Monday, July 05, 2010

Losing Your Way

Mariner Compass Quilt, 22" x 22"
Sheila Mahanke Barnes 1998

It's time again for sweet contemplation of my life with Allen, who died 10 years ago today. He was an avid supporter of my quilting habit, and particularly liked the Mariner Compass block I learned to make at an extended workshop in Paducah. That was an expensive but thoroughly worthwhile experience with Judy Mathieson, and to show my appreciation, I made Allen this wall quilt. You might think purple an odd choice for a man, but I'd used this fabric in another quilt and he had said how much he liked it. There are lots of options for how to fill the circle in the center of the compass, the small compass here being the result of Allen challenging me to put a mini-compass there. Dang him - he was always doing that, pushing me beyond what I thought I could or should do, getting my dander up, making me think, I'll show him! In this case, I wasn't able to do a finely detailed one, but even so it was a bit of a challenge.

The blocks surrounding it are a pattern called "broken dishes," which was a private joke between us. When we were dating, he impressed me with his suave move of opening a champagne bottle with no spillage, then holding two glasses in one hand while pouring from the bottle with the other. Oh, James Bond could not have done it better! Imagine my surprise when I was taken home to meet his family, he tipped over a water glass, and everyone chimed in, "Allen's home!" Unbeknownst to me, he was famous for breaking (and spilling) things, and once the secret was out, the breakage in my presence commenced! His most impressive display happened in our tiny first apartment where a three-point bank shot of a popped champagne cork shattered a wine glass in an open display case. Nice shooting, Allen!

At the time I made this for him, he was going through a bit of a rough time. He suffered chronic pain from a neck injury, and it was compounded by what was happening at work. Where once he had autonomy in how he ran his department and dealt with his employees, now he was being pressured to take actions against his nature and better judgment. The rather lengthy title of the quilt expressed what I hoped he would remember when he gazed upon it in his office: "Compass Amongst the Broken Dishes or When things get rough, don't lose your way." He eventually quit that job, after being asked yet again to do something he was morally opposed to, and I'd like to think the message of the quilt helped him in that decision.

I used to have this hanging in my bedroom, in need of my own reminder not to lose my way now that I was on my own. But when I moved to Idaho, it didn't work in the new bedroom and was relegated to a trunk of other quilts with no display place. I came across it earlier this year when I was changing out the holiday ones, about the time I realized I was going through another rough patch of my own. I was reminded of the admonition "don't lose your way" and knew I was in danger of it. I quickly hung it over the trunk, there in the living room where it has been a constant reminder to keep going. A gentle reminder that Allen, if he were here, would be doing his challenging and pushing bit to get me back on track.

Yeah, now that I think of it, I don't think he'd be too happy with the way I've let my quilting slide lately. I'm sure he would have long ago made one of his irritating little comments about the little Rogue piece (yeah, you'll NEVER figure out how to get that organza attached) that would have sent me flying in there to prove him wrong. Maybe I'll have to rise to the challenge today and make him proud.


Felicity said...

A lovely touching post Sheila. I'm sure he'd be more proud than you think of all the lovely work you've done.

Connie Rose said...

Sorry for your loss, Sheila. Thanks for sharing this touching story of how that wonderful quilt got made. Hope you find your own way again soon! Hugs!

BC said...

Yesterday it suddenly struck me what today is. It still stinks! I'm glad you're past spending the day with your head under the covers.

James Bond! He did have the tux!

The Idaho Beauty said...

Thanks, guys. BC, you give me too much credit, the head under the covers was very tempting today. Hard to get myself going, but loading up the cd player with some of Allen's favorites helped. That is, until I hit the ELP one. Dang, some of them just cut to the heart. Next disc more upbeat so was back on track.

The James Bond episode took place in Goodsell after his recital. I believe the champagne was courtesy of Marylou! And you're right, good memories or not, it stinks...

Anonymous said...

Hug x