My lovely mum died just before Christmas, and in the days and weeks after her death, once the organising and paperwork slowed and then stopped, I had a need to fill my evenings with something (anything) to fill the space of her loss. I wasn’t ready to get back to work, but felt the pull of the creative in me. As though by creating something new, something that would carry me and her memory along, and keep my fingers busy – my grief and my sorrow would sit easier in me. I began with a quilt, inspired by nature fabric scraps, and with an intention of whom I would gift it to when I was done. A strong woman, expecting a new baby, who supported me in birthing my second daughter, and who, as I pieced and stitched cloth that would keep her new babe warm, supported me in my grief too.
But then the quilt was finished, and I had no idea what task I could complete that would grant me the same comfort. I wasn’t ready for the space of non-activity that would make room for all the sadness I felt would overwhelm me. Then I read a blog post by Eloise Sentito, and saw a post on Facebook that called for Textile Artists to create a patch for a quilt without edges.
Blanket without Borders is an ongoing project that opens a creative dialogue for the civil unrest that has been simmering around Brexit, the Refugee Crisis, Prime Minister May, and now Trump and his walls. By asking us to reflect on our sense of belonging, our experience of both settlement and migration, the brief was to simply create a patch that expresses a sense of place.
As I mulled over the idea of belonging, family roots, and connection to place, I found myself rejecting the architectural imagery of the places I had lived. Putting pencil to paper for the first time in almost a year, I found myself drawing the symbols of my current emotional state. The cloud of sadness, the feather of loved ones lost. The sun, in its everlasting glow. The moon, with the star of an apple core – symbols of the divine feminine, the pull of our cycles, the life and the death of us. A dandelion clock, and a wish for more time. A sprig of heather, a small call to be amongst the hills and the wildness again. And the small, quiet thrum of the spiral; blood beat of life moving forward, always on, carrying us along. A gentle song, in the voice of all the women who came before me – life goes on. Life goes on. Remember us, in your bones and in your blood, and hear our voices sing – Life Goes On.
I finished the project in a Mill cottage, in my beloved Scotland, with the rush of the burn beneath my window and the wild sky above. And as I stitched the marks that made the drawing live and breathe in colour and realness, I felt the connection, and the pulse that beats in us all. Whatever song brought our breath to the world, we each of us feel sorrow and love, and hope and longing as keenly as every other. Perhaps the only sense of place that truly matters is the one that sits with respect and kindness for each other. The place that we can stand in, wherever we happen to be geographically. The place where we are equal and remarkable under the sun.