~ The Yarn Brothel

I lived in New Orleans for a while as a child and have been back a handful of times since then.  It is one of those cities that call to you, like a siren and I can see myself returning at intervals for the rest of my life, if only for a beignet and a cup of coffee at Cafe du Monde.

The French Quarter holds a special fascination for me and I was relieved when it survived Katrina in tact.  The architecture and mix of people, the energy that interacts with the air coming off the Mississippi is singular. I have never felt that particular feeling in any other city.  And in the mix of the hedonistic nooks and crannies lining the streets, it is only fitting that The Quarter Stitch would be among them at 630 Rue de Chartres.

In the summer heat, the smells of  horse manure and spilled beer mix with po’boys and roasting coffee and you push through a door that could be at least 200 years old into a yarn store.

I don’t needle-point.

I don’t knit.

Yet stepping into the shop, I knew that I wanted to.

And I knew that this was no ordinary yarn store.  It was a yarn brothel.  Something as sedate and matronly as knitting could not arouse such a response.

The door jingles as you push it open.  Punched tin ornaments and ribbons sway as you step inside.  Upon entering, you stop and take in the scene before you – an explosion of color that draws you further into the small two room store.  Needle-point canvases of all sizes line the walls and conjure thoughts of castles or elegant country manors with heraldic crests or Victorian ladies sewing over tea.

There are completed projects to admire — felted hats and scarves,  sweaters and jackets that beg to be touched, showing the prospective customer a hint of the choices available.  Wool? Silk? Nubby? Frizzed? And the colors . . . so many colors.  There are dollops of color displayed throughout; gem-tones shot with gold or silver thread, purples and blues with iridescent threads rolled into little balls like magical sea anemones, pale yellows and pinks and lilacs that seem to be the color of light.

I don’t know the difference between a Noro Kureyon yarn or Koigu.  I just knew that this was a magical place.  And I’ve been wondering why.  And I’ve come to realize that this shop isn’t really selling yarn.

It’s selling possibilities.

Spinners and weavers have been revered in mythology for centuries.  One can’t imagine that the creation of socks and undergarments or even a cloak of many colors would garner such admiration.  But perhaps the admiration is really at the act of creating something out of a proverbial ball of nothing.  The creation business: cooking, sewing, gardening, birth, is for the most part, an arena for women.  Of course, with the change in culture and perspectives, this has become muddled.  But this store felt like the entrance to that world past, where one really wouldn’t be surprised to see the Fates in the back room, weaving the destiny of mankind.  In this old building, there was an air of holy reverence for the power of creation and possibility.

There were only women in the store the day I was there, speaking in hushed voices, sharing ideas, touching and judging the weight and color of a canvas or a skein like women have done for thousands of years.  Perhaps they were wondering if they could create  something as immaculate as Arachne did, something so magnificent that it would make a goddess jealous.  A creation that  would be treasured and handed down and secure your place in eternity . . . or if not eternity, at least for a generation or two.

With the excitement of a prospective project, you stuff the skeins into your basket and your connection to time is assured.  As you check out or ask questions you lean against the massive counter on which there was , at least the day I was there, a little blind dog, white and fluffy and hard to see among the fibers that littered the desktop.  He lay there like an over-large skein of white yarn himself,  a Homer-esque sentinel to the magical.

The experience was sheer bliss.  I do not look at a skein of yarn today without remembering that store and I smile.  As I make plans to finally learn to knit, I think of all the things I do –  the obligations and responsibilities and there cannot be room enough for one more activity.

But I remind myself that this is not a waste of time.

Bliss never is.

 

 

 

The Quarter Stitch Needlepoint
630 Chartres Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 522-4451

Friends, Dog Food and The Writing Process

I have a can of Alpo sitting on my desk.  My friend, Stacy has issued a challenge which I foolishly accepted.  We will write 50,000 words in a month’s time.  Whoever does not will have to eat a can of Alpo.

Yes- I call this woman my friend.

The result?  I am writing like mad.  One, because I am tired of not being published and two, I know she will make sure I eat the damned thing if I fail to produce.  But, dspite the fact that there is a possibility that I may have to chow down on a can of Prime Cuts – Stew with Beef & Vegetables in Beef Gravy, I like that she is there, poking me with a metaphorical stick.  She is someone who will call my bluff and remind me of what I’m capable of.

