Friday, July 21, 2023

Cultivating Contentment...a Little Bit Every Day

 It seems to me that most of my life I've been seeking contentment.  I don't mean that I've not experienced happiness or moments of great joy.  No.  I mean living in an atmosphere of peace and having a relaxed state of mind.  It's certainly not come naturally.

It may have been that very early in life I was content -- but in our household, if memory serves me, the focus was on service to others, duty, responsibility, study and developing a sense of purpose.  Contented was what cows were in the Carnation milk commercials

Living with those key concepts in mind didn't mean we couldn't have fun -- we certainly did!  Ice skating -- first on a backyard rink our father fashioned, and later on the indoor but real ice rink at the local Arena.  And dancing!  Dad built a false floor down in our unfinished basement and made sure there was an outlet in which to plug our portable record player, so we could go down there with our friends of a Saturday night and dance, dance, dance.  

But as we got older and shaped by our parents, teachers and the Culture of Accomplishment and Possibilities in the were expected to have a purpose for your life.  A reason for being.  You had to contribute to the society around you.'

Later, given all the American television to which we were exposed, added to this was earning and consuming -- and if you weren't working at something 'useful', what were you doing?

So...after the dust cleared in 2006, when my husband had died and my children were living and working on their own, I decided to move to the country and become an artist -- something that would have horrified my parents, growing up as they did through the Great Depression and WWII and the 'let's make up for all that!' fifties.

It's been almost 17 years since I found myself alone and wondering, "What's next?  What's my purpose?"

It's taken turning 70 last fall to cause me to really question my outlook.  My "need" for a "purpose".  I began to ask myself, can't I just live my life, doing the best I can, making things for others, yes, and contributing to my  immediate community and my faith community, without specific goals or purpose?

Six+ months into this year, I'm getting closer to a "YES!" answer to this question.

I've decided that "one day at a time" isn't a bad idea.  I want to keep learning, but no longer need to do so to prove anything to anyone.  I might answer an artistic Call for Entry -- but not worry if I'm not accepted, or if I change my mind and don't enter after all.

My "Purpose in Life"?  Leave my tiny spot in the universe a bit better because I was in it.  That's it; that's all.

To that end, I'm feeling more contented this summer than I have ever felt -- and I've stopped punishing myself for having delightful days in which I took my time, walked around my garden, didn't bother with formal exercise, didn't meet any deadlines, and simply did things I love to do.

A Little Bit Every Day.

Here are some of the examples since my last post:  I made more jam -- from my own raspberries.  I gave some of those berries away, and rest assured; there are more to pick!  

Every morning I take what I call the "Morning Tour" of the yard and garden -- coffee in hand, of course.  I've been using that time to check for bugs where there shouldn't be any, to remove the heads of finished dandelions so that the population is reduced somewhat next year, and to check on what might need watering.  

A couple of weeks ago I received my order of 20 wildflower 'plugs' from Wild About Flowers (south of Calgary) -- from the Prairie Meadow selection of plants.  With information I provided about my location, sun exposure and current wildflower population, plus the note about Lacombe County's verboten list.  I planted them and they are making themselves at home.  Each comes with a label stick that includes the plant's name, potential size (width and height) and ideal sun/shade exposure.  Most will grow to at least 12" tall -- eventually.  

Some days that's all there is to do. Other days I need to mow the 'non-meadow' -- aka the 'West Lawn'.  Sometimes I need to water everything -- I use rain water collected in barrels and water only beds and pots.  I never water my grass.  Sometimes a tree branch goes down in the wind -- like it did Tuesday -- and I have to cut it up and prepare it for burning, whether here or in a firepit belonging to my sister or my daughter.

But I do all that in the very early morning when it's coolest.

After that, it's time to do whatever I want to do with fabric, fibre and floss.  In the summer I save rainy days for quilt work; I've now amassed 62 'Butter Churn' blocks -- only 18 more to go to reach 80, which will make a 48" x 60" top -- before borders.

I love to spin yarn outside in the summer, so for inspiration and motivation, I signed on to two Ravelry events for spinners: the "Tour de Fleece", which models itself on the Tour de France and will end on Sunday, the last day of the French event; and the Summer Spin-in from Two Ewes Fibre Adventures  (I 💓 their podcast).  It should come as no surprise that I'm on the "Rookies" team on the Tour -- I'm not a die-hard spinner who wants to stick to a schedule!  The Summer Spin-in is much more laid back and the moderators more encouraging.  Works for me!

