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Month: December 2017

Imagining Heaven

Imagining Heaven

Doris Ida Thayer
May 30,1915 – December 29, 2010

The last time I sat and talked with my mother was December 27, 2010. She had been living in a nursing home for the last nine months after she broke her hip at my house. She was finally opening the Christmas gifts she had refused to open when I visited her on December 24, before I drove to Roseville to be with my son, Chris and his family.

She had been grumpy on my last two visits, but today she was agreeable. I showed her a card that had come in the mail from the son of one of her high school friends. I read his note to her that explained that his mother had passed away during the summer. My mother took the card and read it to me, saying “Oh, that’s too bad.” This was the last of her life-long friends to die.

As I was leaving, I noticed Mother had a bit of a cough, sounding low in her chest. Two days later, I was awakened at 7:20 a.m. by the nursing home staff telling me that my mother was being sent to the ER because her blood pressure was low, she didn’t want to get up, and she didn’t seem right to them.

By the time I got to the hospital, they had determined she had had a heart attack early that morning, and probably had pneumonia. They had her on an IV trying to stabilize her blood pressure, which was continuing to drop.

I guess she knew I was there but she didn’t say my name. I was told she was not likely to recover. I requested they provide comfort care, but not to prolong her suffering. She was becoming agitated because she wasn’t getting enough oxygen so they gave her some morphine, and after the IV was stopped she passed in about twenty minutes.

I have spent a lot of time trying to understand our relationship while writing my memoir the last few years.

Last week, I watched a YouTube of a song where a family member has died, it’s Christmas, they are grieving, but taking comfort in knowing their loved one is with the Son of God, the Prince of Peace.

I don’t have a picture in my mind of how heaven will look, and I don’t think about it much, although I realize that some day I will go there, too.

As the song went on, I thought about how I had not grieved a lot at her death because she had lived a long life and the last few years she was often confused and probably lonely. On the rare occasions when I think about seeing her again in heaven, I expect she will still be on my case for my short-comings.

But now, listening to that song, it occurs to me that if she is with the Prince of Peace she would be sanctified, and will see me as He sees me. Perhaps this is how healing begins. It’s time.

“In Him All Things Hold Together” Colossians 1:17

“In Him All Things Hold Together” Colossians 1:17

In the early 1980’s I was weaving tapestry and I did a series illustrating verses of scripture that I liked.

“In Him All Things Hold Together”

This one is a double weave with Moorman Tapestry added. Double weave means two layers of fabric being woven at the same time. The weaver can decide to bring some of the bottom layer onto the top to make the design she has in mind. This is a time consuming process, but one that I enjoyed.

The lettering is the bottom layer of fabric woven on top, and the stars and Milky Way are also made with the bottom layer. The hands and the colored nebulae are the tapestry part which floats on top of the black layer.

I remember trying to get one of my sons to hold a ball long enough for me to do a drawing of the hands.

The thread on the loom (warp) for the top layer is black Orlon with black silk for the tapestry tie-down threads. The warp for the under layer is a variegated rayon in pinks and violet. I wove across the warp with black wool on the top layer and the pink rayon on the bottom layer.

Upon seeing this finished piece, one of my best friends told me it would be a perfect gift for her husband, who is a meteorologist, and she wanted to buy it. I couldn’t tell her no!  The tapestry hung in her entrance hall for many years and I got to see it whenever I visited her.

While this isn’t a Christmas tapestry, I think its message is an important reminder for our times. The baby we celebrate at Christmas is the One who holds it all together.

Scripture teaches He has been holding things together since the beginning of creation. When we feel like we will fly apart into a million pieces, He holds us together, whether we believe in Him or not.

And He holds this scary world together today. And He is faithful.

Wishing you a blessed holiday.



Catching an Idea by its Tail

Catching an Idea by its Tail

I managed to turn my creative world in-side-out on Monday. It’s a good thing to do at the end of a year, especially if you’ve recently completed a large project.

Writing the memoir, “Looking for Connection,” took three years, actually about four years from when I hand-wrote the first few chapters. And this last year getting it edited and ready to publish filled many days.

