Thursday, February 16, 2012

Personal Touch

I had forgotten how much fun (and frustration) cross-stitch can be. Since I decided to make Xmas stockings for my grandchildren for Xmas this year I've rediscovered both, and the joy I get sitting down and focusing on something that blooms with color and shape and beauty with simple stitches.

I find myself looking at cross-stitch kits and ooh-ing and aah-ing over the different styles and pictures, wanting to buy them all and lots of frames to hang them in. I see them in different rooms and groupings and want to do them all, but I have a job and while it pays for the necessities and a few luxuries (one at a time), it's not enough to buy them all so I can make them all, not and still have a job.

That excitement and rush to get back to stitching is what I miss about writing. I schedule time for stitching and for writing but for a long time the writing hasn't been enough to keep me excited and looking forward to the next day. At least it hasn't been until recently. I feel that same sense of excitement and I'm anxious to get to the next sentence, paragraph, page, chapter. It's a good feeling and one I miss and didn't realize was gone.

I started cross-stitching seriously about the same time I start writing professionally. In the meantime I have finished may cross-stitch projects that became gifts, some of which are still hanging on walls and decorating Xmas trees and mantles with toys and fruit and nuts sticking out of the tops of the stockings. I wrote hundreds of short stories and a book I couldn't finish because it didn't really have a middle, few of which were published. I gave up writing books and short stories for a while and concentrated on articles, which I continue to write. The cross-stitch was easier and the results less prey to chance.

When I began a cross-stitch project, I knew I'd finish it fairly quickly and that whoever received it would enjoy having it. Not so with writing. I got lots of (long) encouraging rejection letters, but few sales, and one sale died on the vine when the magazine stopped publishing. I'd have to go back through old archived files to find the story, but it might find a home today. There's not telling with writing.

When I started moving around the country, taking my job with me, I gave up cross-stitch and put my organized plastic boxes full of threads, needles, and blending filaments in storage next to the old stories and files full of rejection letters. When I picked the writing up again I didn't pick up the cross-stitch until now, although, five years ago, my mother gave me back the 18" x 36" framed and matted King Tut and Nefertiti I cross-stitched for her about 20 years ago. She wanted to make sure I got it back when she was gone. My dad died a week later, but King Tut and Nefertiti hang on the living room wall, still framed, still matted, and still as beautiful as the day I finished them. They will last long after I'm gone and I'm not sure where they will end up. I'm not ready to go yet, so I haven't decided that yet either.

My stories are different. They will last (I hope) long after I'm gone and they will belong to the people who bought them and kept them to read again and again. At least I chose two creative endeavors that have legs on them and will keep going and making people smile or laugh or simply marvel at the good and bad in both areas.

Life is about change from our first breath and although my dreams of writing and art, in this case the cross-stitch, remain, the way in which I approach and execute them are very different than when I began. My work in both now is nuanced and mature and will continue to gain more subtlety and maturity as I keep working on both, as long as I keep working.

My birthday is tomorrow and, if I have one wish, it is to be able to continue writing and stitching until my last breath. I want to die in harness, so to speak, and will gladly expire quietly knowing that my work has no expiration date. That is a gift I can enjoy every day of the year because it bears the personal touch.

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