Mandala Chaos and Discontent Plant Bits!

img_7166Another of what I call a “simple story”, sharing a bit of wit and wisdom learned from pondering life’s experiences with Nature…


winter quarters for plants that need protecting

Feeling gloomy today, so much negativity whirling around. I overloaded on the news yesterday.*  A woodsy walk did not calm the mind. Though uninspired, I decided mandala making might help. As I worked with tiny fallen petals from the geraniums hibernating in my office/storage room, I thought how they sit in the dark, soil dried up, having no idea their fate, yet blooming, petals vivid, almost iridescent in their mostly dark winter quarters. As they reach for the limited light coming in the window, their colors seem even more vibrant in the stressed conditions then they did in summer’s sun.

Hmmm. I was thinking of this metaphor of colorful survival and act of defiance in hard times, thinking how there is so much fear and concern our country is headed in the direction of fascism and wondering if there has been studies of how people survived, even thrived and held on to their values and principles in the face of fascism in other countries, when one tiny bit of purple statice in the top corner of the mandala started to move, as though some micro-bug was under it, rocking it back an forth, then taking off with it. Except there wasn’t any such propelling force, not even a breeze.


note a few bits of statice trying to escape under leaves!

The sun was breaking through the heavy gray cloud cover. I realigned the rogue purple bit, several times, went inside to get my camera, but when I came out it moved again, then another bit moved, still no noticeable breeze, just a slight air temperature difference from the sun’s rays.

As I rearranged the rebels, quickly snapping pictures with strange shadows from the sun, pink petals began rolling over, soon there was mandala chaos! (I did feel a very slight movement in the air then.)  Though tempted to just sit and watch it all dismantle, I carefully carried the purple porch chair inside, rearranged the now subdued bits of flora, thinking – the winter of discontent! Even bits of flora will not stay put and ‘obey’! They too have “minds of their own.” (I’ve been listening to the audio of The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, by Peter Wohlleben , Narrated by Mike Grady, so defiant plant bits are not too far fetch to my imagination! I highly recommend the book!)

The sun disappeared, but I am grateful for the multiple metaphors and bit of humor Nature once again provided!

mandala left overs with a very hardy pumpkin that seemed to defy temperatures in the 20s and teens!

mandala left overs with a very hardy pumpkin that seemed to defy temperatures in the 20s and teens!

 *  How to Stay Outraged Without Losing Your Mind is a short article on the importance of taking care of yourself for the long haul, and avoid becoming numb and accepting of these not-normal times.

My Mother’s Pincushion and other Notions about Sewing Notions



on the right is the empied pincushion, middle in the back side, like new, and having always loved her sweet little pincushion, I turned it over and decided to use it

on the right, the emptied pincushion, middle the back side, like new!

210 pins, 18 needles, and one safety pin were stuck into my mother’s pin cushion last Saturday when I, needing to distract my mind from the funk I was in due to physical discomfort, absent-mindedly picked it up and decided to take them all out. There was a practical purpose, if you could call it that, as I wanted to decide what to do with it. Likely it had more of each when it came into my life a few years ago, I’ve used both pins and needles and a few safety pins from it.  There was quite a range of pin sizes, both in length and thickness, and of course needles of various kinds and sizes.  Many needles, and a few pins, were sunk in deep and had to be teased out as I pushed and felt around, searching for sharp points. Mike could not believe how many there were, it is a small pin cushion 3″ square. Like “junk” drawers, closets, garages, the ‘back room”, or a storage shed, pin cushions are tiny spaces for collecting anything that has a sharp point, but unlike those other “catch-alls” (of which Mike has many, though not a pin cushion!) you can easily see what you have, find what you need, and it’s portable!

IMG_0353This mind distracting activity got me thinking about the history of pins and needles. I could write about what I found, but there are wonderful internet sources for both… the history of pins and history of needles are not the same! Anyone who has gone to a history museum and seen collections of artifacts has noticed, among the more eye-catching, larger household items and tools, samples of needles made from bones, hard woods, shells, etc. Early pins were even made from thorns. Although there is an interesting history of the early metal pins, like weaving, no one knows for sure when people first started to use needles or pins. It seems we’ve been trying to hold things together and fashion something out of something else for as long as we’ve been around!

