where it starts.

NOTE: italicized passages are taken directly from my personal journals

There is so much more to write.

Little holes to fill in.

Stories to tell.

Uncomfortable things to explain.

Characters to introduce.

But, this is where it starts.

 

 

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When I started telling friends that I was going to sit down and finally start writing this book, one of my longest and most consistently supportive friends, Kim N., said to me: “When telling your story please try to share how you did not give up. You have always kept on. I will NEVER forget the a$$ that told you that you weren’t an artist.”

 

And I could tell you all about how packing up a few belongings and moving myself clear across the country as far as you can go, alone, with just a few safety nets and hardly any money, was just fine - it was all about artistic opportunities, a love affair with the open road, the impeccable beauty of the Western landscapes - and is merely a story of self-discovery and how I eventually met my forever partner.. 

But that would be a partial lie, because it is also mostly a story of my complex relationships with toxicity (both friends and romantic), flat out abuse, the crippling death of someone I loved, constant relocation, some of the lowest moments of my life, and yet somehow also the years that I created some of my best and most meaningful work to date. 
Two different things can be true at once. 

You can feel like you are failing, unable to dig yourself out, drowning in misgivings, grappling with the types of darkness that are hard to define - while also being constantly immersed and surrounded by beauty and inspiration. These things are not mutually exclusive. 

There was so much change and the need to adapt and cope at lightning speed all of the time, and I needed an outlet to keep me from losing hold of myself. 

In the aftermath of some of the hardest parts, I figured out how to create the kinds of quilts I had always been longing to make: quilts with purpose, with story, with meaning. It felt unfortunate, the fires I walked through to create with such purpose, since I never liked the metaphor of the inevitable anguished artist. But I started to see my quilts and work as more of a snapshot or photograph from my mind’s eye. From my memory - albeit, somewhat twisted and romanticized, and I left out a lot of the most complicated details...

But quilting became my therapy. Where it had once just been a lifelong passed down hobby and form of expression, it had turned into a place to voice my secrets, shame, sorrow, grief, depression, and unidentified emotions as they came about. (Eventually, joy would join the list as well.) Quilting became the way to tell my stories publicly while still holding my cards close, and it kept my mind and my hands occupied.

I was taking the experiences I was going through, and making something from them. I was taking the monsters that were holding me down, and turning them into beautiful, tangible and useful things. 

Posting my quilt work to social media became the conduit for love to actually find me.

I had planned so dutifully for this big move from Maine to California and Arizona, and I had calculated and anticipated every possible outcome - except for all of the outcomes I ended up with. And I was hell bent on having something to show for all of it.. So, one small business later, we are here. 



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Sometimes when you stop moving, you allow things to catch up to you.

Sometimes when you stop looking, you allow things to find you.

Sometimes when you’re not searching for inspiration, inspiration hits.

 

2012

 

New Year’s Resolutions:

Only make choices that I can stand behind proudly. 

Put myself first. 

Learn to forgive and let go. 

Live more in the moment, try not to overthink so much. 

Find something good in every day. 

Remember to breathe. 

Party smarter and not quite as hard, be kind, 

and don’t ever feel weird or self-conscious about my quirky crazy self. 

Do more of what I love – sew, write, take photos, seek out beauty. 

Be strong.



2013

I was 33 years old, daydreaming about picking up and moving out West - but I had convinced myself it would never happen and that it was just a pipe dream. I was just a girl from Maine, with no idea how to “make it” anywhere else. I was sure it would be too hard. Too hard in every possible way. I felt like I was doing nothing with my life, and that if I wasn’t careful I would be stuck. Forever, like a lot of other people I knew. So, I was focusing on finding my quilting voice, and focusing on figuring out what I really wanted. 

I was right on the edge of it:

I'm on the tip of it; it's all there just outside my reach. Do more of it, and it will come closer. It will make more sense, be more tangible, process makes progress and all of these important things are important. Make time for them. They make you who you are. This is not a gentle reminder to do what you love, it is an order to do what you are good at.

Stop regretting having thrown away eight years worth of handwritten journals about seven years ago. all of that stuff still lives in my brain/heart, if i ever wanted to publish a memoir i could do it from memory easily. Most of that stuff was just simple heartache amplified by my own inability to cope. no one wants to read that anyway.

