The Imperfection in the Tapestry

Those times of depression tell you that it’s either time to get out of the story you’re in and move into a new story, or that you’re in the right story but there’s some piece of it you are not living out. — Carol S. Pearson

I had heard for years that Indigenous American weavers purposely wove an imperfection into their tapestries to show their humility. God was perfect. They were not. Then I read somewhere, someplace, sometime that no, it wasn’t about humility. The intentional imperfection allowed life to come through.

I like to think that our lives are tapestries, with each experience changing the warp and woof, giving a rich texture to our life stories.

We are smack dab in the middle of staging our house for sale, which means we are ridding it of the tapestry that was us. Tom’s 7000 (that’s not a typo) classical CDs are packed, as is our collection of 3000 (also not a typo) DVDs. The pieces of art and craft we have gathered over the years are being carefully wrapped, packed, and stored until the final move. My writing shed is not longer my writing shed, though it will be where I write once the staging is complete.

I will create a new writing shed when we reach our final home in Sequim. In the meantime, writing shed has become a state of mind for me.

I started this blog so I could change my story.

My generation was the great believer in closure. Where my parents ignored, stuffed, guarded secrets, let shame isolate them, I dug up buried secrets, analyzed them, learned that that which seemed shameful was shared humanity.

I thought I would understand and by understanding would be able to unravel the parts of the tapestry that had haunted me, press a delete button for those parts of my life that were painfully without understanding.

During that last eleven years in my hometown Tom’s dad died, my mentor died, our beloved cat was killed by a car. My mother died.

I spent a good deal of the time trying to undo the loss of innocence I experienced when my uncle molested me, and in so doing, lost even more innocence. In a way, I hit bottom. Bottom is a good place. It shows you the boundary. I learned that trust is about boundaries. Mine. It is up to me to set them, protect them, and act when they are violated.

It occurred to me that until that moment I sat on my uncle’s lap, laps were a safe place, a refuge, a sign that I had found home. I think a good portion of my life I have been trying to get back home.

I did find home when I returned to my hometown. The home that is me—my life. I became my own refuge. I also found my family. Tom and his children and grandchildren. They are the children and grandchildren of my heart.

Uncovering secrets, shedding light on shame, analyzing, attempting to understand are all good things. They do not, however, give one closure.

Life doesn’t give us that. What it gives us experience. As we live and love, we cross paths with humans whose warp and woof reflect a wide realm of human experiences. Some have been damaged by their experience. Others have learned compassion.

We can direct the warp and woof of our tapestry. If our aim is perfection, it lacks texture. It is lifeless. If we let our experience change it, we learn to endure and celebrate.

Experience. It is the imperfection in the tapestry that let’s our life through.

Home Is Where Your Story Begins

The flag is at half mast again, a symbol of our mourning for those who were violently taken from us.

I moved back to my hometown eleven years ago. Tom’s father and my mother were entering the final chapters of their life stories. We needed to be a part of their stories.

We moved into my Tom’s family home. Two blocks to the east was the hospital in which Tom and his twin brother, Billy, were born. Billy died the next day. The hospital is now an assisted living facility.

Two blocks to the west is the duplex in which my grandparents lived and where, when I was eleven, my uncle invited me to sit on his lap, I accepted, and he molested me.

These past eleven years have been an emotional buzz saw for me.

My first task when we returned was to turn the family home into one that Tom and I could live in.

Tom’s mother spent the life after Tom was born stuck in a la brea tar pit of grief—that stage where we feel abandoned by god. She alternated between being angry that god would do this to her and despair that she would never be in his grace again since she could not accept that it was his will to take her baby away from her.

She’d died two years before we returned to Livermore.

Grief permeated the house. The curtains hadn’t been open for years. She’d saved every margarine tub and plastic bag that came into the house. Any loss was too much for her. Underneath a pile of newspapers that dated back 50 years, I found the telegrams that congratulated them on the birth of the twins, and the ones that came two days later offering condolences.

Her’s was a horrific story to be stuck in.

I cleared the house of grief, opened it to light, and brought beauty into it.

I believe it is a Navajo saying that if you don’t see and feel Beauty all around you, you are out of balance.

I thought Beauty abandoned me the day my uncle molested me. That is, I think, the biggest wound left behind after a rape or molestation. Shame and humiliation banish Beauty. The house we moved into was a good metaphor for that feeling.
As I chose colors, looked for the right granite for countertops, turned a mundane fireplace into a centerpiece, I was allowing Beauty to guide me. Beauty and I turned the yard that had been abandoned for years into a park-like setting. The shed Tom’s dad used to polish rocks became my Writing Shed.

I didn’t know until I just wrote that last paragraph that, in healing the house, I had healed myself. I discovered that Beauty had never abandoned me.

Tom and I are now readying the house to sell it. We are heading north to Sequim, Washington. I pulled the Wolf card from my Animal Wise Tarot deck the other day. It says that Raven is connected to Wolf—Ravens follow wolves, the book says. Raven’s mythology is that it goes into the darkness, finds the light, and brings it back. That is creation. The northwest, where we are moving, is rich in Raven lore.

My time here in my hometown has been a bit like running a gauntlet. But that is why I became a better writer. By delving deep into grief that was Tom’s mother’s, and then into that that was mine, I found my way back to balance. I went into the darkness, found Beauty, and brought her into the light. Creation.

