Star QuiltMoving messes with one’s creativity. At least it does mine.

After six weeks in our new home where most things had found a new home, a new room, a new cupboard, or a new shelf, we were getting the hang of living in our new space. But then we transitioned back to California to visit family and friends, retrieving Robert’s van so we could enjoy a leisurely drive across country on mostly secondary roads. Late summer rains left the desert green with abundant wildflowers. Wide spots in the road intrigued us. My favorite was the New Mexican community that boasted at the edge of town “Welcome to Portales, home of 17,000 friendly people, and 3 or 4 old grouches.” We enjoyed an assortment of art, space, and historic museums scattered throughout New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Mississippi. My favorite…Crystal Bridges Museum of Modern Art in Bentonville, AR, a wonderful collection shown in an impressive setting funded by a portion of the Walmart fortune. Our road trip ended with a pilgrimage to Mary Jo’s fabric store in Gastonia, NC which I hadn’t visited in over twenty years. It was as spectacular as I remembered it, but felt grateful to get out of the store having spent only $50 – a couple of fat quarters here, a couple of fat quarters there, plus a lovely jacquard for a new fall colored vest. And then we were home.

And then we realized we weren’t in transition any longer. We were home.

And then we realized we couldn’t find anything once we got home. Our first six weeks wasn’t long enough to imprint the wheres of our new routines. We were once again hunting for something we knew we’d carefully put away in some new room, in some handy cupboard, or on some just right shelf. Our possessions were still in transition even if we weren’t.

And that messes with creativity. Nothing was where is used to be. Nothing was where it “should” be. Just thinking about doing something creative was intimidating. So…how does one face this transitional chaos?

You start with what you know.

I’d begun a couple of test blocks of a new quilt pattern back in the spring and then promptly packed them away as we prepared our transition from the West to East Coast. With my design wall installed in my new office/sewing room I decided I could probably begin again making more star blocks…and then inserting colorful strips in the spacer blocks. I followed fairly closely a quilt design inspired by Sandi Cumming’s Thinking Outside the Block. It felt good to have my hand held a little as I reengaged creatively. The blocks grew in number. I continued to do what I knew how to do.

But then my design wall became a collection of eight point stars on pointa quilt arrangement I’d not tried before. From feeling totally stuck creatively, I was suddenly trying something altogether different. My creativity began with something familiar, and was now transitioning into something new. Pretty much an apt metaphor for our physical transition from CA to NC.

We’ve moved here with lots that we know, that we’re familiar with, but we’re also being inspired by the differences that abound in a new place, and the fresh creative potential in encountering and engaging the unfamiliar. While it’s still a hassle some days not being able to find what you know is somewhere in the house, I’m also finding and touching some really good stuff I’d forgotten all about. Stuff that’s been fermenting for a while that says start with me. So I start with what I know trusting it will transition into something more than I originally imagined.

If you’ve moved or been in transition, what areas of your life does it mess with? What did you find helpful in getting beyond that messy place? What was your “start with what you know” thing? If you were creating your “mess to masterpiece,” what would it look like?

PS – Thanks to all of you who’ve missed these posts and wondered where I’ve been the last few months. Your comments and emails have been the nudge I needed to get back writing.

10 comments to Transition

  • Caroline

    I’m starting to downsize from a 3 bedroom house with a family room to a two bedroom apartment in the next year. The question is “What to I give up?” or should I rent a storage for all my crafts and supplies? I am overwhelmed with where to start and how to plan ahead for the new smaller space.

  • My family has downsized from 6 local grandkids to 4. My oldest 2 have in the past few weeks moved across country to Scranton Pennsylvania with their wonderful mother; my daughter-in-love. It is hard to lose these loved ones we have enjoyed on a daily basis and it is a huge transition not to have to be their part time caretaker. However, I have a peace that the Lord has a wonderful plan to prosper them in all ways and the connections and love we feel will continue. I’m looking forward to seeing how this will pan out. Already we have plans to spend New Year’s with them and that will be a wonderful beginning!

  • Dana Thompson

    Having moved this year from a large house with lots of storage into a small house with not much storage only 10 miles away, I can relate to what you are going through. When I can’t find something I wonder if I gave it away or threw it out. I still have things to get rid of, especially art and hobby stuff that someone else could use.

    I gave a lot of fabric to an art to wear group sale, but I wish I had kept some scraps. I may buy some back at the sale next month. Sewing has become easier since it is all in one half of a small bedroom and not in various rooms in the old house. Where to start is also easy since I lost weight last year and my clothes are too big. The challenge of altering and making new clothes is a good incentive to spend time at the sewing machine.

  • Janet

    I have said before I am not a creative person…I do not sew (last outfit is tear stained), I don’t Crochet or knit (a blanket or such ends smaller than a coaster)…you get the point. Transitions in the business world aka church world mess with a different creativity. With a new senior pastor at the helm for now 3 months, I find that which was in the cubby hole of staff meetings, the shelf of worship leadership, the closet of routine and the window box of preparing for meetings, teaching and worship I either cannot find, takes too much time to locate or I just re-do. But in all the rummaging, reengaing and recreating there is already a new masterpiece being completed. God is good!

  • I sometimes feel that my life is one big transition, just getting to know the true me and letting go of the fairytale I thought I was. Love your posts.

  • Katrina Steiner

    Lynne, it was great to open my email to your post. I’ve missed you! We also made a major move two years ago from Ventura County where we had lived since 1975 to Las Vegas. I retired as a kindergarten teacher and held on to too many of my teaching projects. I hope to share some of “the stuff” with our grandson’s kinder teachers as they start to school. I completely agree with your suggestion to “start with what you know”. I soon signed up to take a couple of classes thru the Osher Lifelong Learning Institue (OLLI) at UNLV. The class that has had the biggest impact on my creativity was a class on the book The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. She encourages weekly artists dates to explore your surroundings and suggests you revisit projects which brought you joy in the past (card making, for me). Another class I took was Things To Do in Las Vegas NOT on the Strip–here I learned about little theatre groups, high school performances, art and music exhibits, library programs, museums, and much more. These classes have also given me lots of opportunities to meet new friends to ease the transition to our new home.

  • Susan

    Wish I had your excuse (actually, a very valid reason) for not being able to find things. And, it’s especially vexing to feel virtuous after cleaning out, tossing out and rearranging to then not be able to find anything that’s been put in a new place. Don’t know whether this is an exercise in memory which increases brain function or an exercise in futility. Please keep the posts and the pictures coming!

  • Sharron Luft

    We recently downsized from our home of 23 years into a 1, 000 sq ft studio space with no closets, no cupboards and no walls. It was quite a challenge. Selecting only what was required, what was truly treasured, challenged more than our creativity. We both had to sacrifice and to compomise while smiling at each other. It was a bit rocky at tmes, but it has worked out well for both of us. The rockiness has sanded down more of our rough spots, and today we are both enjoying our new selves in our new home. God is good, isnt He?

  • Barbara

    As you know, I’ve been in transition for awhile and it, too, messed with my creativity. For eight months I couldn’t even doodle. Finally, when I got my own place again, I started with what I knew– making throw pillows and curtains for my place. That became making very creative pillows with fancy treatments, then decoupage, them a quilt and sculpture project…..and it is now spiraling into a familiar creative zone. I know I am happier as a creative spirit.

  • Lori

    Great insights, Lynne! When you are in the midst of change, you can wonder if you will lose who you were before the change occurred, especially if the change was unexpected. I love the idea of starting with what you know, and letting the process guide you into the unknown and sometimes anxious future. This is just what I needed to hear today, thanks for sharing your journey with all of us!

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