One Stitch at a Time

Joe Cunningham, Quilter

As far away as the days of dial-up connection and overly-enthusiastic “You’ve Got Mail!” messages can seem, I remember them well.

Partly because of my age and partly due to circumstance, I’ve never used a computer at work or in school. By the time I graduated from high school, the IBM System/360 was around, but it wasn’t meant for home use. Thirteen years later, I entered graduate school just as the Apple II entered the world: still, notebooks, pens, and typewriters remained my tools of choice. Ham radio and aerograms connected me to the States during my years in Liberia, and as for varnishing — no one needs Excel spreadsheets or Word documents on the docks.

Certainly, I was aware of computers. After lollygagging around for a few years, I finally purchased one in April, 1999. Days later, I watched as Oklahoma City television broadcast live over the internet while the terrible May 3 tornado outbreak devastated the state. Horrified by the events, I was equally astonished by the technology that made watching them possible. For good or for ill, I’d become hooked on the internet.

I began emailing more often, then found a weather site to help with hurricane tracking. I discovered and laughed at Hampton Hampster, one of the earliest internet memes, and kept laughing after uploading Hampton’s crazy WAV file as my computer’s start up sound.

Eventually, a search for replacement pieces for my mother’s wedding china led me to eBay. For six years, the site provided education, income, community, and fun as I bought and sold antique and vintage china, building my own collection on the side.

From time to time, I ventured into other areas, usually after finding odd or undervalued items that could be turned to make a profit. One year, I came across a set of mis-matched iron clamps: some with beautiful finials. I listed them on eBay as “fancy C-clamps,” and was surprised to see a small bidding war break out.

After the auction ended, the winning bidder explained that they were quilting clamps, meant to be used with old-fashioned, adjustable wooden frames.

When I asked if he had purchased them for a quilter in his family, he said, “Yes, as a matter of fact. I bought them for myself. I’m the one who quilts.” Surprising as it was to meet a man with such interests, the purpose and place of his quilting was even more unexpected.

For years he had worked in Manhattan, in a building very near Ground Zero. After experiencing the events of 9/11 and losing some of his friends and business associates as the buildings collapsed, he found it difficult to return to work. Eventually, he devised his own way of coping with the stress, the anxieties, and the grief. As he explained:

“I’ve put a small frame up in my office, and size it according to my needs. I quilt mostly small pieces, but the size doesn’t matter. It’s the act of quilting that calms me. Now and then, when I can’t stand to think of  what’s happened any longer, I begin to stitch.
Quilting helps me remember how we’re going to put our lives back together. One stitch at a time.”

“One stitch at a time” may be quilter’s wisdom, but variations on the theme abound.

When Jon Carpenter asked Neil Gaiman, “How do I finish a story that I believe is going to be great?” Gaiman said, “This is how you do it. You sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” One word at a time.

It works for the spoken word, too. My great-aunt Fannie, whose claims to fame included being in the Louisiana State Capitol the day Huey Long was assassinated, never wearied of telling tales about the man. She wasn’t particularly fond of him, or his politics, but she found his rise to power fascinating, not to mention his ability to hold a crowd.

Huey Long on the stump

On the Senate Floor, Long’s forte was the filibuster. Frustrating opponents and entertaining the gallery with his willingness to fill time with Shakespeare, shrimp and oyster recipes, and Constitutional analysis, he reached his zenith on June 12, 1935, when he spoke for 15 hours and 30 minutes while senators dozed at their desks.

Eventually, gallery visitors began sending notes to the floor to help him along with his extemporizing. The fresh material kept him going until 4 a.m., when he yielded the floor at last.

Fanny was a good story-teller, and she brought the man she called “that old devil” to life as she recounted his famous moment. Still, I couldn’t imagine doing anything for fifteen hours, let alone talking. “How could he do that?”, I asked. “How could he stand up there and talk for such a long time?” “Honey,” she said, “he just strung those sentences out, one word at a time.”

In 2013, Rand Paul took his own filibuster to the Senate floor: the first since Bernie Sanders spoke for eight and a half hours in 2010.  Lacking the votes necessary to block John Brennan’s nomination as CIA Director, Paul decided to delay the vote: vowing, like Huey Long, to “speak until I can no longer speak.”

As the hours stretched on, people began to pay attention, regardless of party affiliation or political convictions. The sound of a single human voice, the willingness of an individual to stand before his colleagues and the world in order to speak his convictions, was strangely compelling.

At one point, someone following the filibuster on Twitter observed, “He’s been doing this for six hours – how in the world can he do that?” The answer the Twitter user received was the same as that offered by my aunt: Paul was doing it “one word at a time.”

The wisdom and appeal of the “one at a time” approach is undeniable. Recovering from addiction or grief, we take life one day at a time.  Learning a new skill, we progress one step at a time. We tackle to-do lists one item at a time, and children even joke about eating an elephant one bite at a time. Sometimes, like the quilter at Ground Zero, we attempt to mend a ripped-apart life one stitch at a time.

Today, as the sense begins to spread that it’s America as a whole that is being torn apart, the thought of piecing things back together can seem laughable.  Trust in government is unraveling. Nerves are frayed; fragile threads of communication have been snapped; entire blocks of history seem to have been misplaced or lost.

And yet, if we reattach our worn and tattered circumstances to the framework we’ve been given, there still is time to restore this old quilt of a country: one kind gesture at a time, one moment of accountability at a time, one recommitment at a time to values that have made this country great: honesty, self-reliance, generosity, freedom, civility and respect for the rights of others.

It’s time to start stitching.

John Flynn, Quilter

Comments are welcome, always.

115 thoughts on “One Stitch at a Time

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Bruce.

      There’s no question you would have enjoyed Fannie. I didn’t know until recent years how committed she was to both writing and history. One of my cherished possessions is about 30 hand-written pages of family history. They’re certainly interesting. It’s amazing what the big people didn’t tell children, back in the day.

  1. Like stepping onto ‘my’ magic carpet, one never knows where your posts will take us. No matter which direction they go, it’s always a rewarding ride.

    Beautiful, and yes, we are hopeful to mend our tattered world one stitch at a time. Thank you once again.

    Love, Z

    1. Truth to tell, Z, there are times when I’m not sure where we’ll end up. I may think I’m going from A to B, but then I discover I actually started at G, and it looks like S may be the destination. I’ve heard fiction writers talk about characters running amok — maybe this is a similar phenomenon.

