Death & Perspective

Death & Perspective

When COVID hit New York City over a year ago now, death was no longer an abstract idea. People we knew were getting really, really sick, a few of them died, a few are still not 100%. When the mobil morgue parked just blocks away from our building to handle the overflow of dead bodies, it marked a turning point for me. This wasn’t some bit of horrifying news that I read or heard about, this was happening and it was happening all around me. At the time I was just starting my YouTube Channel and it hadn’t occurred to me to video tape the empty streets, void of cars and humans. I wish I had, but I didn’t.

COVID New York City

Once we had a vaccine and my entire family had been vaccinated, I decided it would be a good time to visit my mother and sister, neither of whom I’d seen in almost two years. It was wonderful to see them after so long. And of course there was the added benefit of being surrounded by dogs…

and flowers…

with lots of great places to take a little walk…

Death brings perspective. None of us are getting out of here alive. Our time is short and it seems to get shorter the closer to the end we get. All the more reason to enjoy things like this bee.

Or the brilliance of these red flowers…

Or the sound of the water rushing over rocks…

or being surrounded by people I love.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

When I was young, on December 24th we had a special Christmas eve dinner and then we would open our Christmas presents under the Christmas tree. If we were visiting my grandmother at her house in Colorado, we did the same. The only difference was that she had live candles on her tree and no one was allowed into the study where the tree was set up and that she decorated the night before, at least this is what I remember. I remember asking why we couldn’t help decorate the tree. But this is the way it was, a tradition my mother thankfully did not continue. Nearby there was a long pole with a wet sponge attached to it. This was to snuff out the candles and I’m guessing there must have been a fire extinguisher close at hand as well, but I don’t remember that.

My grandmother at her house in Aspen, Colorado

Later, once I lived in New York City, Christmas was often a time of enormous loneliness. My father was fragile and could not have any of us home for fear we would bring home some illness that he would catch, and so for many years I spent Christmas in New York city by myself. I remember one year taking one of my roommates, who was also spending Christmas in the city that year, to a Broadway show and afterwards standing out in the freezing cold, trying to hail a cab and wondering what we would do if we couldn’t get one. It’s funny, I cannot remember the show we went to, though I think it might have been A Chorus Line, the memory that stands out is how brutally cold it was. A decade later I spent another Christmas going to the movies and afterward ordered Chinese take out. I remember there were only three other people in the movie theater and one of those three was a homeless woman who brought a cart holding her possessions with her.

Cross country skiing in Aspen

And then there were the Christmas’s spent with friends and boyfriends, but it wasn’t until I had my own family that we began our own Christmas traditions, which often meant traveling with our children to be with my sister and mother in Colorado. Those were festive Christmas’s filled with lots of extended family, and friends. This year because of the pandemic we are staying put in New York City. We have a beautiful tree covered in decorations I’ve collected from all over the world and that I’ve made. Each ornament brings back memories.

I made over a hundred origami ornaments when pregnant with my first child. Obsessiveness is a companion I’ve always welcomed.

And then there was the year that I decided to make some pretty elaborate ornaments like this Santa Claus.

Another year I made felt houses.

And another year I made these little wool birds.

This can be a difficult time in the best of times, but particularly now because of the pandemic, so many are unable to be with family and friends. I am so grateful for my little family here in New York City, but it wasn’t always like this. I know many people are feeling the bittersweet sadness that can come with Christmas whether you celebrate it or not, and so to all of you, I just want to offer some love.

Wherever you are, alone or with others, I am thinking of my fellow human beings and wishing you a pleasant and peaceful Christmas. ❤️

A Commitment to Show Up

A Commitment to Show Up

I’ve been thinking about relationships a lot. Perhaps that’s because I’m coming up on my 20th wedding anniversary with this awesome man. Our relationship has seen its ups and downs, but we are committed to doing the hard work of showing up for each other no matter how painful and difficult that may be. As a result we have entered into, what I think of as, our golden years together. I love this man more today than those first few years when we met and decided to have children together. I am well aware of how fortunate I am, it helps that he is as committed as I am, and is also funny, smart, kind, thoughtful, complicated, a great dad, a great friend and all around amazing human being.

Or maybe I’m thinking about relationships because it’s the holiday season when we typically fly to Colorado to visit my mother and sister, but because of the pandemic are unable to do so or maybe it’s because this year has thrown a couple of relationships into stark relief. I have had to come to terms with the fact that a few were not what I thought and others that have only reaffirmed how wonderful they are. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from both.

I’ve mentioned before that my husband and I start the morning reading something, usually something philosophical or a meditation of some kind. This morning’s reading began with a quote:

There are two equally dangerous extremes – to shut reason out, and to let nothing else in.

Blaise Pascal

When I’m stitching the magical moments come when things just flow from one idea to the next – easily, magically. But there are other moments when everything I stitch feels wrong. Color is often at issue. If my base color is one that I don’t find particularly appealing, then everything I subsequently do can feel off simply because the base color isn’t one that speaks to me. The trick is finding the magic even then.

As many of you who follow me on Youtube know, I’ve been struggling with my latest improvisational piece. It uses a flesh-colored hand dyed piece of linen as its base, and it’s been problematic for me since I took that first stitch. Still, I’m determined to continue, if for no other reason than as an exercise in working through the myriad issues that are coming up for me. And what I’m learning is that if I’m committed to something, really committed, I am willing to have the difficult conversations, I’m willing to hang in there even when things get problematic, I’m willing to keep showing up. And when I do that, something magical always happens. (Of course if we’re talking about two people then BOTH people have to be willing. It won’t work if only one person is willing and the other isn’t.)

With the piece shown above, this is the magical moment that occurred a few days ago. I don’t know that it’s enough to shift this piece from an exercise, into something that I’m able to fully embrace, but I’m getting there and I’m going to keep showing up for it and see what happens!

Merry Christmas!

International Women’s Day – 4 Women I Admire

In honor of International Women’s Day I am featuring four women in my life, who have influenced me the most. All four of these women are exceptional and I am deeply grateful to each of them.

The first – my grandmother, who, though I did not always have an easy relationship with, I greatly admired her joy for life, her dedication to the environment, her devotion of the arts and her philanthropy.

Elizabeth Paepcke

Second – My mother who once told me, when I asked for her advice regarding parenting, “Tell them they are loved, show them they are loved, and one day they will forgive you.” That statement embodies my mother, her sense of humor mixed with wisdom of a life well lived. My mother models generosity and a love of learning, two things I value to this day. I love her dearly and think of her every day.

My mother, Paula Zurcher, in our cabin in Colorado

Third – my sister, who also happens to be my best friend. She is one of the kindest, strongest and hardest working women I know. I admire her. I respect her. I am forever grateful for her presence in my life. Though we live far from each other, I carry her with me every single day.

My sister: Toni
Photo by: John Kelly

And finally, my friend, Sue Spargo, mother, daughter, friend, artist & business woman extraordinaire. Sue’s kindness, generosity and support have meant more to me than I can express. Sue has transformed how people see “embroidery”. With her techniques and artistry she has paved the way for so many. Sue continuously strives to find new ways of approaching an art form. She has encouraged me to push beyond what I thought I was capable of, and her friendship is everything to me.

Sue & Me