Remember that people are busy. Remember that patience is important. Remember that quiet is good. Remember that it will all happen eventually, whatever this “it” is. Be honest, to a fault; your honesty is the only way to stay true to yourself. Don’t forget that not everyone understands that. Keep close those who do. Not every day needs to be filled with words and time and voices – have something to look forward to. Don’t forget to live and love while you’re waiting.  

Go with your gut, not what everyone else offers up for opinions. It's okay to make your own mistakes. Everybody's got an opinion, but you have to live with yourself. Talk when it feels right. Say what you want to say. Sleep better knowing you tried. If it helps, dye your hair; you can always change it later.

On nights like tonight when it's a little too quiet, a little too dark, a little too uncomfortable – plan out projects for the future, get excited about doing them, think ahead to the end and how good that's going to feel. Give yourself a day or two of rest. Take a break from thinking and just breathe. Choose happiness over drama. Be okay with yourself and others will be okay with you. These pep talks are important. Keep it all in check. You’ve got this. You’ve chosen to live with all of these things – so go live.

 

 

2014


January of 2014 came, and over the edge I went. I made the plan, I figured out how it would work. And I started preparing to move across the country alone. I wanted to start over, I wanted to be anonymous, I wanted to get out of here. I felt like I had something to prove. I thought I had baggage after a failed long relationship (but I didn’t even know what baggage was yet). I had just bought a new car, had a quilting pattern published in a group book, traveled from Maine to Arizona and Colorado on vacation, helped design and decorate two weddings for friends, dyed my hair blonde, and felt like I could take on the world. Little did I know, I would make the move and end up taking on the world and more.  

In March of 2014, I traveled from Maine to California for the first time, officially the furthest I had ever traveled.

That moment when you don’t think anything will pull you out of the awful funk you’re in. When everything seems incredibly far away and unattainable. When you know you need to leave but aren’t sure the difference between up and down or how. The past couple of months felt like a constant succession of inhales with no relief. A piece of me felt like I had waited too long – and I was so nervous to go. (what if…?) Its nothing you’re sure of until the moment you’re in it, and its hard to explain…until you’re miles in the air above and beyond the Grand Canyon (the furthest you’ve been). …until you’re driving down palm tree lined streets with the windows down. Finally. That instant & deep exhale was what I had been waiting for. It was involuntary and so welcomed. I teared up the entire trip home, and for weeks afterwards. For a few specific reasons and many reasons unknown. Emotions around here come fast & furious these days, with so much to do and never enough time. Even just today I thought about how there wasn’t enough time to do what I wanted to do, and then I thought back to California – it felt like I had all the time in the world in just three days…

 

March:

Recently I have had a couple of people tell me that I'm “brave.” brave to be preparing/planning to leave my friends & family, making a decision for me and me alone. In the past few weeks, the whole thing has felt less “brave” and more natural. Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do? Eventually grow up and move on to bigger things? It has started to feel less scary, as a lot of little things fall into place. I have been reminded and am reminding myself that there will never be enough time and there will never be enough money. Those big things will fall into place, too.

I am often so quick to give to others, often knowing full well that there will be no reciprocation. Such a character flaw, to give these gifts so excitedly. …Though, I suppose there are worse flaws than to be able to give without getting anything in return.

The most inspired projects come to me quickly and easily without overthinking. often these have become projects for other people, a surprise fabric reincarnation of a special moment we shared together… or a commission based on a quick basic idea that they had, which I turned into a more detailed and tangible thing.

Lately, I have been sketching out and constructing a project based on sights and feelings and emotions that I have been carrying around inside of me the past couple of months. After years of sewing just to sew, right now I'm ready to sew to pull something out. evoke some sort of emotion in someone (though likely it will only be me). I want to convey something fluid with angular lines. I want to make it slightly uncomfortable but still beautiful (how much of ourselves do we put into our art?). It's necessary to remember that we’re all inspiring someone somewhere, even if they don’t tell us so. It's important to be proud of what we make.

The second time I was called “brave” recently was when I admitted that I don't own a seam ripper for my quilting. I don't believe in creative mistakes, I don't take things apart if I sew them wrong (unless its a commissioned project, and then I have to bust out the tiny little scissors to snip stitches). I'm owning up to my craft and choosing to believe that any mistakes I make have been made for a reason. Maybe I’ll like it better that way, maybe the wrong color in the wrong spot makes it a little more interesting. Its art, it shouldn’t have boundaries. …all concepts I'm slowly accepting into my daily life, also, when possible.