      It occurs to me that “one brush stroke (or pencil stroke) at a time” surely is a part of your life. The magic carpet didn’t suddenly appear, fully formed. It had to be brought into being through a process. I suspect that’s the value of your classes for many people. It reintroduces them to process, and helps develop their patience.

  2. Without exception, the most gorgeous post I’ve read here. Balanced, intimate, authentic–it captures the essence of human movement from the steps taken across the prairie to Oregon to the handiwork crafted one stitch at a time. Your hopeful lyric rings true, one note after the other.

    1. Thank you, Cheri. “Balanced, intimate, and authentic” are words to be cherished. Your saying so makes me glad I took some extra time with this one.

      As for hope? Your mention of hopeful lyrics brought this treasure to mind:

      “Hope” is the thing with feathers
      That perches in the soul
      And sings the tune without the words
      And never stops – at all.”

    1. Fannie was my mother’s aunt. She loved to travel, and she was kind enough to write most of her postcards in ink. I still have a few, and they’re wonderful fun.

  3. One word at a time you hooked me in, but the best hook was lollygagging! One of my favourite words. One of my favourite activities. For, if I am not gallivanting, I can usually be found lollygagging. I loved the way you tied up everything at the end. We are blessed if we live in countries with a sound framework. It’s good to be reminded of that.

    1. I lollygag even when I’m gallivanting — pehaps especially then. It’s a word I learned early. I always was slow, looking at this or that along the way when we went for family outings, and I often heard, “Stop lollygagging!”

      We are blessed to live in a country with a sound framework, but knowledge of that framework (aka the Constitution) and a willingness to abide by its provisions seems to be a little lacking in some quarters. Far too many citizens can’t even name the three branches of government, let alone define the concept of separation of powers. We have work to do, for sure.

      1. I am not sure who lollygagged in our family but it was a commonly said word. Maybe we just said it because it was fun to say.
        When my daughter attended a US public school it was compulsory to do a US Government/history course in order to graduate. I was impressed by this requirement. I thought it was a national requirement but perhaps not. Is it up to each high school to determine what is required for graduation?

  4. What a wonderful, uplifting post and point you’ve made writing it. It felt like getting a warm hug to read it.

    We have e-Bay experiences in common and, I too, have completed my mother’s set of china using e-Bay. Summer is my e-Bay season so soon I’ll be back at it.

    1. Thanks, Jean. When real hugs aren’t possible, virtual ones can be decent substitutes.

      I did enjoy my time on eBay, but when I began my blog, it took about two months to figure out that it wasn’t going to be possible to do both. So that was the end of that. I’ve been slowly dispersing my unwanted inventory for a few years now, through consignment, private sale, and annual auctions like that held by the Ohio Valley China Collectors’ Convention. Now? Most of what I have I truly enjoy, and at least nothing is stashed in a closet any more.

  5. You know, Linda, we used to have a priest who told stories much like you have here — they started in one place, wound around a great deal, then landed someplace entirely different. They were hard to follow orally, but I have no trouble following yours — makes complete sense, and I do love how much I learn along the way!

    Haven’t we come far from those “You’ve got mail!” days?? Sometimes, even though I work in a tech field, I find myself amazed by how far we’ve come, how much “progress” we’ve made. Or is it truly progress and not just more confusion?!

    You’re absolutely right in your final section, too. Someone as sensible as you probably ought to run for office — I’d vote for you! — but then again, maybe not. Regardless, we need a return to “sense and sensibility” — and SOON!!!

    1. Oh, my. The thought of running for public office makes my blood run cold. I suspect I’d enjoy the campaigning, getting a sense of the issues and formulating my positions, but having to put up with the foolishness? No, thank you.

      Of course, that’s part of the problem. The “system” has taken on a life of its own, and has the ability to warp even the best. I’m not sure term limits is an adequate answer, given the growth of the unelected bureaucracy, but it might be a place to start.

      When I was trying to find the Hampster Dance clip, I came across this. It’s been just over fifteen years since that was commonplace. I wonder where we’ll be another fifteen years down the road?

    1. Thank you, nia. When I saw all of your travel photos this morning, I thought to myself that “one mile at a time” would work as a nice saying, too. But of course, you know a great deal about “one stitch at a time,” as well. So nice to see you — enjoy your day.


    1. Rosemary, the most amusing aspect of the whole story is that the winning bidder waited until after the auction closed to tell me more about the clamps. He didn’t want me to revise the listing, and attract other bidders.

      I can’t blame him, because I often did the same thing. In the early days of eBay, plenty of people listed items whose value they knew nothing about. After a while, I became pretty good at finding those items, not by the listing title or category, but by searching for certain terms. The covered soap dishes from chamber sets often were listed as candy dishes, for example. Finding those was pure fun. I’m told EBay sellers are a lot more sophisticated these days. It’s less online garage sale than it is Replacement China R Us.

  6. One of your best Linda! I commend your knowledge of history and the way you have “quilted” it into a fascinating narrative. The humor your aunt used to acquaint you with the filibuster was delightful. I think we will be hearing more of that sort of blather in the coming election. Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders must be resting up their vocal chords in anticipation.

    1. Kayti, I thought it was an interesting coincidence that, after I used Paul and Sanders as examples, Sanders announced his Presidential candidacy. Of course, what was even more interesting was to find the complete transcript of his 2010 filibuster on his website. He must be mighty proud of all those words.

      I didn’t spend a great deal of time at Fannie’s place in Baton Rouge, but the time I did spend there was wonderful. A tire swing in the back yard, lemon and pecan trees, and mattresses filled with Spanish moss on the sleeping porch? What could be better? (And no, I don’t remember getting bitten by something living in the Spanish moss. It might have happened, but if it did, it just was part of life, and not A Problem.)

  7. A most entertaining post, it certainly had my full attention! Bless that quilter and your aunt…..yes….one at a time is the only way to go, here’s to us all stitching!
    I learnt a new word here, Lollygagging….how MARVELOUS!
    Gosh, the very thought of anyone speaking for over fifteen hours is mind boggling!xxx

      1. I read that “loll” is related to tongue, which helps to explain “lollypop” or “lollipop,” and the fact that a dog that is “lolling” in the heat generally has its tongue hanging out. You may have seen this. Very interesting.

        1. It is interesting, as is the earlier article it links to. Although there are plausible connections to similar words like loll and lull, and lolly was once a dialectal word for ‘tongue’ (as in lollypop), apparently there’s no conclusive evidence about lollygag.

