I have been thinking
about fixing and mending.
To me, fixing involves a tool kit used
to solve a specific problem which, when repaired,
provides a clear solution. Once fixed, we
move on, glad that the problem
has been resolved.
a few days ago when our
furnace stopped working and two
guys came to repair it. It took some time
to diagnose the actual problem, but with their tool
kit in hand, they solved the issue. Done.
House warm again. We move
on with our day.
which, for me,
involved mending - an
act that feels different from fixing.
Yes, there is a problem to solve - a lost button or
holes in a pair of joggers - But the problem
does not feel urgent, like a furnace
not working in the middle
of yesterday's mending
pile, for example, consisted of
things with problems we had been living
with for years...literally. This tie on this vintage duvet
cover had been broken for longer than I can
remember, as had the missing button
on another duvet cover
in the pile.
does not have
to be perfect, either.
Clearly, my stitches on the
duvet are a bit messy and the button
and thread color do not match
what was there before on
this night shirt.
was simple: Get
the job done & move on. That's
what I do in January. Finish projects,
clean up, clear out, and, as if often the case, mend
things, whether a missing button, a huge rip in my favorite
gardening clothes, my son's joggers,
or, perhaps, even the
I started to mend the
huge rip on the back side of these
overalls, I got distracted, as can happen sometimes,
and decided to add some color, because, as it turns out, I had been
consolidating our thread collection earlier in the week and
happen to have found this fabulous
green (ooh I love run-
And I thought
it would be fun to add
some curves to this otherwise
set of straight lines. So suddenly my 'get-
the job done' mending turned into
something else entirely.
entranced by the
colors, shapes and textures
that emerged. I know. These joggers
are completely absent of
textures were so
cool and the feeling of the
wool fabric I used to repair the holes
so soft, I just had to share these
images and this project
I realized, in the
midst of it all, that mending
is about tending to an ongoing relationship
with something or someone, whether it's a piece
of clothing, your dog or your son. Yes, there is a particular
problem that emerges at the moment, but in the process of mending
it, you change the actual structure of that which is being
mended by adding thread, new fabric, new
colors or new shapes.
it turns out,
you can change the
structure of yourself as well.
Or at least, that's what happens to
me when I sit and sew. I hang out with my
dog, who hangs out with me. We both breath more
slowly. I have no idea what he thinks about,
but I stay focused on each stitch,
mindfully mending in
as I sew on buttons
and patch holes in joggers,
I'm thinking, always thinking, about
all those big issues out there in the world
for which we want a quick a fix, but which, in my
heart, I know may not be able to be fixed with a single tool
box at a single moment. The problems we face are just too big. But
it helps me to address them when I adopt a mending state of mind. Knowing
we will be in this for a while, I focus on relationships of all kinds and not
worry about perfection by knowing what is good enough
and by making sure I am open to altering my
plans by adding color here
came home with us after
Thanksgiving in CT. It sat on
started to wilt and I
noticed the texture of the
drying petals and the play of light
from different angles.
even when tossed into
I've actually never
really liked roses. They're
hard to grow and their thorns
hurt. It has always struck me as odd
that a flower that can cause pain would be
one so many use to express love.
Though maybe that's the
point. Love hurts.
in the compost pile,
though, I fell in love with
the roses. They seduced me and
inspired me to hang out
with them, despite
cold fingers &
far to arrive fresh
in Connecticut in late
November. Perhaps it is
out of respect for their journey
that I can't take my eyes
off them - even when
things get a bit
& gets mixed & mingled
with the coffee and
these roses, determined
to not get left behind or forgotten.
They refuse to be outdone
by the dryer lint, kale,
or banana peels.
why love and roses
go together. If we pay attention,
it's not the rose at first glance, it's the rose
that still captivates as it evolves,
edges drying and petals
falling off. For me,
for my family.
Love for my friends.
Love for the earth that sustains
us. Even when tested and tossed around
a bit, real love persists, captivates, and has the
power to transform all those paying
attention to it.
It seems absurd,
really, that a gal has to
take care of things at home
even when there are so many cool
things happening, at, say,
her first solo show.
does come to an end,
and snow does appear and the
temperatures do start to fall,
so one does have to
take care of
It's funny, though,
how the list evolves over
time. Just as one thing is finally
crossed off, another activity or two or
three gets added on, like mulch
on the garden and those
perennials that keep
though, how I
save my favorite activity
for last - - shredding leaves to
use in the compost in the spring when
things are wet and need a boost
of dry carbon. It's a
thing for me.
