The last couple months of 2019 brought some unexpectedly sad surprises. Archie Brennan left this world on Hallowe’en, followed closely by one of my tapestry students. I did not know her well, but she was instrumental in helping me realize how important it is to share our knowledge with others. She was new to tapestry, and after a lifetime of beautiful work in other areas of handwork, she was serious and committed to learning a new skill in weaving tapestry. I was so sorry that we didn’t have more time together. The final shock came when a close friend of mine died unexpectedly in early December. She had not shared her situation with anyone but her closest friend, another tapestry weaver and mutual friend. The mutual friend made sure that things were in place as well as they could be. I’m still reeling from this loss. Of course, it was cancer, one of the most likely causes of an early demise.
I am still thinking of these friends– Archie, Nancy, and Anna– every day, repeatedly going over my memories and shared experiences of each of them. It’s a treasure trove of learned insights, experiences, and shared fun. Sometime over the past few years I came across these quotes about grief–
“I’ve learned grief is just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”
I’d like to think that during the next few months I’ll begin to enjoy my memories without so much pain attached; I’ll learn to swim the tides and currents. The important thing is to take these dear friends with me, to remember them, to keep working, knowing that in some way they are at my side.
And through all this the holidays were insane. We spent time on both coasts, which meant a lot of travel, and this occurred after deciding to spend 10 days with Bob in Antigua, in mid-November. It was a great distraction to be with family. My last few days at home before traveling to Maryland and then California, were spent in a frenzy of knitting and weaving presents I wanted to give. In most years, finishing projects is a stressful time, and of course it was stressful this time around as well. But, it was different in a significant way. It was therapeutic to be at my loom for hours on end. It was therapeutic to sit in my favorite chair, with my feet up on an ottoman, knitting for someone I love. I realize how essential handwork is to my well being. Duly noted for future.
So, my new year’s resolution is do more handwork. I made a good start yesterday by warping one of my copper pipe looms and even starting to weave. I worked on the idea for my image, and I felt so proud to get such productive work done on the first day of the year.
Here are some photos of those projects that calmed me during this time of loss. I didn’t finish everything I’d hope to do, but I made peace with that. I had bigger fish to fry for sure.
Here are two of a set of napkins that I wove for Chris and Melody. I barely had time to weave just the two and get them hemmed. I knew they’d understand, and of course they did. I was so touched by how much they like them.
Before I left I stayed up late retying the loom so I could get back to it when I return in April.
I had a long warp of deflected double weave on the loom for a good part of the year. Of course, when November rolled around I thought what great gifts cowls would be. There are six of them, in differing lengths. I gave five of them to friends and family. I loved seeing Melody wear hers, which is the one all the way to the right.
Emme is adorable in red, and I loved making this sweater pattern.
When we celebrated Christmas with our grandchildren and children I brought Rhett a sweater that I knitted for his father Rob, more than 30 years ago. You can imagine what this photo means to me.
So we are at the start of a new year and a new decade. Admitting to myself the importance of working with my hands every day, I hope this will be the start of some good things. Grief never leaves, but it can certainly be put to use for healing and celebrating the wonderful times and learning experiences that have come from those who meant so much to us. I know that sounds quite sentimental. It is what it is.