Gratitude Sunday: Two Old Sisters On A Quilt Barn Trail

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “America is not like a blanket – one piece of unbroken cloth. America is more like a quilt – many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven together by a common thread.” Jesse Jackson

Sunday Haiku
Short night, longest day
spring passes into summer,
corn knee-high in fields.

Sunday Musings

This week marks 5 years since my mom died. To honor her memory, Sister and I decided to do a Quilt Barn Trail tour. In Washington County, Oregon, there are more than 60 sites that have a large wooden panel painted to look like a quilt block attached to barns. We choose an assortment of addresses within a few miles of my house. We set out armed with her GPS that she had pre-programmed with some of the addresses, some print-outs about the quilt blocks and the farms, her phone and my Nikon CoolPix camera, and bottles of water.

Mom was a master quilter. She quilted all her life, learning the skill from her mother. They used every scrap of cloth, and every little end bit of thread, wasting nothing back in the days following the Depression. When my grandma was in her 90s she still made baby quilts by hand; her assisted living place did not allow her to have a sewing machine, so she used the method she’d grown up with, a simple needle and thread. Grandma’s baby quilts are a precious jumble of odds and ends, cloth cut into unusual shapes laid on top of other unusual shapes, crazy quilts embellished with short pieces of lace, rick rack, and ribbon, then knotted together because she wasn’t allowed to have her quilting racks either.

Mom was a talented artist. She had an eye for color and design, and taught herself appliqué. She quilted everything by hand; more than once in my life her quilt racks were set up in our tiny living room and we had to wiggle around them. We didn’t complain because we got beautiful quilts out of the wiggles. She always had a hand made gift ready for every wedding, some special birthdays or graduations, and new babies.

I can’t sew a straight line to save my life even with a guide. Stashed away in my cedar chest (a graduation gift) is the one quilt I made when I was in grade school, a smallish baby quilt with 4 center pieces of hand embroidered bunny rabbits surrounded by “grandmother’s fan” blocks. I remember how hard it was for me, and how patient Mom was with me. I didn’t do the border binding; I’ve never figured that part out. Mom quilted it for me, I only made the top. I love the memory of this. I think the sewing gene skipped me. She always told me not to fret about that, as I have other skills.

Now, my niece, one of her granddaughters, sews up a storm. Like my mom, if it’s made from cloth this niece can make it. She makes her kids’ clothing, baby doll accessories, and quilts for the family. She quilts on a machine, however, as Mom refused to teach her to hand quilt. I know why, because even with a thimble Mom’s fingers were constantly sore from poking them with the quilting needles. Mom never stopped quilting because of her sore fingers, and my niece makes beautiful quilts using a machine quilter.

Neither of these women have earned anywhere near the money they should earn from the quilts they make. If you’ve never quilted or been around a quilter you have no idea how much time and skill goes into making them. One quilt Mom made had a nautical theme. She appliquéd anchors and whales and seashells onto quilt blocks, then put them altogether, hand quilting anchors and whales and seashells into the borders and over the blocks. It was award winning work.

Every grand-kid got a quilt for graduating from high school. Every newly married child and grandchild got another. Every new baby got one as a receiving quilt for the mom to wrap baby in and one as a huggy quilt for baby to love. She left a box full of baby quilts in my sister’s charge so each new great-grandchild has one waiting for them.

Sister had seen a magazine review about the Quilt Barn Trail, and assigned me the task of getting addresses; I did my research, provided Sister with a list of addresses and the link I used; she decided the route and did the print-outs. There are more than 60 sites listed, so she chose 10 sites within my local area. We had no idea how long it would take. Out of 10 addresses we located 9 quilt blocks. We started going west, took a nice loop around the county, and surprised ourselves when we came out where we started not far from town and home.

