I can’t believe how steadfast, true, and wonderful my friends are. I had a serious accident in early February, and even spent an overnight at the hospital. Once home again, I refused requests from friends to come visit, and basically just slept a lot, because I was trying to heal up as fast as possible. My friends kept thinking of me anyway, wishing me well in a variety of ways. I heard from them through the mail, emails, phone calls and from what Jim would tell me when he came home from whatever he was attending in town. My friends honestly helped hasten my healing process with the love they showed through their thoughtfulness and caring words.

Last week, Jeni Cottrell, Nancy Canyon and Linda Suther visited. They surprised me with a package.

Linda, Nancy and Jeni brought this package along.

On the outside, a pair of shiny green ribbons held a quilted book together. A tug on the ribbons, and the book opens.

“A flock of geese leave their lake and take wing, turning to poems in the sky.”

The first page was drawn by Laurie Potter. I love the geese! The quote is from SunWolf. Our pond is  just starting to have geese visit again. They are the poems that bring spring from wherever they come from.

This page is by the comic illustrator John McColloch. Of course. I used to watch Mr. Ed and Wilbur Post with my brothers back in the sixties. That was like yesterday, not. I always liked this smart horse. He was also a smarty pants.

Years before Hubble, I thrust myself far up into the night and saw that the constellations were wildly colored. This frightened me, so I swam a river at night waiting for the stars to resume their whiteness to adapt to my limits. —Jim Harrison

This quote from Amy Armitage (by Jim Harrison) shares the artist’s perspective on things. You have to wonder if the stars continue to be that wild, but let us see them in their whiteness so as not to scare us so much. Staring up into them at night is still startling. I’m glad they aren’t neon.

But Amy wrote an original poem just to make me laugh:

Her eyes are like moonbeams if moonbeams are green.
She’s shy but determined, on horses she’s keen.

She paints and she prints, designs posters and books.
She makes stuff from pond-scum, and even can cook.

Did I mention this woman can write a mean poem?
The bio o’ Anita; indeed it’s a tome!

—Amy Armitage

Ha ha ha, Amy, you did make me laugh. My face hurt, but I laughed anyway. You are a delight.

Linda Hughes, this is a command I’ll follow. Thanks! The drawings of the flowers offer more promises of spring coming soon. Thanks for them, too. They remind me of the cheerful blue-flowered teapot you made. 🙂 Tea from that pot is always extra special.

Ha ha. Denise Snyder is so funny. But sometimes I believe she means what she says. In the past, Deni has reminded me that we are good people. And that we, each of us, can sparkle, brightly, even, and we can be as creative as we can be, without worry, and be loved by many people. That’s a life worth living.

That’s the end of the book. But then, in the bag, is a handmade quilt, made like in the old days, with lots of people working together to make a quilt. I don’t know if they had an actual quilting bee, but they had that many people involved in the making of this thoughtful and detailed quilt. I have a tattered baby blanket that was made for me when I was a newborn. I love it, and this patchwork quilt is already a treasure.

This is the quilt!

The first thing that struck me when I saw this quilt was the number of friends that would have participated in making something like this. Then the idea that everyone wrote something directed at me, wishing me well, making me smile, giving support. Thank you, friends. Then the colors. They were thoughtfully chosen by people wishing me well. They are my colors. And then, the details kept showing up: perfect, thoughtful, caring, loving, poetic, artful, and sometimes very funny, too. You’ll see.

“Surround yourself with comfort and support of loved ones and you will always feel safe.”

The upper left square is by Shirley Erickson. Her words are refreshing and, yes, they actually did make me feel safe. She added extra stitches to this colorful square, little details that mean something special.

The lettering in this square, and several others, is by my good friend Nancy Canyon! Nicely done.

I love collaborations. Period. Poets with poets. Artists working together. Poets and artists. Musicians. Poets and musicians. Musicians and artists. This poem by Lana Ayers is after a painting by Nancy Canyon. Lana published my book What the Alder Told Me. I illustrated and published Lana’s book The Moon’s Answer. And quilters are collaborators, too! 

This poem by poet and artist Nancy Canyon, draws words together to create a safe and wonderful place to be. Evergreen smells so delicious.

Three poetic friends put their words on this square: Linda Suther, Sheila Sondik and Katie Humes. And a little bird, too.

Linda is part of my book group, The Fire Readers; Sheila is a poet and artist that is published by my Egress Studio Press; Katie Humes is a poet and writer; and all of these people are supportive members of our local arts community. Linda did the bulk of the final sewing of the quilt. She was amazingly careful with the details, and there were many. You’ll have to see it in person to get what I mean. Beautiful work.

About this point, you have to wonder how this project was put together. It’s kind of a miracle when a project is happening in a timely manner and there are a lot of “creatives” involved. The Idea Wizard, Jeni Cottrell, is the likely instigator, and the artists and poets around Bellingham and Whatcom County are known for their big hearts and their loving community. Deadline? Doesn’t matter. Our friends are accommodating, and willing to work together. Seems like it worked out just fine!