    1. Aren’t words fun, snowbird? I still remember when I first met “tintinnabulation” in Poe’s poem about bells. I couldn’t stop saying it.

      We all do stitch in our own ways, don’t we? Here’s another variation on the theme I’ll bet you can relate to: “one weed at a time.” And that reminds me of the lyrics in Dave Mallet’s “Garden Song.” John Denver made it popular, but I like Mallet’s version better — and it certainly fits nicely with the “one at a time” theme.

      1. Ha! I loved the garden song, and can certainly relate to it….now as I type I humming…..inch by inch, and row by row…..thanks so much for that!xxx

  8. Not surprisingly, I’ve found quilting, and needlework in general, creates an unending supply of apt metaphors. Thank you for weaving them together here, create a whole cloth for us to enjoy. :)

    1. Of course I thought of you while I was writing this, Melanie. I was so intrigued by the freehand quilting the fellow in the first photo wrote about, I read the entire linked article. What struck me was the similarity of his designs to stitches I’ve done in needlepoint – as you say, another craft that lends itself to the “stitch by stitch” metaphor.

      Thanks for stopping by. No quilt-related post would have been complete without a comment from you!

  9. Patience and purpose are needed for so many things to succeed. The quilting example is so good. After all the small repeated moves, one ends up with something strong, comforting, and warm. I treasure the hand stitched quilt from my grandmother.

    1. Patience and persistence are important for more than humans, too. I’ve been sitting here since barely-light, watching bluejays come for their morning pecans. I think there are at least two families represented. Some fly off to the east, some to the west. They’ll still be flying, back and forth, at sunset. I doubt they’re thinking, “One pecan at a time…” On the other hand, I wouldn’t bet against it. Eventually, their funny-looking offspring will show up with them, half-feathered but just as persistent.

      I agree with you about quilts as treasure. This winter, I finally pulled out the two I have from my grandmother, and began using them. It occurred to me that, since I have no family members to pass them on to, I might as well enjoy them. They certainly aren’t going to wear out in the time I have left – at least, not if they’re cared for properly.

      1. I have been watching a pair of bluejays, too. They are building a nest up high in a tree behind the house one sprig at a time. It started out looking very shoddy. It is getting better all the time.

        I also watched a robin start a nest on the downspout from the gutter near the backdoor. I didn’t want one there. So, I put a flower pot on the spot and stopped the construction. It was a rounded top not suitable for a nest.

        A few weeks ago I watched a Nature show on nest building. That was interesting. I wonder if it is still available online.

  10. You’re probably familiar with Willie Nelson’s song “One Day at a Time,” which Joan Baez used as the title song for an album in 1969. And then there’s the Chinese proverb that the greatest journey begins with the first step.

    1. I do know that song, although it’s not one I seek out when I’m in the mood for a little Willie Nelson. I like Baez’s version better. And I’m never reminded of that Chinese proverb without also remembering Woody Allen’s version: “The longest journey begins with a single step. The best journeys begin with a moment of temporary insanity.”

  11. Your conclusion recalls Benito Juárez’s statement of 1867: “Entre los individuos, como entre las Naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz.” “Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.”

    1. I know so little about the history of Mexico. I’ve just had a refresher course on Zaragoza, Emperor Maximilian, and the Battle of Puebla: appropriate, since we’re almost to Cinco de Mayo. Juárez’s words ring true, whatever their context. (I did note that 1867 was the year Emperor Maximilian was executed.)

      The Spanish word that caught my attention is “derecho.” In meteorological circles, a derecho is “a widespread, long-lived wind storm associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms variously known as a squall line, bow echo, or quasi-linear convective system.”

      The article I linked includes this bit of history:

      “The word “derecho” was coined by Dr. Gustavus Hinrichs, a physics professor at the University of Iowa, in a paper published in the American Meteorological Journal in 1888. “Derecho” is a Spanish word meaning “direct” or “straight ahead;” Hinrichs coined it to distinguish straight-line wind damage from that produced by tornadoes. While the term was used in the meteorological community for a short time during the late nineteenth century, it disappeared from use for nearly 100 years until resurrected by severe weather meteorologists in the mid-1980s.”

      That’s quite a connection.

      1. Derecho has several meanings in Spanish, similar to the way right does in English: there’s the opposite of left; there’s the right that a person has to do something; there’s the right that means ‘straight, direct,’ as when we tell someone to go right ahead.

        It’s interesting how derecho in English fell out of use for almost a century and then got revived, making it once again a doublet of direct.

        1. There’s the connection I couldn’t make: going “right (straight) ahead” and doing this or that. It’s an expression I’ve used, but so unthinkingly that I couldn’t bring it to mind.

          1. That’s what it means to be a native speaker: to use words and expressions automatically, unthinkingly. Even after all these decades of speaking English I still occasionally get a new insight into something I’ve said or heard all my life.

  12. It is sad to realize the while it’s very true that the way to build something is “one step at a time”, the way our country has been taken apart by those in political control has been to race along changing everything they can think of in as short a time as possible before most folks realize what the effects have been and will be.

    1. At the end of last year, I noted the increasing use of the word “transparency.” It seemed then and it seems now that the word is being used in order to dilute the meaning of “truth” or “honesty.”

      In fact, the more times I hear “transparency” invoked, the more I begin looking around to see what might be going on behind an increasingly opaque curtain. Too many politicians do their polling, craft their message accordingly, and then do as they please. By the time we figure out what they’re up to, it can be hard to rein them in.

  13. Perfect.
    Quilts are works of art – but also functional and full of history (my mom used to make them from all the leftover fabrics from all the clothes she made us and her grandkids.)
    Timely post. Only hope there are those willing to thread the needles and spend the hours required getting it done and make sure it will hold over time.

    1. Phil, you’ve reminded me of a line from Walker Percy, in his novel, “Lancelot”: “To live in the past and future is easy. To live in the present is like threading a needle.”

      And isn’t that true? No one quilts in the past or future. Part of the value of any of the “one at a time” tasks is that they keep us anchored in the present. That may be why they do so well as stress relievers — there’s no sitting around saying, “If only,” or, “What if?” When you’re focused on stitching, the past and future can’t run amok!

      I still can pick out some of my playsuits, Mom’s dresses, and Dad’s shirts in one of my quilts. Going to a store and to buy fabric to make a quilt would have been unthinkable.