A lovely early summer morning accompanied us. Not too cool nor too warm, light to little breeze, and no rain. We headed out about 10:30 in the morning; the tour we chose took us about three hours. We were leisurely in our driving, took our time, and were persistent (stubborn) enough to drive back and forth several times until we found the quilt block. Some are not easily seen from the road, some are not accessible close-up, and some are suddenly right there upon you with no place to pull over.

We wanted picture documentation so we took our time locating safe parking places on rural roads. If you’ve never been on rural roads it’s hard to tell how busy they will be, and the homies who live on those roads treat them like their personal roads and drive like crazy because they know the roads. One can encounter farm vehicles rather suddenly, and farm dogs are often let to run the acreage and can run out in front of you. Utmost caution must be used on rural roads, but also sometimes you can drive r-e-a-l slow as if you were driving 100 years ago with a horse and wagon or one of those new-fangled gasoline horses.

In a couple cases we boldly drove onto private property to get a closer view and picture. Both owners were kind when we explained we were doing a Quilt Barn Trail tour in honor of 5 years since the passing of our mother who was a master quilter. They kindly chatted with us about the Trail program, how the choices were made for the quilt block, and how they were made and mounted.

One of the owners gave us a special treat as we interrupted his day with our mission. The website for the Quilt Barn Trail had some blurbs about the barns, their farms, and the quilt blocks we’d printed as a guide to locating the farms in addition to the addresses. In the information on this particular farm we read his family still owned the wagon used when they came across the Oregon Trail and since we had already invaded his property in pursuit of the quilt block picture, we bravely asked about the wagon as well. When he offered to show it to us we were thrilled. He had a couple other wagons stored in the barn with the original family wagon that were acquired at a later date: a hay hauler with a flat bed, and a water hauler with a huge round barrel attached to it to carry water to fires or for irrigation. Seeing those wagons reminded me of Mom crying every summer as we drove through Baker City; she cried for the plight of pioneer women on the Oregon Trail. He let us take pictures! Also turns out the farm owner grows local grains used by a local bakery that uses old pioneer methods of slow rising. Local, local, local, it is delicious bread.

I’m not going to politicize this post by a lengthy discussion of the question of what kind of reception we’d have gotten if we’d been any other people besides the old, plump, white-haired, granny-looking Caucasian ladies we are with our story of grief, honor, and memory of our mother, and how privileged we were with the graciousness of the property owners (also Caucasian). Significantly, it was something I thought about when we were talking with the owners. I felt blessed and grateful, as they had no obligation whatsoever to say anything other than “please leave.”

I have not explored much of the rural area close to me and I enjoyed being in sister’s safe car with a confident and safe driver, and it took me only a few minutes to get the hang of reading her GPS device. We enjoyed the views we came across. We found many nurseries full of colorful trees, irrigators spraying arcs of water over them creating miniature rainbows. We found wild spaces when the only man-made thing you could see for a couple miles was the road underneath us and the string of power poles and lines. We found a wide variety of architecture: there were McMansions, large old farmhouses, and little corners of poverty with broken down trailers. We found an abandoned McMansion and wondered about its history. My little brain went to what could be done with it now, I don’t like seeing properties allowed to rot when so many people need homes.

When Sister and I are together we are able to be honest and forthright with each other. We both know we can “mis-speak”, I mean, say something in the moment that sounds right, but upon reflection might not have been what you thought you said. I am a specialist at opening my mouth and inserting two or three feet. We’ve learned how to talk honestly about this; you get that kind of honesty from very few people in your life. We don’t often get uninterrupted conversations, even on the phone. These mini-road trips work for us conversation-wise, but I think we have so much to say we don’t always finish our thoughts. The tangents and dead ends and diversions seem unavoidable leaving more to catch up on next time.

