in my post ‘Thinking Aloud About Time & Space,’ on her site today.

guestpostrufreeman022009-09-26-2The world spins faster these days with social networking, cell phones which can snap instant photos and connect to the Internet even in the middle of nowhere, and digital readers that can store more books than I have room for on my bookcase shelves. We are never unconnected – from friends, family, work. Everything that needs to be done can be done instantly. We pay our bills on line, shoot off emails which arrive at their destination in seconds, and download photos we took only moments before.

And so it occurred to me the other day as I carefully pressed and cut fabric for a new quilt and felt my heart rate slow and a sense of calm steal over me, that one of the reasons my life has felt out of kilter and speeding out of control these days might just be related to how I choose to spend my time. Somehow, in the fast and furious world of instant connection and electronic stimulation we have slipped away from the things that ground us, slow us down, and connect us to simplicity and beauty.

The art of quilt making requires many steps to get to the end result. It starts with selecting fabric, finding pleasing colors that coordinate, and envisioning how they will come together to form a block which then forms a row, which then forms a quilt. At this stage many quilters may sit quietly with a calculator and a piece of graph paper, sketching geometric shapes and planning. Then comes pressing, inhaling the steam from the iron and the warmth of the fabric, smoothing out the wrinkles, setting the fabric on the cutting mat and carefully cutting the pieces which will form the whole.

Pinning, stitching quarter inch seam allowances, more pressing, the whir of the sewing machine, the fabric sliding beneath one’s fingertips, the joy at watching the colors combine in a unique and simple design…the process unfolds slowly, engaging the visual, auditory and tactile senses.

But you are not done yet. The backing, batting and top must be pinned together with care and then there is more contemplation. How will you quilt this beautiful creation? Straight lines? Flowery whirls? What color thread would be the best? And as the quilting progresses, the piece transforms itself and becomes a multi-dimensional work of art. The binding is hand stitched – tiny, perfect stitches -with the quilt draped over one’s lap.

When it is all done – washed and air dried in the sunlight – the quilt has become part of the quilter with its wrinkles and soft folds, art that warms and comforts and is pleasing to the eye and to the hand. It is this process and final result that stirs within us a sense of peace and beauty, a sense that we are creating something lasting that took time and care, a piece of ourselves that has the power to touch others. Who has not curled beneath a handmade quilt and felt comforted?

Quilt making reminds us of our roots and history. Perhaps it is in our genetic memory, passed on from our ancestors.There are other activities that also ground us, connect us to our environment and senses, and remind us that beauty is sometimes found in the most simple of things: baking bread (combining, kneading, waiting, baking…inhaling the smell of yeast in a warm kitchen), planting a garden (fingers pushing into dirt, the smell of the sun on the earth), and walking in nature (the sound of the wind through the trees, the scurry of animals in the bushes, the song of birds). Sometimes just sitting on a porch after a rainstorm, with the clean smell of damp earth and the occasional drip of water from a tree branch, can bring us to that place of quiet and contemplation.

Technology has carried us in its wake with its cold, fast, instant gratification. The world spins faster these days and we may be forgetting how to slow down. Feeding our souls and finding a place of calm is only a quilt or a loaf of bread or a homegrown tomato away. It is taking our time and enjoying the journey, engaging our senses and remembering our roots.

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3 Responses to “A Different Kind of Connection”

  1. Wendy says:

    Thanks for allowing me to share my thought with your readers, Ru! One small correction – although I grew up in New England and made my home in Maine for several years…my current home is Northern California. But a piece of my heart will always reside in the small towns of New England.

  2. lisamm says:

    Hi Ru and Wendy,

    What a lovely, lovely post, and such a true sentiment. I often feel rushed and anxious and I know it’s because I’m always “plugged in.” A dear friend of ours, a man in his mid 40s, is having an emergency angioplasty today, and that coupled with your beautiful post has successfully reminded me that it’s better to slow down, take breaks, relax, and step away a bit. Stop and smell the roses and all that. Thank you for such a beautiful piece of writing.

  3. April says:

    What a beautiful and delightful post, Wendy! You have such a talent – I have always thought it would be great to be able to quilt. The art of doing so does seem as though it is the ultimate connection and telling of the quilter. I agree on how instant gratification has taken over out lives. Technology is great, but it would be nice to go back to the old and simple ways of old (at times, lol)

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The Books:

The Books:

On Sal Mal Lane

In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war.

A Disobedient Girl

A Disobedient Girl is a compelling map of womanhood, its desires and loyalties, set against the backdrop of beautiful, politically turbulent, Sri Lanka.