Renee Sherrer is the proud owner of Social Fabric on Commercial Avenue, downtown Bellingham. She is a fabric artist, and understands a sewing machine inside and out. At her store you can browse through amazing things to wear and see lots of great art, too.

Here is the “reveal” where the artist’s initials R.S. are hiding. R.S. = Renee Sherrer.

Right now, I feel more loved than I ever have, by friends and family. It feels very nice. Maybe even a little overwhelming. But certainly very nice.

If you look closely into this photo, you’ll see six French knots embroidered onto this square by Beverly Larson. French knots!

Beverly says smartly honest things, like “Life sometimes throws a big old bucket of whatever is has on you.” True. “To live is to Risk—pain or reward.” Sometimes it’s both. “Dare. Dare to live every day.” This is a worthwhile challenge. And Bev is reasonable, too: “Shake off what gets on you and wear the stains that you can’t get off.” I think I may have been a little “stained” by this accident. But I’ll be proudly wearing whatever I look like when I’m healed up. Even my lip thingy. But for now, I still want to stay away from most public things until I can get a few more teeth in my head. 🙂

Steve Satushek knows how to have fun as an artist. I’ve been invited to play in his studio, along with Harold, sometime soon, maybe this summer even.

This is a delightful artwork. The gestural lines are happy, maybe even singing.

Mary Oliver is a much loved poet across North America. This poem is well worth a good reading, as are many of her poems.

Jeni Cottrell and Lee Cole love poetry, and are both in my book group. Jeni’s in my art group, too. I keep looking at the details of this quilt—every square sends love and healing thoughts directly for my injury. I have been listening to the birds gather more and more every day as spring arrives. Their songs remind me of the friends whose words sing from this quilt. How can I not be grateful for each voice.

Marsha Culver is a fiber artist. She made her square from the color codes off the edges of several bolts of cloth. I like the colors very much. And the names, too. Poetry is everywhere. So is art.

Marsha is my beer-buddy at the monthly Tuesday Artists Group. Most of the ladies drink wine. She drinks wine, too. But she drinks beer with me. Such a good-friend thing to do. And she wished me the speediest of recoveries. I’m doing my best.

Distance

There is little that separates
the sky from the sea. Ahead of me
two figures walk the beach. Their bodies
graceful, true to their images. It is easy
to regard them. I gather a stone;
a blue heron glides to a large oak.
How predicable the world seems, your backs
turned toward me, trusting, like friends.
In the distance, people are shoveling
some type of clams, it hardly matters which,
the waves unfolding at my feet.

—Jeanne Yeasting

Mary Jo Maute, from my art group, is a prolific artist whose paintings are colorful abstractions that carry symbols and metaphors like poetry. This charming painting uses a different style from her usual, to send tender healing thoughts. She and her husband Ted visited here just last week. Even the sun came out.

Harold! Mr. Niven. You may know who he is as the guy who tie-dyes dollar bills in starkly vivid colors. I recently learned he discovered tie-dying in the bathroom of a moving train makes a great studio because the train’s back-and-forth movement sloshes the dye containers just right. Ogden Nash got celery right in this poem. Plus, being on a soft food diet certainly requires stewing before chewing.

This beautiful poem must be a clever collaboration between Caitlin and Jacob Jans. Maybe little June helped out, too.

All part of a pond
handmade and weather blessed
gentle green in the chorus of
friends around a table.

—Caitlyn and Jacob

Notes from Craig, Mike, Nancy and Jeff, Larry, Jim, Cricket, Prentiss, Wade, Ron, Mark and Barb.

This quilt square has messages from the Friday Night Bellingham Bar & Grill friends. It’s funny that it compares to the writings that can be found on a cast. They’re composed of well-wishes, toasts and even poetry. All thoughtfully full of the warmth of friends.

Ellen Bass is another nationally loved poet. She has a way of turning things around so we can see them differently. And she has a sense of humor that surprises.

Sue Erickson sent this poem square for the quilt. This is another way our arts community works together to get projects beautifully done, and efficiently, too. I love the poem, and may have to let myself be inspired by this Bass poem to write a poem about that horse I rode for the last year.

Robert Wrigley is a poet from Idaho who often writes about the rural life, describing the beauty, horror and pure wonder found in the natural world.

Nancy Pagh chose a poem that describes part of the deep relationship horses and humans can have. It’s generally built from mutual respect… but where the human might feel awe, a horse may experience fear. It depends. My old mares, Flicka and Moby, both enjoyed human companionship in a more gracious way than most of the horses I’ve met. I had them each for somewhere around twenty years, and they lived into their early thirties. I still miss them. Mr. Stetson? He was just catching on. The calm scent of the rain and the sun was on his breath, but the day of the accident, the silver thaw was in his eyes.

This square is from James Bertolino, my partner, friend, husband, and hero.

The afternoon of the accident, it was Jim who picked me up from the snow blushed red. A lucky thing for me, but still a tragedy for him. That’s the day he became my hero. We’ve had chickens now for a year, and Jim had come out of the house to gather the new eggs. The rooster has the most optimistic crow I’ve ever heard. Even at four in the morning, his voice rises like new hope.