My art making this year included one basket early in the year after a wind storm littered my yard with palm fronds. I enjoyed two days of classes with Finnibar in April. I painted silk prayer flags and made Gelli prints with my three granddaughters on the weekend June met July. I designed the cover for my book and a small card I could hand to people when I mentioned my book.

My garden became a jungle and my studio space gathered dust, piles of paper, and ephemera I couldn’t throw away. With the lovely weather in the last month, the yard is pretty much cleaned up and ready for winter, which I hope will be rainy.

Some months ago, I noticed a number of lose screws on the old counter-balance loom which fills a quarter of my art making space. A week ago, the idea flashed through my mind that instead of putting new screws into the loom, why not break it down and store it for awhile since I’m not planning to weave in the near future.

Counter-balance Loom

Catching that idea by the tail, I began to think about where I might have room to store it. The first idea was under my bed, but as the week progressed I started measuring my back yard storage space. After a donation to the local thrift store of suitcases and pillows I no longer use, I had space cleared out for it.

So when the younger woman who cleans for me once a month arrived Monday morning, I told her we were going to take apart the loom. I had disassembled it and stored it in the 1990’s when I was going to graduate school. But now there are parts of it that are too heavy for me to lift by myself.

Once the loom pieces were carefully stored, the studio floor got a much needed cleaning. And all the boxes, bags, and containers that were scattered everywhere under tables and in corners are now on top of every available surface, while I play with how to arrange that space with an intention to work in collage and mixed media in the coming year.

It’s like Christmas as I open containers and discover things I had forgotten about or couldn’t recall where I’d put them. I expect it will take me a month or so to thoughtfully reorganize my studio space and get my thoughts on where I hope to go with my art, instead of where I have been already.

December Rituals

December Rituals

I suspect that many people have rituals – a set of procedures – they follow during the holidays and the end of the year. We see our parents doing certain things each year and find ourselves doing similar things when we have our own household.

Things like when is the right time to put up decorations, or which cookies to bake, and countless other preparations that almost take on a life of their own. And for a number of years that is the way we do the holidays in our family.

My main holiday ritual was baking cookies. I had maybe half-a-dozen cookies that I only made for Christmas: frosted and decorated sugar cookies, mint surprise cookies, almond crescents, spritz, made with a cookie press, were all recipes I had made with my mother. Over the years I added new ones and stopped making the ones that took too much time.

As we moved around the country, buying or making gifts early, wrapping them, and mailing them became another ritual of sorts.

Working at the Livermore Veterans Hospital had its own set of rituals: the Saturday when the volunteers put up decorations, the groups that visited the patients with gifts and goodies, Santa’s visit on Christmas morning. It was fun, and my part was to escort the visitors around and be sure all my vets got their handouts.

Twenty years ago, when I bought my house in Stockton, I added another December ritual to my calendar. I call it “Leaves to the Street.” Right next to my house is a huge sycamore tree. It is my summer air conditioning system. The dinner-plate size leaves shade my house all summer.

And, of course, in December they fall or blow off the tree. Sycamore leaves from my tree are like leather. They do not decompose. If I don’t remove them, they will be here next July.

San Joaquin County has a leaf removal service to keep the leaves out of the storm drains. All I have to do it get them into the street before one of the two pick-up days. I get lots of exercise getting them to the street. And I have a system. I rake a small area and put them into an old wheeled trash can which I wheel out to the street and dump on the pile.

Monday’s strong winds blew the leaves into piles here and there so they are easier to pick up without a lot of raking. With my big tree, it will be the first week in January before the leaves are all gone. It doesn’t take much thinking to get the leaves into the street.

So while I’m doing that, I’m going to be thinking about what direction I want to take in my studio. I know I need to do some cleaning up in my art space, so how can I make it better? What supplies am I wanting to work with? Are there supplies I should pass on to someone else? What size work feels comfortable to me at this time? Do I have anything started that needs to be finished? Do I want to show my work next year? Where?

What creative projects are you eager to start after your December rituals?