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.
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!
Envision an alternative that the girls can get their arms around.
Create a theme that relates to their Torah portion and use it to keep Jewish education as the focus.
Engage with the tutor and the spiritual advisor to adjust the learning requirements.
Instead of cancelling the DJ, transfer him to twitch.
Find and hire a technical advisor and learn all you can.
Create online invitations, a website, internet tools that explain and support a virtual event.
Create a participation package for each guest that engages them to support the girls virtually.
Create pre and post virtual events for the extended family.
Encourage early gift giving to increase the event’s normalcy.
Include all of the events, virtually of course, that would have happened, like a Shabbat Dinner, Family practices of Aliyot, and Havdalah.
Ahead of the date, send written materials to all participants that replace the prayer book and help them engage in the service.
Create special souvenirs for the guests to remember the event.
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!
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
You learn for yourself not for others, not to show off, not to put the other one down/ learning is your secret, it is all you have, it is the only thing you can call your own. nobody can take it away…
Life learning in combination with quilt making works most effectively when done in series. I experienced that initially with my first one-person show and I have continued the practice, making works in series with great benefits.
Multiples allow the time and space to dwell in all aspects of a concept, to process and integrate in a deep multi-layered analysis. On the physical level, series makes the best use of the gathered supplies. There is always enough for multiple quilts. On the emotional level, the lengthy process requires sitting with feelings otherwise easily pushed aside. On the spiritual level, the meditative process of stitch by stitch allows burdens and barriers to wash away leaving space for more of everything.
The series integrating Kabbalistic knowledge into my quilts began with the co-creation representing the mystic’s most significant symbol, The Tree of Life. Generally, it is a diagram of three triads. My rendition would be my own uniquely technical and spiritual creative action.
I started with a trip to the thrift story on half price day. Four values each of seven hues of men’s knit sport shirts used to represent both the worlds of emanation and the days of creation; all for under fifty dollars.
I used the image of a plant with very clear veins as the inspiration to create ten large windowpane-looking patchwork blocks. They were odd shapes and sizes, coming together randomly into a very uniquely shaped tree-like quilt. I made the transformational decision to leave it as a free-form shape without filling in the background.
After a series of varied tree-like structures, I used the remnants to experiment with several odd shaped free forms, and then, looking for a wearable, I moved onto the kimono. Trees transformed to angels; another known physical symbol that lends itself to divine concepts represented as quilts.
BubbeWisdom ties together philosophical values, physical consciousness, psychological emotions and ephemeral spirit to improve the likelihood of right action in the right way at the right time.
The first grandchild arrives along with the question of what will she call you? Wow, it is tough to determine your own name! The easiest is to stick with family tradition. My Mom used Nana, as did her Mother. I took the more challenging path, settling on the very old-world Yiddish, Bubbe, with the caveat to redefine the name to more adequately represent me as the contemporary grandmother of today.
My first assignment was caring for my son’s first born. I took over an idea from her daycare to give a daily written report to her parents. The writing became a Bubbe Blog on her very own personal website.
After that experience, I jumped at the opportunity to blog for our Jewish newspaper. This motivated the creation of a mission statement, a website, and a personal blog entitled BubbeWisdom along with my goal to continue piecing together a contemporary life of family, quilts, politics, philanthropy, and spirituality.
In 2016, I sat across from my tax person, telling her that having inherited money from the sale of family property, I planned to pay off my mortgage. She advised that it was better to form an LLC and sell the loft to that entity. I could pay back the mortgage, pay myself rent as the LLC and at the same time deduct that rent as a business expense for SIlkQuilt. These changes reduced my cost of living with an added a bonus; I could take one inspirational trip a year as a legitimate tax deduction. Thus, BubbeWisdom, LLC was born.
My first trip was to experience Lavender fields in Provence. I was haunted the entire trip, chasing its inspirational purpose. At the end of the trip, an exhibition of Paul Klee at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, gave me the answer. In his artist statement, Klee expressed how he felt unable to compete with other artists of his day. This allowed him to do simply whatever brought him pleasure, without regard to others. Relieved and satisfied, I understood that BubbeWisdom was my good fortune to use as I pleased. I was free to be and do the authentic artistic me.
Life gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru.
Charlotte Joko Beck
Relationship is messy, layered, and complicated. When my youngest daughter moved back to Pittsburgh, she insisted, that for her sanity and the family’s well-being, we go into counseling. She found a practical therapist who taught me many things about the importance of self-care and the necessity of identifying emotions. I learned that the only one I truly have the power to change is me. Crafting those changes in myself might not bring everything to resolution, but I will be happier and that will have a positive effect on all who come into my contact.
A good friend was at her family’s reunion. Looking in the review mirror from her car, she saw my name in lights beside the image of her cousin. She faced a complicated set of questions: Was I ready to meet someone new after my recent loss? Was he open to meeting someone who lived 90 miles away? How to best introduce one to the other?……
It was the 4th of July, when finally, we spoke on the phone. After a long conversation, he suggested meeting at the Sheetz halfway between us. I agreed.
His first question, Do you eat meat?; the answer was no; and his last question, What happens now?; along with my answer, Come see where I live; told me it was very possible I was in the right place at the right time.
Some years into it, with five children and four grandchildren between us, we have pieced together a solid partnership. The messiness continues as we support each other’s effort to be in relationship while maintaining independence. We tread lightly, taking nothing for granted and seek out the positive, all in the name of a multi-layered patchwork life.