Blocks of four squares divide the quilt. Each block uses cloth with flora coordinated with natural tones. They are sewn by several different people, and then Nancy Canyon sewed them into banner-like portions of the quilt. Those were then sewn together to finish the quilt by Linda Suther. Such a coordinated effort is difficult, but look how wonderfully it turned out.

As the complement of green, red plays a very important role in this quilt, accentuating my favorite color. As colors, green (for me) symbolizes the natural world, and red, of course, offers the meaning found in love.

This is the message of the quilt my friends have made. I love them, too.

Thank you, Jeni Cottrell, Linda Suther, Nancy Canyon, Shirley Erickson, Laurie Potter, John McColloch, James Bertolino, Linda Hughes, Amy Armitage, Lee Cole, Mary Jo Maute, Katie Humes, Renee Sherrer, Denise Snyder, Lana Ayers, Sheila Sondik, Beverly Larson, Steve Satushek, Marsha Culver, Jeanne Yeasting, Harold Niven, Caitlin and Jacob Jans, Sue Erickson, Nancy Pagh and the B.B. & G. Crowd (Craig, Jeff, Nancy, Mike, Wade, Ron, Mark, Barb, Cricket and Prentiss). And to all my other friends and family for being there, too. You know who you are. And so do I.

About the Accident—

On February 5th, the weather was snowy, everything covered in ice, the wind blowing enough to break branches and topple trees. The horse I’d been riding for a year or so, “Mr.” Stetson, was in my barn. By riding, I mean just that: I groomed and rode him, but didn’t feed him, trim hooves, or pay for vet visits during all that time. Perfect arrangement, in my opinion, because a horse needs to be groomed and ridden for his own health, and that helped with my own health. But this winter was a hard on him, and he had lost a lot of weight and had a bad case of rain rot, so I offered to house him in my barn, and give him some special care. He was here for a little more than three weeks, staying in an outdoor paddock during the day and a large, cozy stall in the barn at night. He’d already gained back a serious amount of weight, and had only the last bit of rain rot left. But the weather was still awfully cold. Snow and ice coated the electric fencing around the paddock, and pulled the strands to the ground, shorting it out. So after he was in the barn for more than twenty four hours, I decided I should at least take him for a walk. Well, to make a long story shorter, he was a little surprised at the difference that had happened outside while he was inside the darkness of the barn. It was a bright light gray outside, and that got his attention right away. The snow was deeper, the ice thicker, the wind was blowing, and a little ways in front of him at the pond, branches kept breaking, and crashing to the ground in a flurry. But he walked nicely beside me toward the pond anyway, lay down and rolled, even. At that, I let go of the lead rope because I know that horses tend to get frisky and prance around a bit, sometimes kick up their heels right when they get up from rolling. He did all of that—at a safe distance. I knew he wouldn’t go very far in the snow. I was right about that, too. So I picked up his lead rope, and began to walk him to the barn. I don’t remember what happened after that, except that as we headed back, he seemed happy enough. The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital the next day.

Evidently, he gave me a huge smack right on my kisser, and knocked me out. What a guy! Jim (my hero) found me about twenty minutes later when he came out to see if the chickens had laid any eggs yet. He noticed Mr. Stetson standing out by the pond with his lead rope hanging down, which isn’t a normal thing around here. When he came out to see where I was, he found me unconscious, lying in the snow. Yes, Jim describes a pool of blood, at that point, but I don’t remember any of this. He put the horse in the barn, somehow walked me to the house, cleaned me up, and took me directly to the emergency room. When I woke up the next day, I had a concussion, five or six missing teeth, and a face that was like a Kodachrome balloon. Later, I learned that I had a Le Fort fracture (which is mid-face), leaving me with broken cheeks and upper jaw. Didn’t hurt much because the nerves quit working for a while, and my face went numb. For the next few weeks, I slept A LOT, and continue to feel the need for naps. I’m still on a soft food diet (i.e. liquid diet), for which it’s normal to lose ten pounds in the first couple weeks, which I dutifully did.

Somehow, word got around. I began to receive cards and emails and phone calls from my friends. But because I didn’t want to alarm them, and was too tired to stay awake, I decided not to have company except my son Isaac, and cyberspacely, my daughter Angela—my grownup kids. Well, actually, a couple friends did stop by, but my head had a hard time tracking conversation and staying awake during that time. So I decided not to have any more company until I could stay awake for most of the day, my color was close to normal, and the swelling was reduced a reasonable amount. And that’s the story of my accident. There are more details, of course, but this is probably more than enough. Right?

Afterward

My face troubles were repaired in surgery, which left me with seven small titanium plates holding my cheeks and upper jaw together, and more than thirty screws holding them and my bones in place. The surgery was pretty intense, but I was asleep. I slept most of the time after, too, and nothing really hurt like you’d think it would. Of course, I slept through child-birthing twice, so maybe my pain threshold is higher than normal. (I woke up for the actual births, though. Hello, Angela. Hello, Isaac. My two miracles.) Now, I’m feeling pretty good. In late April, the University of Washington Advanced General Dentistry will give me a call and schedule appointments to fix my teeth up. Then you can expect to see my face around town a little more. 🙂