Calm Amongst The Storm

When there’s much shifting through me, it helps to look to outside sources to help me make sense of myself.

One such viewpoint came by way of a podcast by Tara Brach on gratitude. What an apt view for this holiday season- suggestions on how to awaken our natural capacities for gratitude and generosity though pathways of honest presence and purposeful cultivation. Tara Brach is a gem!

The next influence came by way of a new book of short stories by Nicole Krauss. Each one is more fabulous than the next. The NYTimes explains her writing this way: In each of these moving stories, we feel the weight not only of family, but of history and faith and leaving a legacy, pressing down on every one of her characters. Birth and death, joy and mourning, love and heartbreak — these too animate the collection. But as a writer Krauss is less interested in describing life’s grand explosions than she is in showing how people make sense of the rubble. My, my, my, another gem: Nicole Krauss.

Finally, though this might be a little harder to understand, was the documentary series on Netflix about Ivan The Terrible called The Devil Next Door. The story itself is difficult to watch, scary and horrific with interesting twists and turns until the very last scene when the foreman of the Ford plant explains that most of the men on the assembly line were just like Demjanjuk, undercover, silent, make no waves so as to blend into America’s melting pot, acting as if, proving that the true horror of hidden prejudices and behaviors are right there to been understood and conquered by all who choose to shine the light and look closely.

Digging Deep and Staying Low

My goodness it is still hard to talk politics- the win seems so precarious- until things are totaling in motion including the vaccine. Meanwhile, I continue to find the only way to be in the muck is to stitch, stitch, stitch.

I had a couple of nice honors: an article in the PG, the purchase of my No-Hate Flag, the continuation of my exhibit at BYN, acceptance into a sculpture show, and I feel like I’m on the cusp of more…….

Blessings For The Children
BNY Exhibit
No Hate Flag

And some hits of a recently completed project that will hopefully be seen in its entirety soon:

And some hits of another recently completed project that will hopefully be seen in its entirety soon:

Stay Safe and Be Well!!!!!

A Couple of Recommendations

I spend the majority of my time listening to podcasts while stitching. The pod cast that brings me the most joy these days is The Promised Podcast by Noah Efron. It gives me, as an American Jew, the clearest perspective on Jewish Israeli life. I can’t say enough about the quality. Noah is honest, thorough, left of center, and the kind of historically religions that I understand and respect. To prove my point, listen to his podcast on Rabbi Steinsaltz.

Another interesting change of perspective has come to me with the Tortoise News. It is English, and another way to see the world, that is progressive, yet thoughtful. They have a podcast and I subscribe to the newsletter, where you get the gist of everything and can explore further to your interests.

My third recommendation is the book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson. I know you might thing it is fuffy being Oprah’s book pick- but I can assure you it it the most powerful book you will read this year- and maybe ever.

Angel of God

When the pandemic started, I thought of it as a time to dig deep and create. Now, on my fourth major project, it seems a little ridiculous, but really, its all I’ve got given the craziness of life today.

For this project I am going all out- something that will bring everything together for me. Attributes by color from Kabbalah applied to a 3-dimensional figure. Now I know that makes no sense to you and it shouldn’t, really, but hopefully, the finished piece will enable it to be clear.

For now some in process photos to excite:

B’Not Mitzvah In The Time of Coronavirus

It’s hard to rank all of the sad and debilitating experiences during this pandemic, except for the one that is at the very top of my list: my plan to organize and host Steve’s and my granddaughters for their B’Not Mitzvah.

It had been in the planning for well over three years. We were so excited by the amazing possibilities of the strength in our numbers as the blended family of Silks and Roots. We were to meet here in Pittsburgh on Labor Day weekend, 200 strong, to celebrate Naomi Beverly Linera and Maya Elizabeth Silk. But, as the virus would have it, by June it became clear that there was no way to safely hold any kind of live in-person event.

I won’t dwell on all of the bad news around the cancellation, like that I am still in serious negotiation with the Ace Hotel over a huge deposit they are unwilling to refund or that I haven’t been eyeball to eyeball with the girls for almost a year, things that make me first really sad and then very, very angry. Instead, I’m going to give you the overview in list form, of what it takes to transform to virtual with panache!

