Like Forrest Gump I might have said life is a box of chocolates, but at the moment life seems more like a random pile of pieces. Sometimes the pieces are magazine images and words that get combined to tell a story of recovery. Sometimes the pieces are piles of strips or folds of fabric strewn around a workroom. Sometimes they’re the pieces of an hour waiting to be filled with purpose. Pieces full of potential, but feeling pretty fragmented in the moment. 

Such was the raw honesty of the “before recovery” side of Chanel’s “Fanning the Flame” fan created during a therapeutic art workshop at the Lighthouse, a fifteen-month, faith-based residential treatment program for women recovering from substance abuse. The image of the woman was torn from a large inter-jail postcard she’d exchanged with her boyfriend while they were both incarcerated.  It represented her old self when the pieces of her life were desperately connected by the obsessed next fix of “issue” – a slang term for crack.

At other times the pieces present themselves less dramatically, but still with plenty of confusion. A good friend is learning to quilt and I volunteered some of the generous stash recently sent to me by a cyber fiber friend. Pieces and piles began to grow all over my workroom as I clustered possibilities together. But at a time in my life when there are lots of shifting possibilities before me, suddenly the “I could make this” or “I could do that” simply became overwhelming. Too many choices with no clear direction where to begin.  It was tempting to walk away. But a treasured piece of advise from a favorite wisdom woman popped into my head – “Begin with what you know.”

Pulling out a box of scrappy leftover fabrics, I began piecing one to another over several leisurely unscheduled afternoons.  Trimming, flipping, and pressing the random pieces, the blocks began to grow as visual meditations of life in process. One finished quilt top is somewhat random and not totally balanced. Other blocks pinned on my design wall looked weird the way I’d imagined them. As I piece more blocks together I’ve decided to hold loosely their final arrangement, a companionable metaphor at the moment.

To switch metaphors and paraphrase Annie Dillard, I’m content to put my pieces into the oar-locks “rowing into the thick darkness, rather than play pinochle in the bottom of the boat.”

In this busy season, what are the pieces of your life that feel a bit fragmented? What pieces tell the story of your life? What pieces are you “stitching” together that make things a little clearer. If you were to draw a picture of “rowing into the thick darkness,” what would it look like?

May your piece making being peaceable.

2 comments to Pieces

  • currently tussling with a dark problem
    my life is devoted to service of others
    and i too frequently negate my own needs and wishes
    it has become a lifelong habit
    i have the chance to break out now and then
    and am afraid of the consequences if i do so
    have lost courage to look for my own satisfaction
    in case it is not good for others

    society’s rules are sometimes hard to understand
    and yes, we do need those defining rules
    but we only live once
    and one wonders if being ‘perfect’ is the desirable way to go
    i so long to throw my hat to the wind
    and just run

  • Karen Greenslate

    This piece is lovely, and I can see you cutting, sewing, thinking, pulling it all together to make something to smile about. I love the Anne Dillard quote. I was thinking this morning of a small piece of cloth, that served as a swaddling blanket for Jesus. I was thinking that what became his blanket is big enough to cover and fold around all of us, all those on this small planet, all those who would like to be tucked in. A very important small piece of cloth.

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