IMG_5828As for my mother’s pin cushion, (which having always loved, I turned over to the unused side and decided to use), it represents only a fraction of her sewing notions, in fact only a fraction of her pins and needles, especially needles. I’ve been amazed, since bringing home her sewing basket, at the number of packets of needles she had! I don’t think even the most avid seamstress could use in a life time what she possessed! Why? Did she forget she had them? Not likely, until her last years Mom’s mind, and memory, was pretty sharp, and many of these packets go waaayyyy back! There’s no doubt an explanation I’ll never know.

IMG_5825There is a certain nostalgia to having mom’s sewing basket. Sewing notions, bits and pieces of this and that, packages of binding, snaps, hooks, spools of thread, etc. that collect in the life of anyone who sews is a personal collection of creative endeavors and accomplishments, as well as unfinished or never started projects (I’ve  given away or sold at garage sales fabric and notions from my own stash that were never used).  Like most sewing baskets, her’s has packages of binding never opened, as well as left over bits and pieces of this or that held on to….just in case. This collection of her sewing history is personal, yet so universal.

sewing stuffMy own sewing basket is a smaller version with an almost identical collection, though with my own unique sewing “signature”. Like mom’s, whose sewing history spilled over to the sewing machine stool, which had a deep storage area and contained more bits and pieces of notions, my basket is only a piece of my history, which spills over into drawers and boxes. (I sold mom’s table Singer machine, with the stool contents intact, to a very pregnant young woman who wanted to make baby clothes and couldn’t afford much. Needless to say, I came down on the price and she got a good deal!)

my thread collection, some inherited, all representing a project of mine or someones! The little green box was a thread box of my mom's.

my thread collection, some inherited, all representing a project of mine or someones! The little green box was a thread box of my mom’s.

Decades ago a friend’s mother died and my friend gave me a large box of sewing paraphernalia, including a lot of thread, all on wooden spools. There were little bits of decorative lace, lots of binding, etc. The friend said she didn’t sew and didn’t want it, but wanted it to go to someone she knew. I’d never met her mom, but through the years, felt like I was given a “legacy” collection, a collection of stories from this woman’s life. There were notions I used and many I never used, but only recently, in my “get-rid-of-it-all” phase of life have I let it go.

Some of the sewing notions from my mom's sewing basket.

Some of the sewing notions from my mom’s sewing basket. Including a well worn, very old, but never replaced tape measure. What’s in your sewing basket?

A new spool of thread represents a project afoot, something about to be created….pins used over and over for projects, needles that pull together pieces of fabric to make something new, or patch something old, all hold stories and connect us to an ageless tradition.  A tradition sometimes passed on from mother to daughter, sometimes learned anew by sons and daughters wanting to do something creative, or for practical, functional reasons, maybe to make clothes, sails, bags, fishing nets, quilts. We’ve been sewing things together to create something new for a long time!

And I haven’t even mentioned buttons and button collections! For another time!

Reflections on our reflections

Facebook has a ‘feature’ where you can see previous year’s ‘posts’, if any, on the current date, i.e. today I saw August 28 posts made in past years . I thought I would use this feature, if at it, to delete old posts.

However, as I go through the process of ‘cleaning’ out my material life – books, clothes, household items, papers, etc., and reflect on the reasons I have kept things, I also notice, thanks to Facebook, how attached I can be to the memory of previous events, concerns and interests in my life. This is human nature, we like to remember our ‘stories’, even ones not particularly pleasant. Depending on your perspective, this propensity for re-hashing through remembering and, even more so, through story telling of past events, may be unhealthy or healthy. It depends on what you do with these story memories.

the beginnng of book sorting. About 200 books went elsewhere.

the beginning of book sorting. About 200 books went elsewhere.

A member of the ‘be here now’, ‘live in the moment’ generation, the same generation now concerned because we are ‘losing’ our memories, I ponder this topic frequently. It seems pervasive in conversations. Though some people seem to only ‘live in the past’, having little interest in their present life experiences, most of us hold on to past events more subtly, aware of them when triggered by something in the present…..or a book, an article of clothing, a photography, a household item.  Sadly, some of us will lose stories of our past to various forms of memory-stealing dementia. I witnessed this with my Mom.

