You might already know that I love patchwork! A central theme of my life, patchwork has been not only the decades long, pleasurable activity of quilting, but also a concept that has given me ever-deepening layers of meaning and insights into living.
Many years ago, I began to write brief vignettes of my life’s journey that begged to be released. As I continued the practice through the years, I discovered the unexpected gifts of both healing and uncovering generational connections I’d not been aware of.
One day a powerful idea struck me: what if I threaded them together into a larger story? As I gathered and stitched (with words) those experiences into chapters, the process felt familiar, sort of like a cousin to piecing fabric into quilts. The encouragement I felt to continue on as I viewed my task through that patchwork lens, led me to research quilt patterns to find if they could lend their names to my chapter themes. I was not disappointed. One after another resonated in a grand parade: One Wedding Ring, Tumbling Blocks, Texas Star, Kaleidoscope, Helping Hands, and so many more.
During this exciting time of exploration, I perceived the quilt patterns that represented joyful experiences could accommodate being sewn with some squares representing darker, difficult struggles. Those stories I didn’t want to write–yet as any writer of some experience well knows–were exactly the stories that needed telling. The unanticipated gift was that when dark and light were threaded together into one large creation (of a quilt or a memoir), I noticed that the dark areas became both softened and integral to the overall beauty.
Later, while reading Mary Catherine Bateson’s lovely memoir, “Composing a Life,” I found my patchwork concept clearly and richly articulated:
“Part of the task of composing a life is the artist’s need to find a way to take what is simply ugly and, instead of trying to deny it, to use it in the broader design.”
I look back today and reminisce about how that first small life-story I penned in 2001 began a process that transformed over time into a memoir. “Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss” will be published this October, a fact that would have been unimaginable at the onset of this journey.