Monday, August 15, 2011

Zen-erosity


Quilters are among the most giving people I’ve ever met, as a whole.  I’m continually impressed and humbled by how very decent every single quilter I’ve ever met has been.  Here’s a recent example:  Last week I was sewing with a Bernina that I inherited from my mother.  Neither she nor I really ever learned how to use it; she ran out of time, and I just started using in my usual haphazard fashion, consulting the (sketchy) manual whenever I ran into a snag.  I couldn’t get a certain stitch to work, and I tried everything I could think of as well as all two of the troubleshooting suggestions offered by the (very sketchy) manual and it just wouldn’t sew correctly.   I decided that I needed to have it looked at.   I took it down to Pocketful of Poseys, the local quilt store, and was talking to Cindy, the owner, about it.  She told me that the repair man she used was not coming anymore, but she offered to look at it for me because she has the same machine.  She told me to come back the next day.  When I did, she and one of her coworkers had cleaned it, changed the needle and fixed the problem for me.  Thrilled, I asked her how much I owed her and she said “Oh nothing, not a thing.”  Now there is no reason for this woman not to charge me, at least for her time.   Believe me, I appreciated her help enough to pay for it (I had spent two very UN-zen hours trying to get the blasted thing to work the day before.)  It was just so very kind  - what a nice person!  And this is not an unusual happening - it seems to happen all the time.   It's as if quilting is a kind of sisterhood and everyone supports everyone – it’s a beautiful thing.
The ladies from my quilting bee are generous to a fault.  They give tools, material, lessons thread, books and magazines away at the drop of an “Ooh or ahh” of admiration. They share so much, in fact, that sometimes I wonder if they even know which stuff belongs to whom!  But it doesn’t matter to them – it’s all part of the collective creativity. (Just don’t tell their husbands how much they spend on this shared wealth!  Although I’m sure that it all evens out anyway with all the give and take!)  I teasingly tell them they do this because they are enablers– kind of like people sitting around a campfire smoking pot who want everyone else to share their addiction - if you don’t take a toke, everyone stares at you until someone vouches that you’re “cool.“  (You have to partake of all the fun, man!) ** But the truth for these wonderful women is not that they are trying to justify what they are doing, it is that they are having such a blast, they want to share their delight with everyone.
They are also quite liberal with their support and praise, as well.  Never does one hear a discouraging word from any of these ladies, no matter how insane or impractical an idea.   My friend Diane Kammlah, in particular, who I believe has more knowledge about sewing and fabric than any person I’ve ever met before, loves to encourage me to try things and often is an accomplice to my creative insanity. Her catch phrase is “Sure, you can do that!” usually followed by some suggestion of how to make it work.   If something isn’t working, I usually call her and together we hatch some scheme for making it work.  Even when (as is often the case) my work is less than perfect they politely don’t point out the flaws, but notice the beauty, or at least the intent of beauty.
 More evidence of quilters’ munificence is how often and freely many of them offer the fruits of their labors to friends, family, admiring strangers… If you know or are a quilter, how many quilts have you been given/given away – too many to remember, I’ll wager. 
 This unnecessary and unexpected behavior nicely demonstrates the Zen-ness of art – it’s not the final result that counts, it’s the DOING.  This is one of the more important lessons I’ve learned from all these incredible women.  ( It's closely followed by "The more you give – the more you get back."  )
  Now this may be because quilters want to be encouraged in their own daffy endeavors, but I don’t think so.  I think that it’s just because quilters are a Zen-erous bunch.


 
**Don’t be so shocked – even Mery Streep did it in “It’s Complicated!”  On the other hand, IN NO WAY am I advocating the smoking of dope!  Smoking of any type is nasty business if you ask me.  But although I don’t personally partake, I’m hardly one to judge - I can get high from fingering fantastic fabrics! J