This is my symphony

What I read & what I lived …

About six months pre-pandemic (for how long, I wonder, will we orient ourselves with that descriptor?) I picked up my needle and thread and started stitching. I hadn’t done any stitching for years–decades, even–and suddenly, here I was again, surrounded by fabric and embroidery thread and wool felt and bamboo hoops. Maybe it was a kind of retirement right-of-passage, who knows? I finished a few projects and that was that.

And then 2020 reared his ugly head.

Almost immediately, I turned back to textiles. I wove on a little lap loom. I embroidered. I cut out Tiny Mice and Mr. Socks and Picnic Bugs. I made needle books. I spent hours making little piles of fabric on my sewing room floor. I went down the black hole that is Etsy and bought up wool felt and hand-dyed wool squares. I eventually discovered that stuffing my critters with carded wool makes for an infinitely more sensual experience than polyfill.

I stitched. I turned. I stuffed. I stacked fat quarters one on top of another. I stitched enough that my stitches–finally!–seamed along in a (fairly) uniform manner. Needle work filled the hours at the beginning of the Great Pause when we were restricted from everything except a quick trip to the grocery store.

Each grandchild got at least two Tiny Mice. Two Mr. Socks. Even Tiny Bunnies come Easter. I added little jackets to each Mr. Socks I made–more color! more stitches! Then the critters started to stack up in my project bowl. On the bookcase. At the foot of my sewing chair.

The question family asked most often was, “What are you going to do with them?”

Shrug of the shoulders. (Why do I need to do anything with them?)

“Are you going to sell them?”


“Start an Etsy shop?”

Uh …

And then I started working up a power goddess art doll pattern–I call her a taliswoman–and realized she was pretty unique. Maybe I could sell her and use the extra cash for those bits and bobs that a fixed income doesn’t account for. Friend Denice saw some potential–and her opinion (she is a quilter extraordinaire) holds weight. I planned out my assembly line. Started to multiply how many I could finish each week. Went online to look over the application for the Artisan Market at our local farmer’s market. I stitched up some prototypes to create a template I found pleasing …

And then.

Some pull and tug that felt oh-too-familiar. And oh-so-uncomfortable. The hectic pace of a busy career. Juggling housework and kids activities and a husband who liked an active social life. Feeling torn in different directions. A to-do list a mile long. Prep quickly and efficiently. Git ‘er done. Move on to the next thing.

I thought I left all that behind?

My life in retirement has been something of an exercise in living well. Setting aside time for quiet and contemplation. Writing my life. Clearing space. Paying attention to my body’s needs. Getting plenty of food for my soul.

I resent the fact that in order to have value in our world, there is pressure to “do something” with one’s creations. Doesn’t the very act of creating have value–without any expectation or objective attached?

I trust myself to know that stitching itself is enough. Colors and patterns are enough. All those tiny backstitches? Enough. I stitch to bring me back to myself. Stitching as moving meditation.

All I need to center is a needle and thread. And that’s enough.

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