joins in the
fun, begging me
to throw him sticks while
I methodically mow the leaves
in the still, dry garage. Spread them out,
consolidate, spread again. Back and forth I help
break them down so they can more
efficiently integrate with all that
nitrogen in the melting,
It hit me,
though, as the
pile got smaller, that
this is another one of those
routines I do all the time that is,
on the one hand, just another item on
the endless list, but on the other hand, is an
integral part of a bigger climate action narrative, a
story in which I find joy in routines that feel
good unto themselves but are also
part of a larger creative
how I can
of a previous year's leaves
on the wall of a gallery and by doing
so inspire others to think differently about
leaves, carbon and our
climate action and
creativity converge to inspire
joy and new ways of being - - all the time.
my blog or following
me on Instagram, you'll know
that I was planning to include my altered
Cotillion Dress in my current
solo show at AVA
If you've been
to AVA to find the dress,
you'll know that it's
me how the creative
process works, and how hard
it can be to separate one thread from
another when they all feel
integral to each
evolved from last
year's curiosity about how
I could share Walt Whitman's poem
"This Compost" in a colorful and affordable
manner by embroidering it on old
things, like a pillowcase or
a cloth diaper from
I listened to numerous
podcasts about art, women,
the climate crisis, racial justice and
the idea of white fragility. Each voice I heard
inspired me to rethink my past and
my relationship to it. And then
I remembered the white
dress in the attic...
it all began
because I love the
colors of compost and so
started taking pictures of it all the
time...until, magically, I had
what they call a 'body
of work' worth
what you love most just
has to stay home. In this case, I am
grateful that I gave my work to the Exhibits
Director at AVA and let her decide. The dress, even
though it seemed essential to the show for
me, just didn't fit and would have
been a distraction.
I am grateful
to this beautiful piece
of silk and lace for inviting me
to explore my own identity as a creative
person, not just with a camera,
but in life. The dress, as
Pinch me. Is it true?
Is 5 year's worth of work
really assembled in a real art gallery
for others to see?
It must be,
showed up to celebrate
the launch, my
gathered again this
past Tuesday for a conversation
about Waste & Our Material World with
Marc Morgan, Director of the Lebanon, NH Solid
Waste Facility. I love how what began
as an isolated exploration of my
backyard compost has
connected me to
so many cool
who run Umpleby's Cafe &
Bakery in Hanover, NH - - I get all
my coffee grinds and other
large masses of cool
I meet at various events
who wonder at my composted
degrees and share their own stories about
celebrating the past while also
when a vision becomes
reality - - when showing up to
something seemingly mundane, like my
compost bin, could inspire not just
me, but also all those who
come in contact with
this work. Who
share the joy and
experience the wonder
that is our waste at my artist's
talk next Friday, November 1. It will be
at AVA Gallery at 5pm. Oh, and it's also my
birthday and I was thinking how great
it would be to share it with others
who care about all this
stuff. See you then
My first solo show opens in 11 days.
What is the story I want to tell?
Is it about the cool colors,
textures and shapes of my Compost Compositions?
Is it about the stories
those Compositions tell about
food, culture and the regenerative
power of waste?
there is more.
Behind these photographs
there is me, a woman in mid life
choosing to share her work
and, by default, her
story - -
A story that
begins with a beginners
mind - - a willingness to explore
not just content that most
ignore, but process
that is why last year I had
so much fun dismantling and composting
my Harvard and UVA Degrees.
Why not explore?
that is why I am OK
sharing my first attempt at decorating
a silk dress with embroidered
imagery of my own
that it is Show Time
the connections between these
In a world filled with fear,
I am no longer afraid to reframe my
relationship to garbage or
To learn more,
you'll have to come to
the show. The opening is October 11
at AVA Gallery in Lebanon, NH. My Artist's Talk
is November 1 at 5pm, also at AVA Gallery.
Or, you can just keep reading this
blog. More will be
sticks into the Gulf
of Maine. It's 1.5 miles from
our family's house and is a destination
when it's high tide and the beach is covered.
What's the point, you ask? Besides the wild flowers
blowing in the breeze, the waves crashing on
the rocks, and the knowledge that next
year it will still be here, the point
is that today I saw multiple
I stood and
watched them play - -
gliding in the wind and resting
on the bay laurel. They made me happy - -
their telltale orange and black contrasting with the
green shrubs and the blue water beyond.
And they made me sad. Will
they survive or not?
What's the point?
I closed my eyes and imagined
what it would be like to be surrounded
by thousands of these delicate creatures at their
final destination in the mountains of Mexico and understood
that all I needed was that association and idea to invite a momentary
massive flurry of wings which, when I opened my eyes,
were everywhere and no where. At this
point in time, I'm happy to stay
right here. No plane travel
needed. Just me and
What's the point? Our imaginations.
Wherever you are,
consider how far you can go
by going nowhere. Look at something in
your yard or in your home and imagine a place far
away. Feel the air, hear the wind and see the
wonder. Then open your eyes again and
be grateful for your imagination.