I watched the parents and family members of those who were killed in Newtown yesterday, telling us by their presence that we should not turn away from their grief, we should not avert our eyes from their pain. Their courage breaks our hearts open.

If we listen, if we see, if we are willing to feel, we can restore our nation to Beauty. We can change the story.

Change Happens

The Change.

That used to be the euphemism for menopause — from the Greek word pausis (cessation) and the root men-(month). I always thought it should be called womenopause. But, then I never studied old Greek.

When I was young, it was spoken of in hushed tones, usually to provide a reason for what was perceived as a woman’s irrational behavior. PMS, the term that is, didn’t exist back in those days. (I like the Southern version FTS—Fixin’ to Start. Southern English has such poetry to it.)

When I started going through it, they had come up with a new term: perimenopausal—a less poetic way of saying Fixin’ to Change.

I went to a bookstore (you can already see how times have changed since then) to buy books on menopause. I selected three or four. As I stood in line I contemplated how I would explain to the clerk why I was buying so many books on menopause. I’m buying them for a friend. That’s it. I’m buying them for a friend.

But the clerk didn’t ask me why I was buying so many books on menopause. I’m not even sure she noticed the titles of the books.

It wasn’t that I was ashamed of The Change. I was just kind of freaked out about it. “Your daughter became a woman today,” my mother said to my father the day I started my period. I was 12. I had gotten used to the built in another-cycle-has-completed detector. And if that detector was what marked my entry into womanhood, what would life be like without it? I wondered if I would miss it.

As it turned out, I don’t miss it. Periods seem like a distant memory to me now, almost foreign. And it didn’t undo my having become a woman. I still am that—a woman.

I’m glad The Change isn’t spoken of in hushed terms anymore. At least not in the company I keep and the part of the world I live in. I don’t really mind even referring to menopause as Change, I just think calling it The Change is misleading. It makes it sound so terminal.

Life doesn’t stand still. I think that is what I learned from going through That Change. Change happens. All the time.

I did a major yard clean-up yesterday—or maybe I should call it a yard clear-out. The yard had become very disheveled. I got rid of bushes that had become leggy, volunteers that were confused, and suckers from the Mayten trees. I discovered that the lilac bushes in our yard are heirloom lilacs—a variety one doesn’t find anymore. The lilac tree is even more rare. The crew who worked on the yard had never seen one before.

The yard has a whole new look. It still retains a sense of wildness—but now it’s more like the wild woman who runs with the wolves rather than the confused hippy chick.

Fixin’ to change. That’s what’s happening now. I’m fixin’ to change. I think that’s how change happens. Whatever the event that incites The Change, what follows is Fixin’ to Change. Life changes, then, if we’re smart, we learn where to go with The Change.

The parents of the children taken from them at Sandy Hook are doing that now. Their lives certainly changed. They are meeting with members of Congress to let them know how their lives changed. They are taking action.

“Move on,” is the common formula for how to deal with change. It’s wishful thinking that we can just move on. We can’t. We have to spend the time fixin’ to change.

Perhaps that’s the new cycle I have learned to live with—change, and then fixin’ to change.

It’s all very human.

Promise and Power After the Change

Tom and I returned from a ten-day walkabout to find our yard a flurry of color. Blossoms appeared on the red oak tree that claims its home in the center of our backyard. The Japanese maple tree magically transformed its blossoms into deep red leaves. The lilac bushes burst into full blossom.

Tom’s dad had once nourished this yard—planted and tended the fruit trees, tomatoes, flowers, and deep green grass that made his yard seem more a meadow than a suburban back yard. The lemon tree in our front yard continues to bear fruit year round after 60 years.

I’m sure he planted the lilacs 60 years ago as well.

As his physical and mental health deteriorated and he was no longer able to tend to it, the meadow disappeared. He cut down the fruit trees, stopped planting flowers and tomatoes, and stopped the flow of water. In the summer, it returned to the dry rocky soil that makes this area perfect for growing grapes. In the winter, when the rains return, the native plants (weeds?) overtook it.

In the summer of 2001, we thought that the lilac tree was dead. But water brought it back to life. It takes its place in the middle of the path on the way to my writing shed. In its dormant months, with its gnarly trunk and bare branches, it is a sculpture. In the spring, for a brief moment, its blossoms touch me lightly with their fragrance as I pass them on the way to my daily writing. As spring progresses into summer, the blossoms let go while the deep green leaves remain. Fall comes and the leaves take their leave.

lilac tree 2013 writingshedI think the lilac tree is my touchstone. The trunk and branches hold a world that is home to each new generation of foliage. It endures the passage of time and the change it brings.

I titled my latest book of morning pages “All Change is Good” to remind me that change happens. That life is constantly changing.

I drew the Bat card this morning from my Animal Wise Tarot deck. Bat, Ted Andrews writes in his book Animal Speak, is “. . . a symbol of promise amidst the sometimes chaotic energies of change.”

Change is about. For me personally and for the outer world as well, I think. The old power structures are desperately resisting change, refusing to embrace the diversity of human experience and the ambiguity of the sacred. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t. But that assumes that the devil is the devil. In the movie Jacob’s Ladder, Danny Aiello tells Tim Robbins that someone wrote that he thought there were demons tearing at his flesh until he realized they were angels coming to take him away.

Letting go.

Promise amidst the sometimes chaotic energies of change.

The flurry of color was a nice surprise on our return. I hadn’t expected it.