      1. (Ha – grabbing a minute – meant to come back earlier, by Molly….) What do you bet that quilting kept many an isolated woman on the frontier or prairie sane? Quilting has many of the qualities that therapy uses: that focus on what is right in front of you (which you mentioned) and ignore for a bit the worries and chaos around, repetition, methodical, set framework/form but allowance within in that for a bit of individualism and creativity. As well as a beautiful product that was highly functional once done ( so no one could say you were wasting time). Embroider and other handwork/needle craft may have served a similar purpose to women “stuck” in circumstances they could not control? Sounds like a thesis or research grant idea to me.
        (All those familiar fabrics – longer lasting that a paper scrapbook).
        Oh, sound of scurrying paws…time’s up)

  14. I took up the hobby of cross stitching for a couple of years. I too can testify that there was something calming and grounding about it. Keeping with the theme of one day @ a time, when I have an especially difficult project to do (ie. large steep house roof’s) mentally, I switch gears into something similiar….kind of like climbing Mt Everest. I don’t try to do the whole thing in one shot…just hang in there long enough to make it to the next base camp. I will eventually finish. especially enjoyed hearing about the quilter from Ground Zero. DM

    1. It’s interesting, DM. Over the years, I’ve found myself declining some jobs because they’re too big. While taking the wood one foot at a time works, it still can become a problem if there are too many feet to be covered. That’s one reason I’ll never do an interior again on anything over about 36′. The time I agreed to refinish the interior of a 53′ sailboat, I not only was certain I never would finish, it threw my entire schedule out of whack.

      Sometimes, reaching the base camp is just as satisfying as making the summit.

      There were so many good stories that came out of my eBay experience. I will say that the quilter was unique. I’m glad you enjoyed hearing about him.

  15. Of course, that’s what we should do as a human race, one good deed at a time. I’m glad you’re optimistic, for there really are good people who are always trying to improve the human condition. Makes me think… yes, just as you’re doing… one post at a time. ;)

    1. I’d say I’m more hopeful than optimistic, Arti. As soon as I figure out the difference, I’ll be sure to let you know. But, yes: there are people doing good, every day. Most of them don’t make the newspapers, and most of them aren’t known outside their families, neighborhoods, or workplace, but their attentiveness to others and their needs certainly sets up a ripple effect.

      You may have seen the photo of the young boy in Baltimore who was offering water to the police. It’s a touching illustration of your point.

      As for one post at a time, I was thinking about you last week when WordPress sent along my little “anniversary” reminder. Seven years we’ve been at this! It’s astonishing, really. When I began, my biggest worry was running out of things to write about. Now, my biggest concern is getting it all in. Here’s to seven more years of creativity for both of us. (By the way, you’ll be gratified to know there’s a book/film combo sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read and watched — and written about. The day’s coming!)

  16. Fascinating and inspiring article, Linda. I think it’s interesting to learn that you were buying and selling china on eBay. I don’t think that I’d have the capability to buy and sell on the internet. But did you complete your mother’s china set?

    The two guys that you pictured here both look manly and I’m glad to see that men are not afraid to take on something that was once considered for women only, either as a hobby or as a way to earn a living.

    1. I not only completed Mom’s china, Yvonne, I piled up such a stack of it I was able to give a full set to another family. The tale of that china and the beginning of my collecting is a story all its own. One of these days I’ll get it written and posted — including a photo of my third birthday party that is the only photo I have of my paternal grandparents together.

      As for men and women’s pursuits, I still remember when my mother and her needlepointing friends discovered that football linebacker Rosey Grier had taken up the craft. Mom got so interested in him as a person she started telling Dad about his gridiron stats. Of course, that confused, and then amused, Dad.

    1. That’s a wonderful compliment, Oneta. Most of the time I feel myself a little short in the wisdom department, but sharing what little bits and pieces we have always is a good thing. Thanks so much for reading, and for your kind words.

  17. I’m happy to have read this post this morning. I’m also happy to have found knitting last winter. I don’t do it very well, but there’s also something very soothing about that form of “one stitch at a time.”

    My mother was a member of a quilting club in her later years. The ladies would bring in their pieced tops, and the whole group would sit down at the old-fashioned quilting frame, chairs side by side, and the needles would flash in and out while their fingers worked. The tales would fly back and forth, and sometimes there was singing. Gospel tunes, of course. They were mostly Baptists. They usually finished a quilt in a couple of weeks, meeting only once a week. They all brought sack lunches, and would continue to quilt for an hour or two after lunch, depending on whether they were close to finishing one, or not.

    Mom asked me several times to join, and I always had a reason/excuse why I couldn’t. It’s one of my biggest regrets that I didn’t honor my mother in that way.

    1. I wish now I had learned more about knitting from my mother, Susan. She was an absolute whiz. After her death, there were many nearly-finished sweaters needing only to be assembled. Many of them were quite complex, and surprised the women in her knitting group who’d only known her as a knitter of baby blankets and such. In a lovely gesture, the group put three of those sweaters together for me. I gave a couple to my aunt, and kept one, as a companion to the other two I still had.

      Back before eBay and blogging, I did a good bit of needlepointing. Like you, I found it relaxing, but another part of the enjoyment was watching something take shape beneath my hands. At the end of an hour’s stitching, there was no question what I’d accomplished — it was right there on the canvas. It’s the same thing with knitting, of course.

      Quilting groups like you describe still are common in the churches around here. Some do smaller projects, like lap robes, while others go for the full-size. Some of them have a room designated for the current project, and the women come to the church and spend the day quilting. Sack lunches for them, too!

  18. You always have your fingers on the pulse of our heart beat. I loved this post, too. What a perfect pursuit and diversion in the office. I think I wouldn’t mind at all working for someone who has the wisdom to work through the day, step away periodically into a creative pursuit and produce.

    When I thought I couldn’t teach another day, I simply got out of the car, walked through the door down the long hall and made a left to my classroom one step at a time. And then I was on, showtime as it were. The routines slowly brought the life out of me and then, whoosh, it was already the end of the day.

    A long time ago after graduate school when I thought I couldn’t read another word, I took a drawing class. I kept it simple using only black and white. Carefully I followed the instructor’s guidance not looking at the gray paper in front of me letting my eye guide my hand. Then, whoosh, one stroke at a time, I had a still life I treasure to this day.

