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On living on the right side of the tapestry.

Death. Love. Emergencies. Sheep. Cleaning. Gardening. Paperwork. Phone calls. Making things. These are all steady players in a season, gardens sometimes excepted. And all of them are lived through a metaphor — held up in my mind to an old, half-completed piece of embroidered tapestry tucked in a basket on a high shelf.

It doesn’t matter what it shows, though I believe there is a pond, a distant house and some small horses. The silk colors were lovely. I may never finish it. But its value lies in its planarity, in the fact that you can hold it in your hands, and then turn it over. On one side, the image of the half-landscape is clear, fine, detailed. The image on the other side, with the same fabric, the same silks, is indistinct, criss-crossed with vagrant threads, tying off, some tangles. Can you see your life as this small piece of worked French fabric? I do, as often as I can. A hundred times a day is not too many.

With everything I approach, if I’m mindful, I can ask myself which side of that tapestry I’m looking at, living on, and I can correct my course. I especially need to ask if I recognize warning signals of frustration, resentment, exasperation, boredom. Because my life is what it is, its facts and its contents. But in the face of any of these I can make adjustments, ideally bringing into play imagination, moving my body, flexibility of spirit, order, beauty. Humor. Nothing that particularly costs anything.

I pay bills, I clean out the chicken coop, I talk with my husband, I monitor kids’ chores, I weed, I am told of a death. This is the fabric. On the wrong side are added on a criss-cross of shoulds, assumptions, resentments, tedium, regrets. On the right side are invented work games, tall drinks, hats with fresh flowers, a generous gesture, the perfect created work soundtrack, irreverent rhymes, a reward phone call to a friend I’ve been missing. A walk out to the loft to step back, take a breath, release a flight of doves for myself or someone else. You gain your own toolbox of possibilities to add to the clarity of your own embroidered picture. Each of these shifts moves drudgery or burden into something remembered for its fun, its beauty, its inventive solution.

The true gem of the metaphor is in this: the more skilled I have become with a needle, the more the reverse side of my tapestries come to resemble the front side, so that when you don’t remember to flip it over you’re still in a pretty attractive landscape, if slightly more impressionistic.

The right side of your tapestry is a lovely one, graceful and normal, creative and short on drama. It’s just waiting for you. Everyone around you benefits. It’s not about you starting to do this once you have more money, more time.

It’s just yours to choose, one hundred times a day. Put a flower in your buttonhole and take it on.

What will you do? Send pictures or word pictures…

Paying bills, take two...

Paying bills barefoot with a big hat.


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