My self-challenge for both was to spin up most (if not all) of a bag of what I'm calling "Mystery Mauve" -- a wool batt I was given years ago and have taken forever to turn into yarn.  I set a mini-goal of filling 4 bobbins with singles, and turning those into two-ply yarn that might actually be usable.  Well...I did it!

Here are the skeins:

All in all, with some of this spun before this year, I have about 350 grams of usable yarn -- and about 75 grams of Mystery Mauve fibre yet to spin up.  As a Very Casual Spinner (contented, remember?), I've  yet to measure how may metres/yards I have, or its thickness in wpi (wraps per inch) looks rather like a 'DK' (double-knit) weight to me (#3 for American knitters).  It'll probably end up in a shawl.

My next spinning attempt: bright, colourful roving.  I got a bag from my friend Anne earlier this spring; it included both wool (breed not identified) and alpaca roving:

I've chosen that bright red-orange bit there on the right side of the photo.  Who knows where this will lead?!  Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, speaking of shawls...I finished the Balvraid Hap that I was making from somewhat 'rustic' Condon's Yarn (from PEI, now discontinued).  As I type, it's been washed and is now blocking -- with wires and all!

Depending on how firm the top edge is after blocking, I may add a crocheted edge; it was rather "loosey-goosey" before I washed it.

On the art front, I'm learning something new: rug hooking. Well, rather, decorative hooked mats -- for the wall.  I'm looking at it as a way to a) use up more of my yarn stash; and b) get me enthused about landscapes again.

I've decided to explore this at the urging of a friend who is very keen on the process.  I got a few freebies online from Deanne Fitzpatrick Studios (Amhurst, Nova Scotia, doncha know) -- and I realized the possibilities.  Said friend had given me Ms. Fitzpatrick's book, Sunday Letters (signed, no less!) for Xmas...and I just loved her reflections.  Then...the clincher: I heard an interview with Ms. Fitzpatrick by Mary Hynes -- her CBC podcast, to which I subscribe.  That clinched it.  I think I've listened to that interview four or five times now.


It's about creating beauty, with no other reason but to do just that.

That's my purpose!  Bingo!  

And that -- being part of my 'fabric, fibre and floss' esthetic -- is my greatest source of contentment.   That and the inspiration of my yard and garden.

And so...

I bought a wee kit and finished it save for the binding and mounting:

"Country Moon" (with modifications)
Designer: Deanne Fitzpatrick

I've now ordered some burlap and an online class from her, so I can translate my skills of landscapes in fabric to landscapes in wool/fabric slices.

And I've dyed some natural-coloured wool I'd been given eons ago -- a bit chunky -- into 3 shades I can use in a variety of ways.  I'd not played with my acid dyes for a few years, so this was another source of fun!

And yes...creating beauty continues in the stitching realm too.  "Keziah Campbell 1796" is getting her garden, a tree, a house etc. -- and a bit of Robbie Burns' poetry:

Yes, that text is one over one!

Setting Keziah aside for a wee bit, currently I'm working on "Christmas (Gifts) in July" with a return to the Modern Folk Embroidery piece for my son, Here Be Dragons.  Not much left to do now!

And there are two new starts -- one an anniversary/Hanukkah gift for old friends, and another, an Xmas gift for my soon-to-be married nephew and his fiancée. 

First, the Hanukkah gift -- "Shalom", one of the Jewish pillows from Mani di Donna:

Next, the Xmas gift for the soon-to-be-newlyweds -- "Nevermore" from Lila's Studio (I know...unusual...but it suits their esthetic...)

I'll be focusing on these "starts" this weekend, and will go back to the 'Dragons' next week., for today, I've been inside long enough.  I'm going to go outside with my stitching and keep on adding a little beauty to my world -- and hopefully, to that of others.

Linking this to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday.  This week she's been stretching her brain, her artistic skills and her ability to create her own contribution to the beauty around her; she needs a bit of a break, doncha think?

Hugs and blessings... a bientôt! 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Margaret, thank you for the lovely blog. Always a delight to read and encouraging. Time runs through my fingers like sand. I envy all the lovely works you have going in. I am hoping to get a rag quilt for our new baby girl due Sept 21st started soon. Finally got a table up in my back room, but kids arriving so it is outside and covered on the deck so the murphy bed can be set up. 🤷‍♀️. Maybe July 29th I can get started! Thanks again!