 

May: 

I recognize the ebb & flow of life more often these days – everything is ever-changing. My mood, what needs to be planned, what needs to get done, the amount of belongings I own, the people who seem important but never stick around, the people who come back after years of being gone and still feel like home. 

And through it all, I’m keeping myself normal and grounded with my sewing. I'm close to finishing up my fourth quilt project for myself in the past couple of months!, with a little help from a longarm-er. It's awesome to think that I will have four bada$$ quilts to travel with (along with a few oldies) from Maine to Arizona to California. 

They aren’t just blankets. They’re not just fabrics and batting and thread. They’re memories, time, and effort. They’re those nights filled with nervous energy. They’re distractions and mistakes and all of the music.

They’re how I cope, how I create, and how I show the world who I am.

 

By the time Summer arrived, I had sold most of my belongings and organized the rest down to exactly how many bins of stuff I could fit in my car. I had to re-home my cats, which was heartbreaking (and all these years later still is), and my plants. I knew that there would be moments during my planning and preparing that would be awful and difficult, the not-so-fun parts that sucked the life right out of me. But I did them, and I did what I had to do to make a major change in my life. I was moving 2,500-3,000 miles away, alone. This was not a small task for someone who had only ever left her home state alone less than half a dozen times. It was excruciatingly hard to realize that I did not have to answer to anyone at the end of the day except for myself, when there were a handful of folks who didn’t approve of what I was doing. I was getting a crash course in learning how to let go. Of a lot of things. Control, friends and people I thought were my friends, possessions, things I thought I loved, things I know I loved, things that have kept me company for a long time. I had lived in Maine for the first 34 years of my life, and I had days when I couldn’t breathe, and two months before the big move I was feeling completely overwhelmed by my decision to go. I felt strangely like I was losing any of the freedom I had ever gained in my life, in order to be free. I was so overly inspired, with limited opportunities available. No matter what, I was ready. 

 

August, one month ‘til moving:

Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

I feel really blessed for whatever turn of events caused my creativity to take such a dramatic turn this year – whether it was being inspired by distance or music or strength or weakness or all of the above – I wake up every morning with ideas in my brain that I can't wait to see turn into something. eventually. And that is not to say that it all may turn again and end up something completely different by the end of the year, But right now I'm pleased with the inspiration to sewing ratio. This feels like the first time that I've really truly been able to show who I am in my work, or at least part of who I am. A work in progress.

I think anyone who has doubted me through this decision, or who has had an ill opinion of what I've done and what I'm doing, has not truthfully and clearly sat down and looked at their own life with the kind of strength I have. I have said to myself and to everyone around me – I AM NOT HAPPY. I NEED _____ TO BE HAPPY. I REFUSE TO BE UNHAPPY ANYMORE. I AM MAKING A CHANGE. Changes have consequences. Changes hurt and are hard and affect people besides yourself. But being happy – to any degree, even if it's just the tiniest bit – is what life should be about. So many people focus on being unhappy. On why and how. I have done this for years and years, choosing to give all of my energy trying to remedy broken things with even worse fixes just to hold myself over for a little while. But I want out. I've hit the wall too many times.

This is my window of opportunity, and I am taking it while I can. I'm done with feeling bad for people, and I'm done worrying about what they think of me. Your life is yours, and my life is mine.

Its a selfish thing to think and talk only about yourself for almost a whole year. But the entire time all I could think about was how it would affect everyone around me. How it would change relationships and friendships and what people would think. All I could think about was who would be waiting on the other side, and who would care to see me go.

 

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The Quick + Dirty Outline:

 

Northern Arizona welcomed me softly. I had visited before and knew what to expect. Prescott was a comfortable small town tucked away in the mountains. I stayed with friends - a family of six! - once I arrived, and was instantly immersed into their safe and familiar family cocoon for a month while I prepared to head to Los Angeles. This gave me time to catch up on rest, decompress, do a lot of hiking, and get ready for the culture shock that was coming. Like a baby bird getting ready to leave the nest… 

 