Her son got married on Friday.  I have watched her navigate her way through this event and the wide range of emotions swirling about this major change with grace.  At the reception, someone asked me how I knew her – easy- she’s a fellow writer and we belonged to the same writing group in San Diego and she was homeschooling her children at the time, just as I was.  We had ‘stuff’ in common.  How long had I know her?  I blurted out – about fifteen years.  But then I stumbled about thinking that was not possible.  Had it been that long?  We had been friends during the birth of my third child, he’s 14 and during my divorce, her divorce – I quickly cataloged our friendship by the events in our lives and yes, it was true.  Maybe a bit longer.  And I was silently amazed at this – not because I had not thought we would be able to continue a friendship for that length of time, but because it has been as though there has been no time at all.  This realization reminded me of an Einstein quote:  “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour.  Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute.  That’s relativity.”

And that’s why we need to focus on those things that give us bliss, that make life sweet and elongate our lives.  Those friendships and chocolate and that pair of new shoes and the sound of mockingbirds fighting in the back yard or the joy of snuggling up with a book on a rainy day makes our lives longer – erasing our hours and in a sense, time.  And I am learning that, in turn, we should run from those people or places or bad marriages or jobs  that make us feel as if we are holding our breath while in a shark tank – every second magnified and troublesome making time swirl past us at a dizzying speed, every second noted, often with dread.

Stacy was lovely at the reception and I could tell the day had been wearing on her.  There was a mix of emotions on her face and when talking about her son and his life and this choice, I told her that she had done a good job.  And then moments later, she began to cry.  I’m sure this was because she had passed another parenting hurdle with success – (Sidenote: Once I thought that when you reach adulthood – you’ll know everything – but alas, no.  There’s always something new – kids in college, marriage, grandchildren, and the occasional surprise -“Mom, I’m thinking about not going back to school.  I’d like to go to Africa to do charity work” – There are firsts at EVERY age.)  During her son’s first dance with his bride, I think Stace realized that she  had passed a ‘mom’ test and another first.  I think she realized that she had indeed, done a good job.  And the look on his face – the radiant happiness and the control with which he manuevered the reception was obvious to all that he was ready to step into manhood.

As parents, most of us are concerned with the quality of parenting we do.  Some of us are vividly aware of how our words, actions and decisions affect those who have been born to us and in my talks with Stace, we see that sometimes those decisions and actions can cause a ripple over generations.  And not always in a good way, but we hope.  And we hope to have friends that can make time fly and reflect our lives back to us in a good way.

And she has most definitely done that for me.  Alpo or no.

Mix up, Change up

Yesterday, my part of the world experienced a rather sizable earthquake of 7.2.  As earthquakes go, this one was hard to ignore.  Over 45 or so seconds, the things on my office desk went from vibrating to shaking to bouncing to jumping and then back to a slight hum of vibration and then stillness.  It was dizzying and unsettling and surprising and scary.   

And it reminded me of my journey over the last few months.  Finding and focusing on the bliss in my life is becoming easier.  Being thankful when things are going well is something I can do.  But adding that element of unknown, that element of fear and finding the bliss in that – well, that’s when things get a bit iffy.  And as I push myself to be more, I experience that same sensation internally that I felt in the moment of the earthquake.  As things and relationships in my life begin to tremble and shake and change, I find that catch in my breath and the instinct to step back and away.  The movement causes fear.     

And I am realizing that fear is a major stumbling block when it comes to my writing and is something that I can no longer ignore or dance around if I want to move my writing into an actual career.   And I am realizing I cannot separate who I want to be as a person and who I want to be as a writer.  I must embrace both parts just as I must embrace the unknown.   

Just as my dog barks at the after-shocks that make our shoulders tense up and our breath catch,  I find myself metaphorically barking at my upsets and unplanned episodes that have gotten me off track.  In Art & Fear, by David Bayles & Ted Orland: “Making art can feel dangerous and revealing.  Making art is dangerous and revealing.  Making art precipitates self-doubt, stirring deep waters that lay between what you know you should be, and what you fear you might be.” 

Marianne Williamson said that our greatest fear is that we are “powerful beyond measure.”  I think she’s onto something – that our movement into that direction is overwhelming with possibility that it stops us dead in our tracks.  

In the middle of the quake, all we could do was hold on and hope for the best.  I think that’s the life lesson here as well, both in my jumping off the cliff into a new life and making those brave decisions that allow movement and change into my writing.   Hold on and hope for the best.

My Boy ~

My son reminds me of every thing that is good in a man.

My son reminds me to slow down and makes me smile.  Everyone needs someone in their life like that.

I am lucky I have him.