We started talking about church, and how our attendance as adults was different from our childhood. She gave her kids some church exposure, I did not though the son and I talked freely about the Bible. She attended for a while after Mom passed, and quit after realizing it made her feel guilty and she felt differently about god being a source of guilt. I attended for a while after Mom died, seeking some sort of relief, but all I did was cry, and decided a tear fest every Sunday morning really was not a good way to start the week for me. As we were driving through the fields, and trees, and orderly nurseries, and tidy farms, the sun high above us, fat white cumulus clouds floating like parade balloons in a blue sky, enjoying the company of each other, we agreed we felt closer to god when we were out in nature and could see what he (for lack of knowing the appropriate pronoun) made and the vibrancy of the universe. While we were admiring the work of man, the neat little farms, the unwavering rows of potted nursery trees, the straight lines of knee-high corn, we marveled at the glory of trees, the gift of living water in the creeks, the spires of teasel growing alongside the road, the freely blooming vetch, fields with horses and cows grazing. Mom loved being outside and spent many hours in her yard, gardening, and tending pockets of vegetables and berries all over her yard, not just in the designated garden space.

We came upon at least three cemeteries on our tour. We stopped at one to admire gravestones and see how old they were. Maybe we should add cemeteries to our road trip itinerary. Cemeteries take longer, because it’s too fascinating to read the headstones and the dates, and imagine who is connected to whom family wise, and why they lived the short or long lives they did. Sounds like another whole concept than our quilt trips.

We had located 9 of the 10 quilt blocks by 1:30 and ready for a relief station and lunch. Three hours seemed just about the right amount of time for me, and we’d been talking about Chinese food on the tour. I don’t get to go out to eat often. We have a new teriyaki place in town I’d been wanting to try, and it proved to be as good as the recommendations I’d heard. Fun to share a meal after a successful road trip. We did a check-in self evaluation and decided with the help of her GPS, her driving, our research, and my navigation, we did an efficient and relaxing Quilt Barn Trail tour. With more than 50 addresses left we have at least three more tours to plan.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – A stream of pink sweet William. A clump of orange day lilies. White hollyhock with delicate pink center. I don’t know the name of this purple pretty growing in a crack in the cement. Shades of pinks and lavenders of wild vetch.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Año Mariano (2000, not rated), a comedy in Spanish with English subtitles. A drunk man crashes into a tree in the middle of a cannabis field that is being burned by the federales then thinks he sees a vision of the Virgin Mary. What a hoot, and I know just enough Spanish to sort of follow along, but grateful for subtitles. * I accidentally (read: I got way too excited to find it available) ordered all 5 seasons of Dr Kildare (1961-1966, not rated TV series) so I’m on a serious binge as my local lending library borrowed it from outside their immediate system for me to view and thus a limited borrowing period. I probably watched every episode of this TV show when I was a kid, I probably begged (Mom, as Dad didn’t care for doctor shows) to be allowed to stay up for it as it has pretty mature themes for a pre-teen (I was 8 in 1961). A young intern works toward his residency with an older mentor doctor, played by Raymond Massey. I remember loving it, how I thought Richard Chamberlain was so handsome, and the stories so consuming. Chamberlain put out an album during that time as a promo which included him singing the theme song from the series; I own the album in my archives. It was one of the first albums I bought, with milk bottle tops, a program a local record store had with a local dairy, you know, back in the day. My original enjoyment is why it’s so amusing to re-watch it all these years later. Here’s why. All the guest stars who went on to make big names for themselves. The cars: the great fat ones owned by the older doctors, the fancy sporty ones driven by the guest stars, the traffic scenes with other random older cars. The sets and props: some really modern architecture and furniture, some classics in other episodes, the hospital equipment, the propmaster must have had fun. The clothes: fashion is so fickle and this is early 1960s so a few mini-skirts and lots of modest women’s outfits, a few hats and gloves scenes, and of course almost all the women wear heels except the nurses; the men’s thin ties and baggy pants, the nurses’ and doctors’ uniforms. The casting: rigid gender divide, few women doctors, no male nurses; nurses, doctors, and orderlies had a smattering of people of color, not perfect, but they were represented. The drama: first episode about a female alcoholic, second episode about illegal immigration, one about acute stem cell leukemia, and so on, accentuated by the lighting, it’s often dramatically lit and staged like live theater scenes. Every needle is 4 inches long, and a long stream of whatever medicine is shot out of the needle before it’s used, that’s in every injection scene, but blood is minimized. It’s in the original black and white, but alas, no subtitles. And the smoking: everybody smokes everywhere, especially the doctors, in the hallways of Blair General Hospital, in the lounge, in the elevators, in their cars, at the dinner table, outside walking, the only exception was in the operating room. Chamberlain is indeed handsome, but from this viewing his actual acting is vapid, vacuous, and just somehow non-connecting. His only emotion seems to be anger, and his bedside manner is often cruel and judgmental, which may have been meant to represent his youth, but I find it off-putting. As youths we often see what we see and I’m certain I was looking at the physical beauty of Chamberlain, his even features, full lips, wide eyes, straight nose, high cheekbones, and soothing voice, and paying little attention to the development of his character or the quality of his acting. Aging gives us some lessons in critiquing. Likewise Massey’s portrayal of the mentor is pedantic and his speeches overly lengthy. I have a feeling I’ll be bored with the plots and the series before I’m done, but I’m usually a finisher, and who knows what guest star will be in next week’s show?