Los Angeles. I’ve still yet to figure out how to write about Los Angeles without sounding like an ungrateful bitch. It is a struggle I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forget. Most of the folks I knew in Los Angeles were busy, unreliable and narcissistic. They had bustling rooted lives there in all of the craziness of the city, and were completely immersed in themselves, which meant that they were encouraging of me making the move, but were hard to hang on to for help once I was there. Up until hitting Los Angeles, I had felt confident and eager to explore. But from my first day there, I realized I had blindly and naively made a big mistake. I was there to do a quilting internship, but even that didn’t bring enough enjoyment or security to meet me halfway. I thought I’d be learning a new quilting skill - but instead I realized it was just a creative modern smoke screen and marketing, compared to the family-taught traditional style of quilting I had come from. I felt no inspiration. Nothing in Los Angeles felt real. I retreated into my shell, and only came out months later when I made the choice to leave. I left behind a few girlfriends that I kept in touch with, and that was about it. I had moved 3,000 miles for a facade; people wearing masks and masquerading around saying they wanted me there but who did nothing to help me find the tools to keep me there. Those ties were short lived. Once I was again out of sight, I was far far far out of mind (and felt out of my mind, too).

And so back to northern Arizona I went, into a storm. Literally. I left California and drove straight into a northern Arizona mountain snowstorm, which felt very fitting. It was a long and arduous nearly eight hour drive (and yet somehow familiar). I cried the entire time. I returned to Prescott a little more jaded, a little more panicked, and in need of some stability. I stayed with my friends again until I found a rental - the downstairs of a little house owned by a teacher who loved baking and wine, sewing, and her two dogs. But the storm swirled and stayed, like a hovering emotional tornado.

After the storm broke, I relocated to the southern AZ desert, to learn how to live in the severe and harsh landscape. If you have never been to the desert, let me tell you, it is a force of nature to be reckoned with. 

Let's rewind a bit, though…. 

October 2014:

A few friends of mine from Maine have mentioned that I’m missing all of the foliage and classic fall colors. A west coast friend said something like, “its funny what becomes commonplace.” It's not that I don’t appreciate the colors and scenery of the place that I grew up in (or that feeling when fall air comes in and everything gets chilly and you start to wear sweaters and scarves). But I grew up there and lived there for over thirty years. Foliage and reds and yellows and cold are sights and feelings I am very familiar with. I can't tell you how many emotional memories I associate with the leaves changing color.

I've been spending the past few weeks appreciating colors and feelings and emotions of a different kind.

I have enjoyed the typical colors that a lot of people think of when you say ‘Arizona’ – the bright oranges of Sedona and the bright blue of the sky. The green, browns, and sandy tans of the desert sand and cactus.

There are so many different landscapes just within miles of each other. All of those oranges and browns and tans, but also: dense forests of deep green and sunsets unlike any I've ever seen. One of the first nights that I was here, I stood in the backyard and looked up at the sky – there were stars so bright and so much closer to any that I'd ever seen in the little city I came from.

My heart belongs in the desert, and I've learned that on several occasions. I can't explain it to you because its something I've never been able to put into words. Someday I really hope that I can, because it is a really amazing feeling. I feel a calm on my desert hikes that I have never felt anywhere else, ever. 

I’m finding that when you get to a new place, new things become important to you.

Say YES to stepping outside of your routine.

Say YES to being okay with change.

Say YES to being okay with feeling uncomfortable and working through it to get to where you need to be.

Say YES to staying in touch.

Say YES to driving without your gps when you have a chance to go off the grid.

Say YES to finding places that you’ll need out of convenience.

Say YES to finding places that you’ll need just to get away.

Say YES to being okay being alone.

Say YES to being okay with getting help if you need it.

Say YES to sewing for money.

Say YES to sewing for fun.

Say YES to letting people see you for how nerdy you are.

Say YES to letting people see you without makeup.

Say YES to starting over in a new place and doing all of the things you wished you’d been able to do before – even if its difficult.

These may seem like easy things to say YES to, but some days they’re not. This isn’t some magical journey where everything turns out incredible right off the bat. But, I didn’t leave everything behind to not try. I didn't argue and cry or leave my apartment and my pets and my family and my friends and my job to just get here and do what I'm used to the way I'm used to it. And yes, some days I feel like I wake up with things to prove to people. But mostly I just want to prove it to myself.

I've never been a hiker – I hiked in Maine a few times and found it difficult. Lately I've been thinking that I just wasn’t ready for it. Hiking here has given me a freedom that I've very much needed. 

I'm learning that trying to stay in touch can be tough, but I've been trying to tell friends when something reminds me of them.

