Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On love, connectedness and the skull cha-cha.

I saw my grandma this weekend and was the happy recipient of some Grandma Stash.

Gram is a stitcher/quilter/beader/crafter from way back. I'm sure when she started learning these things from her momma, my Granny Daisy, it wasn't "crafting," the leisurely activity as we think of it today. It was Women's Work. It was necessary and important. And normal. I don't know my father's family, and it's easy to credit my grandmother -- the Taylor bloodline -- for any bit of creativity in me. Any drive to make. In any case, if there's a genetic component, it seems to have skipped my mother. And all my siblings. I do have a maternal aunt, though, who is never ever without some fiddly project in her lap.

Grandma has given me some nice fabric recently which has integrated into my own stash, but this trip was all about beads. Using small beads can be a challenge in the best of times, and along with the creativity, I'm quite certain I've inherited my grandma's arthritis. The fingers of my right hand have never been straight, and they certainly aren't getting any better. (At least I don't need my knees for beadweaving.) When Gram let me at her bead supplies cabinet, I was hoping to find some more of the old glass that she'd held on to since Daisy's time. There was some of that, but also, wonderfully, dozens of tubes of beautifully varied seed beads.

Seed beads are either the love or the bane of your beading hobbyist. Working with seed beads is actually what started me "crafting" in earnest. I love large square stitched pieces, with the geometric precision of woven cloth and the sheen and endless color options of glass. In my early beadweaving days -- already in my 30s -- I would sit in bead guild gatherings with my little tackle box of colors, doing my OCD best to get the cheap and sloppy Czech 11/0s to align properly, unable to justify the expense of the hyper-precise Japanese beauties. The other guild members, almost uniformly over 60, would peek across my work and gawp, "How can you WORK with those teeny things!" "It's not easy," I'd tell them, "but I'm going to keep doing it while I can."

I still can, but haven't lately. I've fallen to the allure of the quicker gratification of the stringing project. Or, actually, I've become more focused on apparel sewing for the past couple of years. That may seem a strange choice seeing as I have, at this moment, more than 300 linear feet of mostly ready-to-wear clothing currently hanging in my house. (Yes, I did just measure.) The bigger joke there is that I refer to my dressing room as the Monument to My Self-Loathing.

After getting home Sunday night with my scooter trunk filled to the brim with beads and findings and fabric swatches and sewing widgets and books, I spent a good couple of hours sifting through one of Gram's old tackle boxes, filled with semi-sorted beads of all types. And what a great way to spend a Sunday night, so close to Zen. Shall I sort by color? Size? Shape? Material? Ultimately I stuck with the system Grandma had already started and went by color, moving the groupings from their little plastic cells into the small clear zipper bags that I prefer (a fistful of which she had also sent home with me).

As a rule, I don't feel connected to much. I don't think, in my life, I've ever really understood the concept of home. On those rare occasions when I can talk to my grandma, though, in a room full of people who are related to all of us, and we can speak in words and terms and concepts that no one else really seems to understand (or care to), I get a little bit of a notion of what it's like to "belong" to something. And when she tells me that I'm a good granddaughter -- which I'm not -- and that she's proud of me -- which I have no reason to disbelieve, but still manage to -- I kind of get that this is what it feels like to be loved.

Anyway. One of the things Grandma gave me was a cha-cha bracelet blank. I was surprised she had one at all; it just seemed anachronistically modern, especially when I thought of the one bracelet I've made with the same blank. She, of course, said, "Take it, take it!" I tried describing to her the version I made, a few years ago now, and she just made faces at me.

What can I say. Of all the things I inherited from the Taylor bloodline, my fascination with skulls was apparently not among them.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A moment.

I had a long walk through my neighborhood tonight, under the threat of very large and flashing storm clouds. I knew there was a high chance that I'd wind up under a downpour, but it seemed worth it to meander through the cool but heavy darkness, surrounded by the flicker of fireflies and the booms of toads. I never exactly forget how beautiful my neighborhood is, but there are definitely times I ... feel it more than others. Those times when I'm a little awed that this is my neighborhood. I live here. I made this happen. It makes me simultaneously proud and lonely in a way I can't describe.

After (silently but literally) counting off the 150 paces from my driveway entrance to my doorstep, I made straight for my bath without turning on any lights. When I started the water, I realized it was probably going to be a long one, so I launched a playlist I hadn't listened to in a long while. I settled in and, thanks to the iPhone Remote application, kept a casual eye on what was playing. You know it's a good playlist when every song makes you think "ooh I should play this whole album. I'll wait to see what's next. Ooh I should play this whole album!"

I was several songs in when a long, low intro started to spool out. I knew it was something I liked, something I hadn't heard in a long time. The very moment my mind was grasping the tune -- "Tinseltown in the Rain" by the Blue Nile -- fat raindrops started plinking down on the metal awning over my back porch, next to my open bathroom window, as if the word "rain" in my head had invoked the waiting shower. I laughed, really taken by the moment in a rare and wonderful way.
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