During the second half of '04 and much of '05 my 'big' karma yoga project was a benefit raffle quilt to supoort an incredible friend, herbalist, and midwife of many kinds: Jeannine Parvati. Here's a lovely tribute to her visionary sacral/midwifery contributions.
Sometimes I rubbed or painted fabric paint onto the quilt. My goal was to give it durable rather than intricate detail. I wanted somebody to dream this baby to tatters with relative confidence that's what it was "for" if they so choose. But to give it enough specialness and meaning that it could also be something someone might wish know as a kind of ceremony; worthy of careful keeping if that was the winner's nature.
I'm humbly grateful to say the endeavor was ultimately an okay money making success that helped JP and her two youngest over-winter in a greater degree of comfort and atmospheric soul/spirit nourishment. This was not my first experience with volunteering to make a successful fundraising quilt but it was my first time organizing absolutely everything else in addition to the quilt and the money which went directly to JP.
My original point of lift-off inspiration was a quilt I'd studied some-many times as it hung Boston Fine Arts Museum: a very classic and highly symbolic/deeply moving example of pictorial narrative. Pictorial Quilt by Harriet Powers has always felt like a creation quilt to me. A story of transition in which one thing became another.
I asked JP what imperative symbolism I needed to include. Spider webs. Butterflies. 'Vagicentricities' which she wouldn't break down more concretely but instead left me with glorious memories of her lovely lilting feminine laugh pitched to trickster mode. So. Orchids. Lush evidence of fertility and fruition we agreed meant fruits and flowers but a lot more centrally -- POMEGRANATES. I added to this a recurring everywoman everygoddess that harkened back to the Harriet Powers quilt in terms of identifiable repetitive human shapes laced through the imagery. In my case they spoke through the interplay of fabrics that could tell anystory to anywoman. Because of course I had no idea who would win it.
Then Rachana Shivam won it and that was so beyond appropriate that I felt a sustained moment of interwoven perfection. She was gracefully patient with my time constraints and then when she received it she expressed joy and satisfaction. She grasped it all while longing for 'my' version of details - but I understood she had won herself her own detailed version of female Story. She understood the structure and imagery without me explaining and at that point I was very detached once all my intentions and obligations had been met. I left her with her prize. She planned to hang it on display for a special gathering of midwives there in Australia. Beyond that I believe her intention was to sleep beneath it.
This is my signature block. I got the idea/nerve to include it because I'd seen it in other contemporary creation quilts and also because it was an echo of a four cornerstone block within the larger quilt. I asked JP to trace her foot and hand prints. What she sent back was the most care-full exact focused-mode Gemini/air sign piece of artistry I've seen to date. The vagaries of fabric left me unable to do those tracings justice. But they are relics to me. And I have plans for them.
I divided the quilt into three vertical panels. On the left side I spoke to JP's more cosmic nature. She had strong affinity for wild female nature. Her left footprint steps into it from the "underworld" portion of the quilt which JP labeled The Fall. Her take on it was really old testament. I codified most of it in ways I can't include because I haven't come across the images yet. But her point in getting specific (i think) was to speak of patriarchy, period.
JP was a very gifted and charismatic astrologer. She knew she was too unwell to commit to her version of a full monty chart reading but she encouraged my sharing placement/progression details; particularly in the way my stuff overlayed with my son or husband. She charted and counseled for possibly thousands; always with the loving touch of charting possibility woven with equal measures of insight and humor.
JP's walk on the earth was fierce and mighty. She was also one of the most objectively lovely looking women I've known with a melodic voice to match. As I said in my own published eulogy to her - she heard and told the best confessions. One her favorite archetypal Ladies was Changing Woman. She sang and danced with equal parts of grace and sure abandon.
I love her very much as a present tense emotion as well as something that's planted to grow as it will more organically. Our phone conversations held some of the best sisterly moments of my life.
JP's right hand of activism and midwivery was always rooted in the welfare of the new generation. I found she also sought out the soother's role when an upset Sister was able to be soothed. Thought I'd vary-up the vagicentricity especially since JP exclaimed longingly to love sweet peas but hadn't lived somewhere that she could hope to grow them. Precious water was reserved for equally precious food.
At the center of square made by JP's hand and footprints I created four large pomegranate medicine Womanspirits. Above, the southern Spirit of Creation. Sea Turles are my own favorite symbol of female strength, longevity, and fertility.
The Northern Goddess of Collective at the top of quilt has been birthed by the story told in a clockwise journey. Woman conceive and manifest many things beyond children. I actively worked to glorify a specific woman's earthwalk that would still be triumphant for anyone including those who'd been through multiple miscarriages, stillbirths or those who weren't technically infertile but couldn't seem to conceive. Raffle contributors in this category were proportionally significant in number. If somebody in that number won the drawing I still wanted the prize to hold comfort and a sense of joyous embrace.
In the end it went home to a place that may well have been divined. I was, once again just a pair of hands and feet. Heavy emphasis on my right hand ...
Following JP's death a group of us made comfort quilts for her two youngest children who bore witness and gave care during her dance with the advanced ravages of Hep C. This block was my contribution to her daughter's quilt. It's meant to express much but of an organically personal nature for a deeply private person. Think it's enough to say that's her mother's left handprint reaching out from the cosmic Beautyway.
(JP declines to be duly centered on the page. I can hear her laughing. Saying "Oh Acey. Get over it!")