I'm also learning that I can live in the fall months without that usual fall feeling that I'm used to. I'm finding those familiar fall colors in different places now. I’m walking around with less of the emotional baggage that always came with the changing of the seasons heading into the long winter months in Maine.

 

November 2014:

I am now two full weeks into my stay in Los Angeles. 

Any and all kinds of personal centering I had when I was in AZ (see last entry) has left me and I feel like I'm starting all over again, every day. I'm getting lost any time I drive anywhere. I'm still not adventuring out on my own as I hoped I would be. My main focus has been on sitting at my sewing machine, with little breaks to walk around the neighborhood for sunshine, and pumping out enough work to cover my rent/stay here. I have spent a lot of time texting with friends, both here and back home (and everywhere in between). I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I want to do next, already. The only money I have spent here has almost all gone to food and groceries and I've yet to even have to fill up my gas tank. But, who comes to LA to stay inside? Who bothers to come all this way only to miss the place they just left? I'm already longing for my Arizona hikes. I'm already missing the way that I felt there: comfortable with myself.

Part of all this moving and interacting with new people (or just people you haven’t seen in a really long time) means figuring things out, personally… I'm realizing I'm not always best at saying what I mean or saying what I should. I'm realizing I'm good at connecting with people and making some really great shared memories with them but I'm not always able to categorize them. I'm learning that sometimes stuff just can’t be categorized. I'm learning that some things don’t change whether you’re 3,000 miles away or 3 miles away. I tend to get spooked by other people’s advice and sometimes ignore my own gut and my own heart. I'm always so quick to assume something is a mistake. Sometimes it is, though…

I am still obsessed with seeing palm trees every day. I love the weather. 70’s during the day is about 30+ degrees warmer than what it is back in Maine these days, and even when it drops into the 60’s on a chilly day I am still the first one out in short sleeves. I am appreciating any tiny little bit of sunshine, even if its a sliver from out behind clouds. When I wake every morning to snowy winter photos on my Instagram feed, I recognize how beautiful it looks but I am very much looking forward to not experiencing the freezing temperatures and depression that comes along with it for me every winter. Never did I ever think I’d live anywhere else - let alone somewhere where the weather is literally so nice it doesn’t matter. 

I am enjoying making friends with my sewing machine again on a daily basis. Yesterday I was able to sit down and work on a project out of frustration and get a little bit of angst out – the only healthy way that I know how (other than a bottle of wine). Because I work faster and longer and better when I'm trying to distract myself from the world around me (or sometimes just one thing in particular) – and it felt so good to reconnect with myself in that way. Some people go for a run or go to a therapist, but I like to feel the fabric between my fingers and meet a deadline. Sewing for someone else is an interesting experience, fairly void of any creative liberties, but it sure beats that awful 9-5 feeling where you’re working all week just to get to the weekend. I've had very little concept of what day it is here. Fridays are the same as Mondays are the same as Wednesdays. 

Attaching emotion and moments and meaning to my projects is something that has really become the most important part of quilt creating for me. I have fully stepped away from making things just because they are pretty (though there is nothing wrong with that!). I have immersed myself in creating out of a place inside of me that needs an outlet, that needs to push out something I’ve felt or seen – just in a different way than previously felt or seen. It feels a bit like storytelling, a way to write without words or needing to sit down with a pen or a computer. These projects have become my stories. Little autobiographies for you to read and interpret as you will. As I start to pull together these ideas and thoughts from my travels and all of these notes on what quilting means to me, I start to understand more and more that it is less about making and creating items for money right now. I'm struggling with that desire to make unique and interesting and different projects that keep people on their toes (and innovating and changing as I go along but keeping true to my “style”), while still remembering where my need to make comes from. 

 

December 2014:

I’ve made the decision to leave Los Angeles. I didn't get the traction I wanted right out of the gate and I fell behind. I haven't been myself. I've been sleeping a lot, sometimes during the day. I haven't been exploring the way I like to. I haven't done a single hike. None of it feels right, and none of it feels the way I had really hoped for.

I've been overwhelmed by the emotional baggage I brought with me. My heart hasn’t felt settled a day since I got here. I've been trying to be easy on myself but I really thought that it was going to be easier here. Even with the friends waiting for me, I found that I couldn't acclimate. They weren’t as accessible as I wanted and I didn't want to do this city alone. I tried really hard to keep my expectations in check, but it was all too much. A crazy huge new city, a new living and working situation, learning to be face to face with far away people I’d only seen once before… TOO MUCH.  Someone told me life isn’t as hard as I make it out to be, but in this whole thing, it has felt like it. 