  1. Envision an alternative that the girls can get their arms around.
  2. Create a theme that relates to their Torah portion and use it to keep Jewish education as the focus.
  3. Engage with the tutor and the spiritual advisor to adjust the learning requirements.
  4. Instead of cancelling the DJ, transfer him to twitch.
  5. Find and hire a technical advisor and learn all you can.
  6. Create online invitations, a website, internet tools that explain and support a virtual event.
  7. Create a participation package for each guest that engages them to support the girls virtually.
  8. Create pre and post virtual events for the extended family.
  9. Encourage early gift giving to increase the event’s normalcy.
  10. Include all of the events, virtually of course, that would have happened, like a Shabbat Dinner, Family practices of Aliyot, and Havdalah.
  11. Ahead of the date, send written materials to all participants that replace the prayer book and help them engage in the service.
  12. Create special souvenirs for the guests to remember the event.
  13. Take advantage of Zoom Record to document the celebration.

Looking at the above list doesn’t quite tell the story. For each of the 12 items listed above, I could easily write a page or two or three. Suffice is to say, having this experience under my belt, I am well equipped to offer helpful advice to any of you who finds themselves in charge of virtual alternatives to previously planned live family events. This is truly one of those times, when you have lemons, your only choice is to make lemonade!

Instead of singling out a couple of photographs that tell the story, I have included this link to the final recording for you to view as you like.

TRANSFORMATIVE CHANGE: Changing The Way We DO CHANGE

From Killing Rage: Ending Rage by Bell Hooks:

Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies the shape who we are and how we live in the world.

Rev. angel Kyodo Williams is a social visionary applying inner awareness practice to broad-based Transformative Social Change, calling for a paradigm shift that changes the way change is done. Rev angel’s presence-centered social justice movement for personal freedom and just society, forges the healing of divisions of race, class, faith and politic. Amen.

Her Dharma of universal truth embraces:

the dharmic religions where time is held as fundamentally cyclical

the Abrahamic religions that attends to the linear

indigenous and earth-based religions respect for our right relationship with the sacredness of the earth and all its manifestations

the Vedantic as it pursues liberation from cycles of suffering

Judaism’s mending of the world

the path of Buddha based on self-discovery, rather than strict adherence to belief

Jainism with all of life is sacred

the path of Jesus where love is front and center

Baha’i’s unity in diversity where all humanity is equal with appreciation and acceptance of the diversity of all races and cultures

Check out this practice tree to create your own practice that bears witness to suffering and cultivates compassion and taking on wise action to find your personal path to transformative change.

If we want to bear witness to the sea change towards lasting, sustainable, social transformation, we cannot afford to consider doing inner work to be a choice for those that do social work. We must make them synonymous. It is the inner life of the individual that expresses itself through community, and communities give rise to society.

angel Kyodo williams

The End Of A Generation

My Uncle Jason lived a long fruitful life, celebrating his 99th birthday in February. He died last week on the Summer Solstice. He was a Shapiro through and through, blessed with that singular soul shining through with 110% chesed, that clear over abundance of lovingkindness.

Jason was the youngest of three brothers. My father was in the middle. Sam was the oldest. Known together as The Shapiro Brothers, they owned and operated National Record Mart. They were famous for their ethical business practices and tireless community work, long before such things had to be discussed and negotiated.

Working at the Record Mart was a family affair. We, children, all took our turns, spending time on the floor beside a rotating system of The Brothers. There are too many stories to recount here, suffice to say, three brothers, three families, one all together when it came to the Record Mart.

When I lost my father in 1998, Uncle Jason, stepped right in as my Dad replacement. We walked, talked, reminisced, and commiserated. We spent our Fridays together giving out money to Jews in need. Memorable times, significantly meaningful for both of us.

Uncle Jason, You are an inspiration, like no other. I love you. I miss you. May your memory be for a blessing. Love, Weezie

Womanist Is To Feminist As Purple Is To Lavender.

I have a new mentor, the biblical scholar, Rev. Wil Gafney. She came to my attention through her book: Womanist Midrash. I found her book looking for gift ideas for my granddaughters about to be B’not Mitzvah. Then reading her blog, I came upon her discussion about the very portion my grandchildren are studying. It hits so many relevant points for me that I have included a portion of it here:

“Consider Deuteronomy 6:5: You shall love the Holy One your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and, with all your might. When Jesus taught it, he had to add the category of “mind” to make it contemporary and relevant in a world in conversation with those philosophers. He said: You shall love the Holy One your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and, with all your might. (Mark 12:30) Today he might say You shall love the Holy One your God with all your DNA and your quarks and quirks, your baryons, mesons, hadrons and protons – depending on the scientific literacy of his audience.

