Dedicated to those who are in need of a quiltgift and those who provide these works of (he)art.
from-Swimming with Swans: vignettes of our three year journey between homes
July 2011 (the desert outside Las Cruces, NM)
One Christmas, I made and gave a quilt to a special person who was experiencing a period of extreme grief, hoping my creative handiwork would provide some solace. I found it easy to part with my artistic endeavor, trusting the new owner would enjoy it. I feel the same way when performing as a musician.
Recently, the quilt unexpectedly came back into my possession. This turn of events has offered me a unique opportunity to see my quilt in a different light. It has yielded unexpected insights into the person I was then, who I am now, and what I’ve learned in between times.
When it was returned, I first viewed it as an artistic piece. I was surprised to discern that I did not like it as my quilting style has changed significantly, more than I thought. It clearly showed a point in my life from which I have evolved, similar to what I and other musicians experience when we hear a recording made some time past. It surprised me to see this tangible evidence of where I had once been as a quilter.
Then, I began to remember the circumstances that prompted me to offer this person a comfort gift. Foremost, I recalled the deep need that drove me to give of myself in a nonverbal way, pouring out my heart-love during the process of making it. The quilt brought back the memory of offering prayers, crying tears with each stitch, and knowing it was not only cathartic for me in its making, but a symbolic gesture in the giving of it.
Also, I remember trying to tame my “crazy-scrap-quilt” style, shaping it into something more “palatable” to this person’s tastes and trying to tone down my own bolder color palette for their more subdued powder baby blues preferences. In so doing, I think it diminished the quilt’s artistic value, but not its worth as a gift of love and compassion.
What I think I’ve learned in the interim is an ability to incorporate others preferences more easily into a piece, presentation, or gift of which I can be proud. I do so when, as a musician, I gear programs, concerts, or performances towards a particular audience. It’s a smart thing to do. The trick is to give ‘em what they want with a twist….an appropriate twist, but a twist just the same. Examples of what I’ve done is to include one of my own arrangements of a Celtic piece for solo classical guitar into an otherwise traditional setting or by playing a wildly exciting 20th century classical guitar piece in a program filled with standard fare, fluff.
The following seems to sum up the above while giving it greater credence given its famous and honored author. It also reminds me of the conversations we often have with each other as colleagues.
The Two Poems*
by Kahlil Gibran
Many centuries ago, on a road to Athens, two poets met, and they were glad to see one another.
And one poet asked the other saying, “What have you composed of late, and how goes it with your lyre?”
And the other poet answered and said with pride, “I have but now finished the greatest of my poems, perchance the greatest poem yet written in Greek. It is an invocation to Zeus the Supreme.”
Then he took from beneath his cloak a parchment, saying, “Here, behold, I have it with me, and I would fain read it to you. Come, let us sit in the shade of that white cypress.”
And the poet read his poem. And it was a long poem.
And the other poet said in kindliness, “This is a great poem. It will live through the ages, and in it you shall be glorified.”
And the first poet said calmly, “And what have you been writing these late days?”
And the other answered, “I have written but little. Only eight lines in remembrance of a child playing in the garden.” And he recited the lines.
The first poet said, “Not so bad; not so bad.”
And they parted.
And now after two thousand years the eight lines of the one poet are read in every tongue, and are loved and cherished.
And though the other poem has indeed come down through the ages in libraries and in the cells of scholars, and though it is remembered, it is neither loved nor read.
*from “The Wanderer-His Parables and His Sayings”