Moving for me was never about opportunity or meeting a thousand people or fitting in. Moving for me was finding a place that I could call home to do all of the things I love to do. It was about being able to breathe without feeling crowded. This is not about me having come to LA to work or to sew or to stay with friends or meeting new people. This is not about all of the predictable things that have happened or all of the texts to friends back home. This is not about all of the everyday things I've already written about a thousand times before. The point of moving was not to change who I am. The point of moving was to stay myself in all of the good ways, and to challenge myself to improve in all of the other ways. I’ve become a concept – an adorable and spunky people-pleaser who is not looking to be saved by anyone’s romance. A tough woman with a big inner struggle.

I so often have too much inside of me for people who are looking for a place to travel quietly and lightly and untouched. For people who don’t want to leave a trace. I become less alluring once you know my secrets, once you know how high my anxiety can be, once you realize that I do not know how to do anything without meaning. Its a battle to not hide inside of this sometimes shy tiny lady body – the one with the turquoise hair and tattoos.

I’ve always reminded myself that its better to feel good about yourself than it is to let someone else make you feel good, because most often I have a heart that hangs on to all of the wrong parts of everyone I come in contact with (like some kind of surgeon meticulously picking apart commitment issues and insecurities). I have previously stayed with a boyfriend I didn't relate to for years longer than any rational person would have. On the contrary, I have fallen for a guy at absolute first glance first word first smile – unapologetically. And it is there that I am left saying goodbye to a city I didn't allow myself to feel I belonged in, because it is exactly the way he always described it to me. But maybe it isn’t about the city at all.

There's no courage in my laughter right now, there’s no backbone in the way I've been staying in bed so late in the morning out of reluctance to face the day. And this is not who I am. This was not the point of moving.

To the disappointment and hurt I have felt over obvious and misplaced expectations alike… to the new friends I met who jumped in and made the connection where others failed… to those who tried their best and those who seemingly didn’t try at all… to the way I had hoped for more from everything and myself… I’m up at midnight on a Sunday (but really, the days haven’t meant much to me in months now) writing writing writing this – thinking about how for so long, midnight in California was 3am in Maine. And how when I couldn't sleep there in the middle of the night, I always wondered what was happening here. And here I am, soon to be none the wiser.

 

January 2015

In leaving Los Angeles, I felt disappointed that there was such a small piece of me that had wanted to make it work. I had looked forward to being there for such a long time, to be with those people. But I was shown pretty early on that you can’t rely on anyone, they can’t be the reason you go anywhere. They want to help, or they say they do, but the only person you can rely on is yourself. I’m not sure why I couldn’t do that and get myself up and out of bed and out into the city like the millions of other people there, but I’ve let it go and its time to move on. As soon as I got outside of the city limits and into the mountains I felt better. Driving into the Joshua Tree desert on my way to Arizona, felt familiar and quiet and more like home than any day I spent in Los Angeles.

Joshua Tree holds so many strange emotions and memories for me already – the times I’ve been there have all been during incredibly different circumstances. But the thing I like the most about it, is that in all cases, it has been the most peaceful and easy place I have ever been. And it has always seemed at just the right moment, when I’m right on the edge of that breaking point where I’m like WHAT IN THE HELL AM I DOING. 

The partly cloudy but blue skies weather changed dramatically once I got across the Arizona border. Mother Nature put me through a desert mountain rainstorm unlike any I’d ever seen. Once I got up higher at about 6000ft it turned to snow, and I was like, “Okay Arizona, this Maine girl has got you.” I got strangely emotional and teary eyed for the last twenty miles or so, but once I came down out of the mountains and into the northern town I recognized and am about to call home, I felt so much better. Those tears had crept up on me, the song I was listening to was partly to blame, a certain memory hit me hard, and I realized so heavily just how much stuff I had left behind in that city of angels. A year’s worth of stuff.

So. Now I can get started.