    1. The ability to switch tasks, to focus differently, is so important. Just as we’re advised to take occasional breaks from the computer screen in order to rest our eyes by looking toward the horizon, taking the “long view” in the midst of daily tasks can help spirits to refocus, too.

      And haven’t we all made those long walks down the hallway? That’s a perfect metaphor for those life activities we’ve chosen, but sometimes weary of. There were days when I would walk down the hallway to my mom’s apartment, to fix dinner or do laundry or whatever, and would find myself wishing I just could stay home. But then, as you say, we get engaged, we do what’s called for, and the time flies away. Now, of course, I don’t regret a single one of those walks — life’s funny, that way.

      The story of your still life is wonderful. I have a feeling you’ll enjoy this piece on drawing and blackboard chalk art from 1908. There’s not only the historical interest, there are a lot of practical tips, too. It’s too bad we don’t have chalkboards any more. (It might be worth getting one, just for the fun of it. Do you think kids still would get a kick out of being chosen to clean the erasers?)

    1. Thanks, FeyGirl. I’ve always wanted to tell his story somewhere, and the opportunity finally presented itself.

      Speaking of stitching, Pattiann Rogers wrote a poem about a different kind of stitching that you really will like. You may have read it before, but you can find it here. Never mind the post. It’s all right, but it’s her poem that counts.

    1. Thank you, Mother Hen. Sometimes we don’t even have to leave home to have the most interesting encounters with people. Chalk that up as a “plus” for the internet!

    1. The piece itself is beautiful, Susan. I especially liked the note in the description that “perfection” wasn’t necessary. I’d love to see it in person. There’s clearly enough detail and enough quirkiness to keep a person interested for a while.

      If I looked long enough, I might even see my muse. I’ve always joked that, when she seems to have disappeared, she’s taken off for Poughkeepsie. Why not Paris? Prague? Padua? Who knows? But I’m sure that’s where she is.

  19. Nicely told and an important principle that challenges resignation and pessimism.

    In a real way, I’m in the “one step at a time” business. My work involves creating and implementing programs for small Christian communities, which simply means groups of from eight to ten people who meet in each other’s homes, read Scripture and talk about how it affected them, read personal reflections and talk about how they resonate in the readers’ lives, and finally, make a commitment to perform some act of charity, mercy, or social justice — no matter how subtle or minute — before the group meets again.

    There are people living in five villages in Myanmar who have clean drinking water because of one of these groups. It didn’t solve the global problem of poverty and scarce natural resources, but it was a stitch. It’s all we can do, and it’s also what we CAN do.

    1. The commitment to act is so important. I’ve been associated with groups that have had fascinating discussions, but left it at that. For a book club, that’s often good enough. For the sort of group you’re describing, words need deeds.

      Years ago, I was involved with a congregation that included a house church component in its life. In as many ways as possible, the lesson was taught: we don’t “go to” church. We are the Church, and we gather as the Church in order to be strengthened to move back into the world. Law and Gospel got translated into accountability and absolution, but the dynamic was the same.

      Your last sentence is perfect. I’ve never heard it expressed in precisely that way, but it does two things wonderfully well. It reminds us of our human limitations, and then reminds us of the possibility of overcoming those limitations. Whether it’s a casserole carried to a newly-bereaved household or a well dug in Myanmar, everything counts.

  20. I certainly could not have made it through graduate education aside from one book, paper, exam, class etc at a time. There is much power in that fundamental way of approaching the world. I have no experience in the craft (from German Kraft for power) of quilting, but my youngest daughter did teach me to knit, which I have taken up with some interest. Currently I am working on an Icelandic sweater, which is giving me a little anxiety. I guess i need to recall the one stitch at a time mantra!

    1. Have you come across the German musical group called Kraftwerk? They came along before Mannheim Steamroller. There was a retrospective a few years ago, chronicled here. Somehow I came across their “Autobahn,” and I became fond of it. I’m not going to keep techno in my regular rotation, but sometimes it’s perfect.

      You’re working on an Icelandic sweater? My gosh. I’m overcome with admiration. I think they’re so beautiful. After I came back from Liberia, I spoke to an LCA conference up in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and they gave me two of those sweaters in lieu of a cash speaking fee. I did treasure them, but they’ve long gone, now. After a few years in Houston, most of my serious winter wardrobe got dispersed. I hope we’ll get to see a picture of yours sometime during the process, or at least at the end!

      1. Well, I’m at a bit of a standstill with the sweater, but the good news is that my teacher is home for the summer, so she can coach me through the next bit of attaching the arms to the body, and then beginning the design! Techno isn’t my thing either, but good on you for giving it a try!

  21. I’ve often thought of America as a giant crazy quilt, both geographically and in human terms. Pockets of earth tones with the Native Americans of the West, the greens of the Irish in New England. The hot colors of the Italians, the quiet tones of the immigrants from Russia, the serape colors of Hispanics, the anchoring dark colors of African Americans and the list goes on and on.

    Indeed, as one who has done some major creative projects, the motto is one day, stitch, one color at a time. Even today in a class related to our U’s production of “Hair,” we were talking about bringing in new patrons to the theatre and I said “We do it one play at a time, one ticket at a time, and if we’re very lucky, sometimes it’s two or three or ten.”

    Yes, our world seems in a bit of a state today. But then it always is. Going back to Hair, originally produced in 1968, the big issues in the play were war (in that case draft played a big part, but much related to the U.S. being involved in a war in a far off place and a war not quite our own); race (remember, this was produced a year after the Detroit riots and only a few months after MLK’s assassination), drugs (still a big topic) and the roles of women, just starting a liberation that has been long in realization.

    Sometimes one day at a time only changes the next day, leaving it ripe to change back. There are moments when I feel the world is going in reverse.

    What an incredibly insightful topic. And I have to say that I just love that you and Quilter-man are friends but then, why wouldn’t you be?

    1. I didn’t mean to imply that the NYC quilter and I are friends, Jeanie. That relationship ended just after the clamps were shipped and received. But the email exchange related to the transaction was great. Selling to crafters or collectors always was different than the occasional purely commercial business I did. The pleasure and excitement of finding a treasure often led to just such exchanges.

      What you say about bringing people to the theater (one ticket at a time) reminds me of blog-building or business building: one reader, one customer, at a time. But providing something of value is key. And learning how to interpret the stats is important, too.
      When WordPress began allowing people to publicize their blogs to Facebook and Twitter, they also included people’s FB/T followers in their stats. Suddenly, there were people showing thousands of followers on their blogs — many of whom were simply FB friends. A lot of people developed overnight inferiority complexes over the whole business.