More than head knowledge, Hebrew wisdom is heart knowledge, the kind of knowledge one gets from study and contemplation, not as an academic exercise, but as a lifepath to seek and study the One who reveals herself that she might be found, studied, apprehended, comprehended. In Hebrew, wisdom, hokhmah, and understanding, binah, rhyme with torah; they are each grammatically feminine and each used as synonyms for the other. The way to wisdom is to study and learn torah – God’s revelation, God’s teaching and only perhaps thirdly “law” which is an insufficient translation on its own. Such study produces a wise heart, in the world of the scriptures a wise heart is one that is motivated to act in accordance with God’s revelation to and through her prophets, to and through her word and words, and to and through her world and its wonders.

We would do well to regain the notion of the heart as the seat of the soul, consciousness, wisdom and, volition. To stop thinking we can think our way out of the brokenness, disfunction and inequities of the world. We need wise and discerning hearts nurtured on God’s revelation of her vision for the world and for us. A wise heart is an understanding heart and a willing heart. It is more than euphemistically connected to a sage and skilled hand.

One of the most overlooked aspects of wisdom in the world of the scriptures was its skill component. To be wise of hand – an artisan like those who crafted the tabernacle and temple – is every bit as valued in the world of the text as setting one’s heart to torah. This too we need to regain, to see the wisdom of the sculptor’s hands on par with the scientist’s hypothesis. To see the knitter and the painter and the tinkerer as we see musicians whose handicraft we already value well. Wisdom’s well is wide and deep.”

E. ZERO WASTE/COLLECT

Taken from A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living by Louise Silk

Available as an ebook: A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living 

Ain+Yesh/None+All; 11”H X 13”W;
Hand Stitched Silk; Old Quilt Backing; 2020

One can never have too many quilts. It’s easy to reach your limit on needlepoint pillows or knitted sweaters, but not quilts. There is always another bed, sofa, table, wall, birth, wedding, or celebration worthy of a quilt. 

Louise Silk; PowerPoint Talks 1998-2019

Being a prolific quilter for close to fifty years has brought me to an interesting juncture; I may have finally reached my quilt limit. Enclosed in this loft, along with enough materials and supplies for many more, sit a hundred or so finished quilts. It feels a little over the top and so methodically, with a clear head, I have switched to contemplate the non-physical benefits of my quilting life. Is it possible to patch together thoughts? Can I texturize my spirit? Will I finally accept myself as I am in the moment without stitching anything?

While I contemplate these questions, quilts continue to fill my days. I listen to podcasts while I cut and stitch. I create projects while taking long walks. I read books, and watch videos, consistently discovering quilt imagery that can be adapted into my current efforts.

My incentive to write about my process came after I saw the movie How to make an American Quilt. I was furious. The movie had absolutely nothing to do with how to make a quilt. It was the last straw in a series of quilt metaphors that by all rights belong to me, the one who truly knows how to make an American quilt. That original idea morphed several years later into my book The Quilting Path. This writing picks up the thread using the title I decided upon then: A Patchwork Life.

Out Of Patchwork Conquests; One World; Front of Kimono;
Silk, Old SilkQuilt, Hand Stitching; 2020

This past winter I walked seventy miles along the traditional Catholic spiritual walk, El Camino. At the end, I made the commitment to eliminate judgement toward all, myself included, and to increase body awareness to facilitate wise aging. Adding those commitments to my patchwork life enhances even more joy as I continue piecing together all manner of things in the moment of the day.

Out Of Patchwork Conquests; One World; Back of Kimono;
Silk, Old SilkQuilt, Hand Stitching; 2020
Out Of Patchwork Conquests; One World;
Detail of Kimono; Silk, Old SilkQuilt, Hand Stitching; 2020

F. DECONSTRUCT/ RECYCLE/UPCYCLE

Taken from A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living by Louise Silk

Available as an ebook: A Patchwork Life: The Hands-On Guide To Living 

Chocmah/Wisdom; 12” X 13”;
Hand Stitched Silk; Old Quilt Backing; 2020

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us Just show up and get to work. All the best ideas come out of the work itself. Chuck Close

One thing leads to another. It seems so natural in retrospect. This phase started with my husband taking the scraps from tee-shirt quilts out of my garbage. Tee-shirt quilts require only the logos, leaving the edges and the sleeves as waste. I became possessive; if they weren’t to be discarded, I would be the one to use them. Thus, began the longest and largest, never-ending series of quilts using simple tee-shirt leftovers.

Alongside that, the SilkDenim label began with my daughter’s idea to sell a product, a reusable shopping bag made from old jeans, at the Brooklyn Flea to supplement her acting income. To support her idea, I used the white tee-shirt edges to create a shrug. We went on to create many products: bags, clothing, home goods, and quilts, completely out of recycled textiles. We continue our joint creative process, mostly catering to our own likes and needs.

The SilkDenim Chair