 

After a thanksgiving spent with friends & strangers, and a Christmas spent with a family of six where everyone was so sick that all we did was pass around hand sanitizer after opening gifts.. the holidays meant something a little different to me this year – as New Year’s will, too. Away from my family and the routine of thirty-something years gone by, I found that tradition is important and keeps people together, but it also isn’t necessary. Yes, I missed my family and swapping gifts and hugging everyone. But I received a little glimpse into other people’s lives, people who were willing to share the day with me as if I was part of their family. You can’t wrap that up with a bow, its priceless to be taken in and loved by people who literally don’t have to do that. 

I’ve learned this past year that if I am not in the right place, if I am not with the right people – I shut down. I literally give up, wave my white flag, and just sit on the floor drinking a whole bottle of wine. I felt this at the beginning of the year, and the end of the year. Its a defense mechanism, not a defect. I burrow myself underground until its safe to come up for air again. Sick of a lack of signal. It feels like crawling out over a withered version of myself, a little bit taller and a little bit stronger each time. I always snap out of it, but its difficult sometimes. I can turn into an emotional train wreck on the inside in 60 seconds, even if you can’t see it on the outside at all.

Moving forward still feels a little bit like leaving things behind. I think I knew I’d get to this part sooner or later. The weird feeling of recognizing who you’re still taking with you, and who you aren’t sure you can carry anymore. I don’t like to close doors, so I always left them cracked open, just in case. But moving forward I know that some things will just have to be different. That's just the way it is. It has been nineteen weeks since I left my apartment in Maine. Its been three weeks since I left LA, and I am still waking up with twinges of weird guilt for not being there. I was so sure that was where I wanted to be, that those were the people I wanted to be with. This whole process of moving has really been so strange, in finding that fine line between making things your own and failing miserably to see the reality of the situation. I am still waking up every morning with a surreal feeling about not being in Maine anymore. Its cold here in the Arizona mountains, winter. Back in the land of winter, though shorter than I’m used to. And I'm already ready for spring. But I have a lot to get done before it gets warm out again. So many creative projects of my own in the works. I have already moved three or four times in as many months, but creative projects are still in the forefront of my brain. 

I have decided that my three daily weapons of choice are: pen, camera, scissors.

I've learned that sometimes you have to keep a few things to yourself. 

33° 43′ 23″ N, 113° 42′ 9″ W – the longitude and latitude for Hope, Arizona – a tiny desert mountain community that consists of just one RV park, one gas station, one church, and one antique store. Those numbers are likely going to stay with me forever, having driven through that town twice now – once on the way to CA and once on the way back. Two incredibly different mindsets, two different music playlists, two different points of view. 

Lots of people have told me how brave I am. A few people have told me some of these things just don’t matter. A couple people have asked, “well, what did you expect?!” and I guess I’m not sure. I looked back through old social media posts last night and realized that hidden behind all of my skepticism was optimism, and behind all of my optimism was total fear. But here’s the real deal: I’m not really trying harder than anyone else I know. I’ve always searched for some kind of perfection that does not exist and I can’t feel burned for not having found it – but the desert is as damn close to a perfect feeling as I’ll likely ever get (I can say that with certainty). It strangely filled the holes in my life that I didn’t even know where there from my first step in it. I’ve always been self-aware, for better or worse, and this caught me off guard. Maybe I was just ready to give up the empty spots. Maybe it is as easy as a change of scenery. 

But something about the desert goes beyond appearance for me. Lets be fair, not all desert areas are pretty, a lot of them are dusty, dirty and sparse. But, maybe, just maybe, its the simplicity that I needed. When I returned to Maine after my first trip to California, I described the desert as something like an old secret lover from a past life. I find that still feels true, like there are things I've seen and done that I just don’t know about – and now I get to experience them all over again for the first time. The thing about the desert is the silence – normally silence is my biggest enemy and gives me too much space to be disruptive and self-destructive. But the quiet in the desert is soothing and so many times has given me a perspective I wouldn't typically see. There have been times I've been so overwhelmed on my hikes or sight seeing that I've stopped dead, choked up and overpowered. I feel pity for those who don’t get emotional or who don’t feel sentimental. While they’re constantly looking for the next best thing or paying no attention to what anything means, they’re missing out on such a big part of what it means to be human.

I think sometimes people love you the only way they know how. And we all have the crummy job of determining whether or not their way is good enough to fit into our lives.