      As for the world going in reverse, that’s been a part of folk wisdom for decades (centuries?). Remember the old saying, “One step forward, two steps back”? But we still keep going forward.

    1. How nice of you to stop by, Catherine. You’re very welcome — and I’m looking forward to responding to your latest posts. I’ve read both, and smiled and smiled while doing so. There are many ways to learn the same lessons!


  22. Oddly enough, that’s how you knit and crochet — one stitch at a time. And epic journeys begin one step at a time. It’s the principle behind “divide and conquer” and Hints From Heloise’s “Do Ten Things” tip when housework seems daunting and a task looks overwhelmingly big. Quilts are made one piece at a time and quilted one stitch at a time. It takes persistence and perseverance, and a great deal of determination and stick-to-it-iveness. I’m glad that men are learning “traditional” women’s arts and crafts such as quilting, knitting, embroidery and crochet. There is a meditativeness to them. They are tasks that occupy the hands, and a small part of the brain, and leave the rest to freewheel and think about things, to make plans and decisions, to let the imagination run wild.

    1. Well, you’ve just descibed my work, and one of the reasons I so enjoy it: it’s a task that occupies my hands, a small part of my brain, and leaves me free to think, muse, plan, and imagine. When I started this blog seven years ago, I put this on my About page, and it’s stood the test of time: “My dock provides both things Virginia Woolf recommended for a woman who writes: money, from the labor, and a room of my own — space and solitude for thought, remembrance, and creative reflection on the truths and mysteries of life.”

      In fact, when someone comes along and suggests that it might be time to retire, I always demur. Part of the reason is financial, but it’s also true that the nature of my work gives me a structure for unfettered thinking.

      Two of my favorite Ethiopean pieces were embroidered by men. I can’t seem to get a decent photo, since they’re behind glass and hanging on a wall, but this is similar. What most amazed me is that the designs are identical, front and back. They used a mirror, to ensure the quality. I’m sorry now that I didn’t take photos of the reverse before framing them, but that was a long time ago.

  23. Excellent, wise post, Linda. I recall an old friend, seasoned survivor of various traumas, saying to me when I was going through an especially difficult period in my life “Sometimes, Anne, it’s not just a question of a day at a time but of getting from breakfast all the way to lunch…”

    1. I’ve heard a variation on that wisdom Anne. It suggests, “If you can’t make it through a day at a time, take it an hour at a time. If that’s too much, there’s always the next minute.” I don’t have any significant (or even insignificant) traumas in my life just now, but that bit of advice often comes to mind at work, especially in August, and almost always once it hits what we call the 95/95 mark — 95F, and 95% humidity.

  24. Your Aunt Fannie’s observation/advice is as appropriate in our dire straits as it was back talking about Long’s filibuster. I am a little more pessimistic though about it working in our national disintegration. People have to be willing to listen, understand and compromise. All those things seem to be anathema to a large enough portion of the population to void any attempts made by the more moderate amongst us. Compromise is now considered treachery, at least politically where the decisions are made, and cause me to not expect to see anything better during my lifetime. If I am anything it is a pessimist…at least when it comes to politics. Too much us versus them…or as one former President put it… “You’re either with us or against us.”…he may have been speaking internationally, but that has now taken meaning in our politics and there can be no middle ground for all too many.

    With anything worth doing, it is worth taking the time, whether one word, one stitch or one brush stroke, to get things done right and to accomplish the goal in mind. It is too common that speed is more important than the pleasure of creation or craft. The concern with cost that now dominates the lives of so many, whether of need or greed, seems to preclude the pride of craft in all too much of our society.

    1. On the other hand, sometimes the issue isn’t an unwillingness to compromise as much as it is an unwillingness to accept the fact that different people have different beliefs and make different life choices. The whole sorry spectacle of students on even the “best” campuses in the country refusing to accept speakers whose views differ from their own, blathering on about “microagression” and issuing “trigger warnings” drives me crazy.

      I wish I could whisper into each of their tender little ears, “Darling… life won’t be giving you trigger warnings.” But of course, I can’t. Besides, I’d probably end up Twitter-shamed for microagression. :-)

      I did have to smile at your mention of dire straits. For me, dire straits always and forever will remain Dire Straits, and I experience their “Walk of Life” as a terrific defense against pessimism. I love one of the last lines in the song: “After all the violence and doubletalk, there’s just a song in all the trouble and the strife… You do the walk, the walk of life.”

      And, presumably, you do that one step at a time, too.

  25. Sometimes we wish we could put on some jazzy music and get the one-at-a-times bunch together and a few flickering moments later, all is finished! I appreciate Gaiman’s comment: “It’s that easy, and that hard.”

    Terrific post, Linda, stitching together these stories of deliberate patient work.

    1. I was thinking about the de-cluttering process, and why that particular something — apparently so easy — should be so hard. Then it came to me. De-cluttering boils down to one decision at a time, and that much decision-making can be overwhelming, even on a purely domestic level.

      I suppose that might be what separates it from cooking and gardening. The steps in those processes may be complex, but what the path is chosen, there’s less decision-making called for, and more doing.

      I’m so happy you enjoyed the stories!

    1. It’s the sort of wisdom that can be found in every culture, and one that’s dramatically portrayed in so many of your photo series, Otto. I’m thinking particularly of the refugee camps, and even Cuba: places where the search for water, food, or information consume so much time and energy on a daily basis.

      In Cuba, Yoani Sanchez began developing her reputation simply by chronicling the one-day-at-a-time struggles to obtain such basics as milk. And one of the great delights I find in following photographers who focus on one area of the world, or one subject, is watching the depth and complexity of their chosen subject emerge, one image at a time.

  26. Linda,
    You are optimistic in that last paragraph. Thank you for being inspirational instead of depressing. I hope you are right. So much depends on it. We live in scary times, but I guess others have done the same, and the human race carries on.

    When my son was young, I read an article or saw a piece on television about the connection between the ability to complete a complicated project and a child’s success in life. It stated that too many children leave school with no idea how to complete a project. Of course, the secret is one step at a time, one bite at a time, or one stitch at a time.

    That’s an interesting story about the guy who bought your quilting clamps. I think a lot of people find handwork soothing. I wish I could still see well enough to cross stitch. I found it satisfying. It looked so perfect. As we know, nothing is perfect.

