Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Goodbye to "Bear"

It's been a while....2 "craft nights" have gone by (reference to last posting...) I'm sewing a lot on my new machine...learning my way around it's computerized features. I'm doing some lovely quilting on the newer pattern shrouds. I also just received a shipment of beautiful colors of linen and I'm happy to be working with these richly saturated shades. It's satisfying to me to be bringing color into the work now.
I've got a friend who is a clothing designer. She just participated in a fashion show here and it's got me thinking in strange terms ...."The spring line of shrouds features daring new colors..." Well, why not?
I've been preparing for some professional photo shoots for the work. And also about to meet with interested veterinarians to talk about the pet shrouds. That's a conversation I am looking forward to~!
And in the midst of this, last week I heard from the friends for whom I'd made the first pet shroud. Their dog, Bear, had finally reached the place where he couldn't walk and was in more pain than medication could handle. The vet was on the way and they were waiting with Bear, saying goodbye. I made his shroud several weeks ago, so they were prepared. I'd made a special cushion inside on which I had quilted an image of a zuni 'spirit bear'. When he died, they laced him into it and carried him to the grave they'd dug and lined with flowers. I would like to have been there. It sounded so beautiful.
So now I want to thank Bear, and his people, for asking me to make his shroud. Not only for the trust they put in me to make something fitting for his departure, but because applying myself to a completely new design that wasn't for humans actually sparked and inspired my newest design that
is for people. How cool is that?
So Thanks... and Goodbye, Bear.
~Marian

Monday, April 7, 2008

Shroud Lady Goes To Craft Night



Wow, So many things are happening in the world of "the shroud lady"!

In my ever changing journey to dispel myself of the fiction that I don't know how to manage a business, I have availed myself of several wonderful (and a few lackluster) opportunities. All of them fruitful in some ways, hardly any of them in the ways I expected. That's fine though...it's all good grist for the mill and all that. But before I begin waxing philosophic this early in the post, let's get down to the story of the week.

I've been working on creating THE perfect shroud design for a while now. I have a few good ones, each with a different feature, but lately I've been wanting to create something that does it all....covers the body, comforts the ones who grieve, incorporates my signature lacing system, can be used instead of a casket and actually carried by pallbearers, AND is biodegradable as well as beautiful.
There are many small details in coming up with something that does all this. Choosing the right fabrics. A pleasing and functional shape. Size and placement of handles and reinforced support panels. Figuring out 'standard' sizes to offer. Choosing and refining the images and patterns for the quilted parts. I'm not going to talk a bunch about all that...just letting you in on a few of the processes I'm involved in.
But here comes the heart of the story.

I was close enough to "finished" with the pieces of this latest design, and needed a willing 'model', so I brought it with me to 'Craft Night'. I meet weekly with several folks interested in various crafts from modern times to the medieval period. At any given evening there might be someone knitting, sewing 'garb', doing mending, creating armor, tooling leather, illuminating a manuscript, making chain mail or decorating wedding invitations. I showed up that night with some knitting--- and with all the pieces of this current shroud design.
Now, I am a recent addition to this group, but many of them know me because my daughter is part of this bunch of medieval re-enactors. They also know I make burial shrouds and have seen the ones I have been working on for pets....but they've never really seen a 'people shroud'.
I unrolled it all and put the layers together and asked my daughter to lie down and test it out.
I didn't make an announcement, but it was a small room and it didn't take long for people to notice what was happening. There was a "Whoa!" and a "Hey...what's going on there?" and then a short silent pause. I explained what I was up to...and that I wanted to take this chance of having enough people in one place to try it on someone and carry them around in it. As I worked, someone said to my grown daughter "Hey Rainbow....is it a little strange to have your Mom there wrapping you up in a burial shroud!?"
My daughter, bless her little cotton socks, didn't miss a beat. She shrugged her swathed shoulders and said, "Who better?". Indeed. Exactly.
I continued on, describing my idea and showing how each part fit to the next. When she was all covered, I asked folks to line up on either side--even recruiting the host's teen daughter and a friend--to take hold of the handles. "Ok! On the count of three;
One.....Two.....Three....Up!
We easily lifted this precious bundle and carried her a little ways. It worked! Beautifully! Before we set her down, we all just spontaneously 'rocked' her back and forth a bit. Someone asked her how it felt. There was a pause...and she said "really good". There was some joking and some laughter, all pretty lighthearted. We began to set her down. "Hey! Gently!" she said from inside the linen. We gave her a soft landing and then I unwrapped and refolded the pieces.

There was a little bit of discussion. People were glad to have finally seen one- seen what I have been talking about all this time. They liked it. We talked a little bit more before folks returned to their own projects and conversations. It was all very 'casual' and this makes me happy. I know this small, casual introduction of something we never talk about or see (much less, 'try on'!) before the painful moment of actually needing it, will have a long ripple effect.

May I never actually have to do this for my daughter....because as we all know, children are 'supposed to' outlive their parents... (sadly it doesn't always work that way).
Still...there is something stirring and gently comforting about having done this with her, and it has left me
( when I actually let myself think about it) with another layer of tenderness toward my daughter and gratitude for each minute of the life we've had together.

It's been a part of my spiritual practice to look at those things I have the most attachment to and imagine myself without them. To go into meditation and consider each one and imagine it gone. There's the material things that make up my life here...house, car, dishes, clothes etc....."gone"....... there's the memories..."gone"..... the ideas of who I am,"gone"..... the dreams of what I want to become...."gone"..... the body I live in (oooh...that's a hard one)..."gone"..... and in between, there's the breath and simple attention.
On a long retreat, when I was feeling a deep peaceful acceptance with these practices I decided to test my equanimity. I decided to imagine my daughter "gone". Gone as in Dead.
There was a long spiraling "Noooooooo!" in the mind. A clenching. And a weird sort of 'bounce'. It's not that I broke the silence, or that I ran screaming from the meditation hall...I didn't blow up or fall apart or anything. It wasn't so dramatic. There was enough presence to remember that this was a practice. But the mind just wasn't about to stay there, with that thought for very long! That one definitely broke the "bubble" of concentration!!
Still, I'm glad I did it. Opened that door. It's a useful edge to investigate.

So last week, when I wrapped my daughter in that shroud, amidst all that casual talk and laughter, I guess that was me still working with that practice. And if I hadn't made the commitment to write this blog, I may not have linked those two things together...may have missed this opportunity to "notice attachment". Yep. There it is. I'm still attached. To my daughter and her being in the world a long time with me.
I'm not worried about it. Seeing it is all the work that's needed.
I love you , Rainbow.

Thanks everyone....
~Marian