I've learned in these past few months, that I'm strangely the happiest when I'm on the road (which is good, because three trips Arizona to California and back in three months means something like 1800 miles driven). For someone who hasn’t had a car for more than five years, this is kind of a big deal. No more public transit for me. No more relying on a (ex)boyfriend to go on every trip with me. No more city walking. When I'm out on those big empty desert highways with mountains ahead of me and behind me – and sky for days – my music blasting, the windows down, and I'm alone – I feel like those are the moments I know myself the best and I don't have to apologize for anything. I pulled over on the side of the road and watched the sun set for fifteen minutes the other night because it was that gorgeous and I was in no hurry. I teared up at the sound of a song before that, and just let myself feel for a minute. These are the kinds of things I'm not fighting anymore. These are the kinds of things that have become just as important as communicating or breathing.

I feel like I'm rearranging myself daily, bouncing back and forth between wanting to be known and wanting to just navigate detached. I hiked at the Grand Canyon this past weekend and was glad to have gone alone because I'm refusing to attach new memories with anyone except for myself. I'm tired of only letting moments have meaning because of who I shared them with. Maybe this whole thing is just about appreciating myself and allowing myself to have value in my own eyes. How can I ever expect anyone else to respect me if I can't respect myself…

I've been sketching new quilt ideas and designs, and using colors that I'm not used to. I've always been so pop-punk inspired but lately the desert has been creeping in, and trust me – those two things clash in ways that makes it hard for me to pull together anything remotely cohesive.. But I'm getting there. I'll never stop using bits of black in my projects, but for a while into the future the contrast might be surprising. The good thing about art is that it is flexible and fluid and changeable. Which is something I need pretty desperately right now. Safe to say there’s a year’s worth of insight and motivation and emotion in anything that’s touched my fingers. Be it print, fabric, skin, or dirt. Stories in all of them.

I never see myself as an artist, but instead just as someone who needs to create. The word ARTIST to me seems so formal, but I suppose from the outside looking in I am an artist in every sense of the word. There are quilted pieces and photos tucked in white and gray corners – designs and colors of mine that would never exist there otherwise. And when I left, he said “…but, its okay.” And it was.. okay. I had a lot of work to do, but it was okay. And all of that emotional rearranging and all of that being okay and all of that work meant that I could be an artist and have a muse and create out of the uncomfortable spaces. Art is so open to interpretation – and we artists are so bound to our desire and our grief.

 

February 2015:

For everything I don't say, there are my quilting projects. I hide a lot of whats going on in fabric and triangles and associated song lyrics. I have found a lot of consolation in this, particularly when I find it hard to be outwardly honest. I don't always want everyone to know how I'm reacting (what I'm really thinking) – when everyone wants to give you advice, you leave yourself wide open for judgement. I don't want to let anyone down by saying “I know you wanted me to do this, but really I want to do this instead.” I'm human and a lot of times my emotions are weighty. I make mistakes. I'm stubborn and don’t always know when to stop. I find that filtering that into my work makes for easier and better days (though I’ve had my fair share of pull the covers up over my head and ignore the world days during this journey, too). I mean, I'm a normal woman that likes clothes and nailpolish, cats, breakfast food anytime of day, and wine. But I also really like over-thinking and sewing.

I wish that I had found this sort of solution within myself four or five years ago when I was struggling with working through the end of my six year relationship and transitioning into life as a single woman again. I fought sewing every chance I had back then – I didn’t feel motivated and didn’t see it as an opportunity. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that my emotional quilting began. Maybe I just had no other way of processing what I was feeling, it was like a switch that turned on – but whatever the reason, I’m thankful for it now. Its hard to see myself going forward without this type of inspiration. Not everyone who looks at my work will see what I felt when I made it, but my hope is that they will see their own moments and memories somehow.

I find that all of this stuff comes out in a weird contrast and combo of colors and patterns, I've given up on trying to “match” anything. Infact, nothing in my work is ever really purposely used. I grab the first color or design that jumps out at me. I've stopped putting too much thought into it and have really embraced letting the fabrics speak for me. I never saw my work heading in this direction – I always purchased fabrics that were popular and enjoyed using them in popular ways. When I explain to people that I “use half-square triangles to map out emotions using color and design” they look at me like I have three heads – because how on earth do you translate what you’re FEELING into a color or a shape? The thing I love about it is that it is so personal. Which is what I think art should be. It should come from something, Somewhere. I think I just got tired of making things that didn’t mean anything.

Its hard to pull yourself away from what you want so that you can give yourself what you need… and therein lies the WHY.

 

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