Currently Reading – The April 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine. The one about race with the black and white twins on the cover. I’m reading it from cover to cover. Lots of articles, many points of view including an editorial about biased reporting by National Geographic in the past, the unsaid being as important as the racially biased articles; current political implications; theories about the origins of races and their migrations; the science behind the construct of race as difference; the science behind DNA; the current American climate of profiling, some confirming information of things I had read elsewhere, or suspected. Recommended. * The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (2012, fiction) by Rachel Joyce. Just started this British fiction in which a retired man receives a letter from a person in his past. So far reading as a good summer reader.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Getting another task that was long overdue off my dining table.
  • How I admire people who think more logically and speak more eloquently than me, especially when I’m still able to understand what they say and how they say it and their points of view.
  • Patience with people who think less logically or speak less eloquently than me.
  • Being open minded to learn from others.
  • The hubster catching sight of the mold in the top of the jar of something I had just spooned all over something else. I regretted having to throw it all away as the bottom layer was fine but it couldn’t be scraped off or shaken off. I react poorly intestinally to mold, yeast, fungus, and mushrooms so it was a good save on his part.
  • I had other food in my cupboard to choose.
  • Listening.
  • Being sure of my own convictions and willing to do my own research.
  • Remembering sometimes the best thing said is nothing, hard lesson for me.
  • How delightful the light in each one of us is in our uniqueness.
  • A fun dinner with the hubster’s newly-connected-with bio-family. I’d forgotten how big family gatherings sound. All that energy even when we are talking quietly.
  • My local circle of folks who pray or send healing energy when I ask. If any readers out there feel like adding your prayers and healing energy to my post this week we are thinking about my brother-in-law Randy (I don’t usually post names for privacy, but I have permission and having a name helps some people to focus their energy), who was in a car crash June 13 and is still in ICU.
  • A chance to spend some uninterrupted time with my sister.
  • Experimenting with some alternative methods of pain relief. No results yet; it may be a matter of time, like the pain, I mean I didn’t just start hurting yesterday.
  • The last box of Oregon Hood strawberries. Season is too warm for them now, but we have some local growers who tend to ever-bearing strawberries so we get to have local berries until the first frost.
  • Sister bringing me a box of hand picked red raspberries and a box of black caps, from the canes left in Mom’s garden. They taste like sweet sunshine. Munchies in memory of Mom.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.


Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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1 Response to Gratitude Sunday: Two Old Sisters On A Quilt Barn Trail

  1. Pingback: Gratitude Sunday: What Do You Do For Fun? | Sassy Kas

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