It's a gift we often overlook.
cotton object that rips
when I touch it. It's
just a t-shirt,
No. It's more.
It contains memories:
My first years of marriage;
Playing squash with my husband;
Being in my 20's and feeling
invincible; It's so much
more than just
near and far, I got
out a needle, some light
purple thread, and got to work.
I want to wear this fragile
cotton shirt again.
I love it. It's
in our throw-away
society, mending matters.
And because it's cool
the art of
also known as Sashiko
When I love
something, I care for it.
When I love someone, I care
for them. Love takes time and patience.
It can be messy and slow and it
is always imperfect. But
it's possible. We just
have to show up
have a sense of humor.
For 26 years, I have only seen
colors, shapes, & an artist's signature.
When I told my husband about this project,
he asked: "Oh, your dancer shirt?"...
"My what? No, the one with
cool colors and
It turns out I had never
actually paid as close attention to
this shirt I love as much as my husband had.
Sometimes I guess we just see what we see. What's
cool is that I didn't feel anything like a
dancer back in the 1990's, but
I definitely do today. It's
now more perfect
to my mother for
teaching me how to sew.
Happy Mother's Day
Spring at last.
I look at the tulips slowly
emerging from the soil and think:
And not just for the
mourning doves mating on our
terrace or the hosta lace appearing from
beneath the snow.
I'm actually going
to have my own show this
fall at AVA Gallery in Lebanon, NH!
There they will be - four years of Compost
Compositions, priced, framed,
curated and composed.
I was unsure
when the exhibit director
suggested I show my work like
photographs are usually seen: printed
on paper, framed and behind glass. I had liked
the immediacy and simplicity of canvas.
But then I saw them framed and
understood. Wow, these
really are cool.
compost is my teacher,
reminding me to be aware of my
assumptions. For me, canvas was the point -
an invitation to literally 're-frame' my beliefs about
art and how things are 'supposed' to work.
More than just immediacy, canvas
seemed simpler, with fewer
materials and less
But then I
handled all the
cardboard and tape
and compared this to the
small packet needed to ship ten
times as many prints on paper that I
could then have framed by local artisans...
and my thinking changed about
the waste and I realized the
in the very idea
of a show
Is it good enough?
Am I good enough for all this?
Then I look at the work and experience
an uncontainable surge
I see that
the canvas is actually
too simple, too much like a poster
I could order from CVS. The paper, frames
and glass give this gorgeous garbage
a presence that it deserves
and I have earned.
Am I allowed
to say such things? Yes.
Because this work celebrates the
convergence of creativity and climate action
and in the process inspires joy and new ways of being
not just for me, but maybe for you as well. We
will only know, though, if it gets out
there...So get ready.
the light shine!
It's daylight savings time.
And maybe, just maybe, the snow
will melt by April and the
will be above
Green New Deal, Part 2,
I get real about our energy conservation
at home. And since we're talking
about light, I thought I'd
We have lots
of them - 67 in fact -
that are essential sources of
light and stunning ways to frame
views of our garden and Vermont. But
in terms of energy, even our 15
year old double-paned
Over the years,
we have slowly added
insulated and other shades to
help keep the house warm in winter
and cool in summer. Some are even color
coordinated, while others are thin,
cheap roll-ups. We even
have plastic in the
have a hodge-podge.
Of course, my favorites are the
ones I made when first married in 1992 and
the re-used ones from my grandmother's house that
I found in her attic when she died and then
hung in our living room a decade
ago - - just to try
I've been thinking
about the idea of 'window
dressing,' of giving a superficial, but
misleading impression. Most of the 1930's New
Deal murals I studied in college (see last week's blog
post, My Green New Deal, Part 1) were colorful
celebrations of the American Dream,
a dream that for millions of
people at that time
was a broken
I feel surrounded by
broken promises - - The dream
of a house, but no one tells you how much
money it takes to maintain it; The dream of filling the
house with things you need and love, but no advertisement
reveals the true cost and impact of those objects.
So now we have ten years to adapt to
the realities caused by our
Ok. That is way
too heavy and way too
guilt-ridden for my tastes. So
let's go back to light, color, texture
and the glorious convergence of creativity
and climate action. I love this time of year. It's still
cold and inside projects still beckon, like
making the curtains in my studio
warmer by sewing old linen
napkins onto them...
our family's Green New
Deal. We have a decade to make
the rest of our 67 windows as energy efficient
as they can be. To achieve that goal, we will take stock
of what needs to be done, prioritize and make a
plan. For now, though, I will continue to
appreciate this crazy mix of window
'dressings' that continue to
keep us warm and I will
keep noticing the
Evelyn R. Swett celebrates
how creativity and climate action converge to inspire joy
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