    1. Well, Bella — the truth is that there’s very little in this world I find more tiresome than the “ain’t it awful” attitude. Sometimes it is awful, to be sure. Sometimes, it’s unimaginably awful. But even in the worst circumstances, there’s been clear testimony that the key to surviving is to remain human. I think that’s what my NYC quilter had learned.

      I’ve read some of those same articles about the inability of young people to solve problems or complete tasks. I think the skills are different, but related. Faced with a huge task (moving from one home to another, say?) the first challenge is to break the one huge task into smaller ones, and then begin knocking off those. If we don’t know how to turn big into multiple littles, not much is going to get done.

      I used to do a good bit of needlepoint, and really loved it. That was pre-eBay, pre-blog, though. As the old saying goes, you can do everything. You just can’t do it all at the same time.

    2. I just happened on this, from Anne Lamott’s book, “Bird by Bird”:

      “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

      I’ve never read anything by Anne Lamott, which makes discovering her take on this even more fun.

  27. What an inspirational post, Linda. Like yourself, I came late to the internet, and it presented a very steep learning curve. My foray began with Word Perfect 1 and progressed one painfully small step at a time. I still remember my sweaty palms and dry mouth when I sent out my first email. Once I discovered the joys of writing with Word Perfect I have never looked back, and not only do I write a weekly blog now, but I have built a successful little online business through for my novels, poetry and short stories.

    Our experience of time is linear, structured and event-orientated. The only way we can achieve anything is to work in the present moment, taking one step, stitch or word at a time. An amazing tapestry can then be viewed when our life quilt emerges as a unified whole.

    1. The best news for me, Mary, was that I already had begun sailing before discovering computers. What that meant was that I’d taken on an utterly foreign world, learned its vocabulary and techniques, and managed to make progress.

      However different the fields, the process of learning is much the same.That’s what’s missing in so much modern “education,” I think. Memorizing content in order to do well with testing is one thing. Learning how to ask questions, make connections, understand context, and so on, is quite another. (Says she, who’s never taken an education course in her life!)

      Everyone talks about the importance of staying focused in order to accomplish goals. That’s just shorthand for what you mention: staying in the present moment, taking one action at a time. Multi-tasking is fine, in its place. I can let soup simmer on the stove while I’m answering emails. But following social media while trying to write? Not so much.

  28. There is so much wisdom in this post and the very concept that when something seems overwhelming, that you must take it one step at a time, or one stitch at a time, bit by bit, word by word, or as Anne Lamott would say “Bird by Bird.”

    Here’s an excerpt true to the theme from her book that I love: “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’’

    Sometimes the simplest wisdom really is the best. Whether recovering from tragedy or writing a novel, it is so easy to be lost in the magnitude of the task that you have to hang onto small bites of control and soon you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and feel free.

    PS: Yeah no such thing as a PC when I was in college either. Computers were things that took up entire rooms where you had to go in with data punch cards to do organic chemistry projects!! Kind of wish I hadn’t trashed my first PC…Radio Shack’s TRS 80….some people called it a Trash 80 in fact. I cried bitter tears over a huge proposal I lost when I didn’t save. No auto save to save me!! :)

    1. Serendipity’s a wonderful thing, Judy. I just added a note this morning to Bella Rum, two comments up, that included that same quotation from Anne Lamott. I’ve heard plenty about her, of course, but never have read her work. When that quotation showed up on the Brain Pickings website today, I brought it back here to share. It’s so perfect, I’m glad you added it, too.

      It would have an even deeper meaning for you, of course. You’re as deeply involved as anyone in taking things “bird by bird.” And my goodness — don’t we all profit by your diligence!

      Lamott’s story does adress another issue, at least obliquely, and that’s procrastination. Look at this wonderful cartoon. I don’t know what the cost of the workshop would be, but the cartoon itself is priceless.

      Speaking of laughs, did you ever see the online photos of the “floppy disk installation” for Win8 or Win8.1? As far as I know they’re photoshopped, but the certainly stopped a few people in their tracks when they came out.

      1. Oh dear, well its funny because yesterday I probably read more of everyone else’s comments than perhaps usually. In fact I read comments before reading the post and I never do that. So sorry I duplicated something said prior but you can’t keep a good reference down!!

        Anne Lamott is actually a very interesting writer. My first exposure was her book ‘Traveling Mercies’ which I liked because she compartmentalized life events with a faith point chapter by chapter. Seemed like a very manageable way to put together a life story. She’s quite funny too..I think you should start with that one.

        I thought about the procrastination too, but then sometimes it is that very sense of the assignment feeling too big and spinning your wheels to get started, that causes those last minute panics. In school I was the WORST at narrowing a topic and being overwhelmed with information overload. Ok now to check the links!!

        1. No need to apologize for duplicating Lamott’s wonderful illustration. Personally, when I find something that is that good, I can end up repeating it myself in various comments. You saved me the trouble! And I have already put “Traveling Mercies” on my list.

          I was a terrible procrastinator in the higher grades. I don’t know what special fairy was going to come in and finish things up for me, but she never did. I wonder what it is that can paralyze us in the face of some tasks? Fear of failure, I suppose, and perhaps even resentment/boredom if it’s something we don’t want to do.

          Where it gets mysterious is when it’s something we want to do, and still we put it off. Strange creatures, we are.

          1. Very true. For me after agonizing for weeks sometimes, it would all percolate somehow, and my angle on the report would hit about midnight falling asleep and the pressure would lift because then I knew where I was going. Some people don’t have to percolate I guess! :)

  29. As always such an enjoyable read, Linda. I came across the word ‘lollygagging’ some time ago – can’t remember how or where – but it struck me as one of those words that conjured up strange thoughts. In this case a scene of a child gagging on an ice lolly and dawdling at the same time. And now for the first time I’ve actually read it in print in an article. You’ve made my day! Thank you

    1. Isn’t it a fine word, Andy? I never had thought of its meaning in the terms you suggest until recently. Lollygaggers were slowpokes in my growing-up world, and I had that “poking along” down to a fine art.

      On the other hand, I come from a time when every visit to the doctor’s office, or every housecall, resulted in a lollipop, and the stern warning to SIT DOWN to eat the thing, lest I choke myself to death.

      I love that your first “find” of lollygagging in print was here. I’m glad to have given you a smile!