In his book The Divided Mind, the Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders, Dr. John Sarno claims ‘negative’ emotions of past experiences are stored in a sort of ‘reservoir’ in the unconscious mind. The unconscious, not wanting us to consciously experience these emotions, will manifest physical conditions and disease to distract us from these painful feelings. He observed, in his years working with patient’s at the Rusk Institute at New York University Medical School, that people do not have to experience these stored feelings, but by recognizing them, even just knowing they are there, we can reverse or avoid the physical conditions caused by the unconscious mind in trying to protect us from them. (This is a grossly abbreviated explanation of Sarno’s work. If interested I recommend the book.)

'stuff' ready to go.

‘stuff’ ready to go.

The process of ‘cleaning out’ has been insightful. I frequently go through ‘stuff’ and rid myself of books, clothes, etc. but this go around I decided to try a method that might be more productive. I listened to the audio version of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Japanese Art of De-clutteirng and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. While the book is hands-on practical, and Kondo’s life-long passion for tidiness borders on humorous obsession, it contains, amidst practical methods and advice, profundities about letting go and the reasons we hold on to ‘stuff’. One message throughout the book is: it is not necessary to hold on to things because the value was in the experience at the time.  Examples she gives are:  we are never going to re-read most books, or training materials, etc. from workshops and conferences. Even if we cannot recall specific information, the parts of a book or a workshop, etc. that meant something to us became a part of who we are. Its value was in the experience at the time.


An empty drawer after a clothing ‘purge’. Kondo recommends you purge by category, not by room, putting everything in one category in a pile then sort, looking at each item. Does it spark joy?

It is worth repeating that theme because it can be helpful in letting go not only of ‘stuff’, but memories/stories we like to tell over and over, whether that letting go is voluntary, or we begin to lose our stories through aging brain changes.

The value is in the experience. We may gain knowledge, experience joy, learn a life lesson through our experiences.  Our experiences become a part of who we are whether we remember them or not.  It is not important we remember the details, nor is it important we ‘hold on’ to an item because of what it represents. For example, Kondo points out the value of a gift was in the experience of giving and receiving it, not in holding on to something we may not like or use.

So why do we hold on to memories and stories and worry so much about forgetting, and fill our homes (and computers) with things we don’t need to help us remember? Do you need 500 photos to remember the experience of a trip? Would a few be adequate? Do you need to keep every wedding gift, even if half are stored in the attic, in order to remember your wedding day? Does a book you read 30 years ago, or even last year, have to be kept for you to have benefitted from the experience of reading it? Can you let go of the Spanish language tapes you never listened to and appreciate that they taught you that you really didn’t have the time or passion for learning a language?

Kondo says as we let go of ‘stuff’, to thank each item for fulfilling its purpose in our life. She also says as you sort and eliminate items, ask yourself before deciding to keep something, “does this spark joy in me?”  (she acknowledges certain things, like important documents, etc. aren’t going to spark joy, but must be kept!)

Maybe we also need to thank our stories, our memories, for the lessons they taught us and be ok with letting them go.

Sarno says he does not know why the ‘mere’ knowledge that our repressed emotions can cause pain and disease can reverse people’s pain and illnesses.  He encourages more research into what he has observed in thousands of patients.  Maybe by acknowledging it is so, we let go of the power the emotions have, without having to express or re-experience them.

As I witnessed mom’s memories fading, I was acutely aware she remembered the ‘good times’ with more acuity, and held on to them longer, than the painful ones.  Perhaps because they ‘sparked joy’ in her! Maybe our brains not only try to ‘protect us’ from negative feelings, as Sarno suggests, by causing physical ailments (an unconscious decision most of us would consciously trade for the memory), but as Kondo recommends we do when ‘tidying up’ our material lives, the brain eliminates from the conscious mind that which does not bring joy!

Something to ponder as you try to remember what you needed to do this weekend, and what you really want to do!  If you are going shopping, before buying something ask: Does it spark joy?

(Abby has been very bored with my purging activities, they do not spark joy in her!)