  30. Beautifully said Linda.

    I thought of a question someone asked me yesterday, “It is redeemable?” (The context was a discussion of the industrial food system–but it could reasonably be asked of many things these days). My response–“Yes, I believe it can. But if it is to be redeemed, it won’t come from the top down, but from the bottom up.” I wonder if we don’t default too often into a “top-down solution” mindset.

    On a less serious note, I’m interested to see that you are an experienced eBay vendor. We got our first computer around the same time you did. When I discovered eBay I was delighted to be able to find and buy old books (mostly Faulkner) that I wanted for my collection. I picked up some other neat treasures too, then gradually quit visiting. The last time I bought something on eBay it was a set of tires for our RTV. But lately I’ve been wondering about setting up an account and trying to sell some potential clutter. I’ve had some success lately selling unneeded farm equipment on Craigslist. Now you’ve inspired me to look into eBay. :)

    1. Can you believe this? I’ve been sitting here watching live reports out of OKCity, Norman, Moore, and Newcastle — it’s the same situation as 1999. Not only is there a repetition of tornadoes, there’s been terrible flooding as well. Of course Oklahoma has tornadoes every year, but the coincidence is remarkable and every experience is just as nerve-wracking.

      There’s a lot of top-down going on these days, and not all of it is meant to solve problems. But to address your point: yes, I think that it is going to require some revolutionary thinking and radical commitment from those at the bottom to effect needed change. And note: by “the bottom,” I don’t mean solely the economically or socially disadvantaged. I mean all of those, including you and me, who are seen only as subjects by those in elected office, corporate and governmental bureaucracies and assorted institutions who seek to accrue power for themselves.

      There are powerful forces intent on setting us against one another, controlling thoughts as well as behavior. I suppose a first step is refusing to be controlled. I’m not quite to the point of finding the axe and heading to the barricades, but I do consider it from time to time.

      I know there have been changes to eBay over the years, but friends who still use it as sellers are happy with it. I ran into some problems near the end of my involvement, as shipping costs jumped significantly. Selling single pieces was easy enough, but costs were prohibitive for heavy items. That may have become less of a problem, too.

      It was fun, that’s for sure!

  31. From quilting to technological advances to filibustering and back again, I so admire this beautiful post. Thought-provoking and intelligent, you elevate the blogosphere, Linda. Good on yer, as the Aussies say!

    1. Thanks so much, Barbara. I’ve been sitting on the story of the NYC quilter for a long time, just waiting for the right time to tell it. One thing I’ve learned is that really good stories lose nothing over time — and sometimes they gain!

      This is a fact: when I first began blogging and was trying to figure out how to go about it, I decided that thinking was as important as writing. Thinking’s hard, of course, but it can yield some nice rewards.

      And is that where that phrase “good on you” comes from? I’ve only come across it in recent years, and I’ve never explored the source. It always makes me smile, for some reason — perhaps because it seems so foreign.

      1. Here’s a discussion about — or on — “Good on you”:

        I think prepositions are the most idiomatic and hard-to-anticipate part of speech in a language. For example, where English says “drink from a glass” or “drink out of a glass,” French says “drink in a glass.” We grew up saying “by accident,” but young people have started saying “on accident.”

        1. That’s a great explanation. It also helps to explain why the first person I heard using the expression would have done so. He had a best friend in Australia, and visited there often.

          I finally signed up for Grammar Girl’s RSS feed. It’s a great site. The last time I used it, I was pondering the use of the comma when a quoted sentence ends with a question mark. I recently learned that one of my readers is a friend of Mignon and, in fact, is involved with the site.

            1. When I read “Mignon,” I can’t help thinking, “Filet.” Ah, the power of association. I see that Mignette is used as a name, as well as Mignonne.

              The poem’s enchanting, as is the musical setting. My French isn’t particularly good, but it’s better than I thought. I was able to get a sense of the poem before going to the translation: a surprise and a delight. The site was fun to prowl, too. By the time I finished browsing a photo essay on Parisian bridges, I was ready to find my passport.

              Just as an aside, I made a few inquiries recently, and found a bit of an explanation about the Lost Maples Sheepdip Philosophers and Whittlers Association. Their “headquarters,” where this photo was taken, is the Lost Maples Country store on FM 187 in Vanderpool. Here’s another view of the storefront. The man facing the photographer is sitting under the sign.

              A woman at the Lone Star Motorcyle Museum in Vanderpool told me the group started as a joke among locals. One thing led to another, and they decided to join the Adopt-a-Highway program. Hence, the sign. Another woman, in Utopia, said joining is easy. You go to the store, sit down in the chair under the sign, and declare yourself a member. I suppose drinking a Lone Star in the process would be acceptable. So now we know!

            2. It’s a happy surprise that your French turned out to be better than you thought when you read this famous sonnet. (By the way, the Mignon that started this tangent is the same word that appears in filet mignon.)

              Thanks for the latest info on the semi-spontaneous and irregularly convened Lost Maples Sheepdip Philosophers and Whittlers Association. Perhaps someday I’ll stumble into a meeting.

  32. This is an essay to savor. There is much packed in here, though the individual vignettes flow easily, effortlessly from one to the next. This style of writing intrigues me. As does your obvious interest in a vast array of ideas and topics; I’m much the same way.

    PS. I’ve recently seen Anne Lamott’s name pop up again and again. I’m taking this as a cue that I must read her.

    1. I must confess, Nancy, that the only Lamott I’ve read is that single paragraph, which seems to be quoted everywhere. I read a good bit, but I mostly don’t read writers on writing. I do return to Annie Dillard’s “The Writing Life,” and the letters of Flannery O’Connor. Well, and I favor William Zinsser, and plenty of “Paris Review” interviews with authors. Those range more widely than writing, of course, but there’s a good bit of wisdom there.

      What I don’t read are how-to-write books. I know a lot of people who’ve read every diet book in the world, and still haven’t lost a pound.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate the visit, and you’re always welcome here.


  33. What an encouraging post – doing things, simple and difficult, one step at a time. Breaking down something makes it easier to handle. I also like the story about the male quilter quite interesting.

    1. You’ve raised an interesting point, Zambian Lady. Sometimes, even those tasks that appear simple can profit by being looked at more closely, and taken on one at a time. The vaunted “to-do” list often is a way of doing so. I heard an amusing but thought-provoking story last week about a man whose list began, “#1 – get up.” There are days when that can seem the biggest challenge of all.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story of the quilter, too. It’s amazing, really, to think about how many such stories are being lived out around us each day.

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