The Fabric of Life
By Rebecca L. Manoogian
Pain, humor, inspiration, trails, uncertainty, frustration, and unknowns, all of it feels as if it has been woven in and through this story and maybe there is even more. Knowing that I carry all those experiences with me into my daily, present living gives me courage to go on. Tenaciously I continue to build upon those experiences creating life-giving muscles as I venture into my second half of life. It reminds me of one of my favorite fabrics called grunge. Grunge is a unique quilting fabric that is dyed first then printed on one side. The process provides texture and creates a great blender fabric. First produced by Moda fabric, in 2008 it has a subtle distressed finish.
Recalling times of uncertainty, writing about them, digesting them more fully has taught me to repurpose those events and apply them as fuel to my innate desires. Recording my memoirs has been a key component in this experience. Here’s an excerpt from a recent writing.
It was odd recovering from major surgery. Both my mind and my body were unfamiliar. Routine, work, social gatherings were all halted. Healing and allowing space for regaining both physical and emotional health was more challenging than I had anticipated. Being home felt wonderful and even though the hospital bed now occupied the music room it was making recovery much more doable.
Taking pain killers was necessary and I used oxycodone every 4 hours, noting the time they were taken on a writing pad. Once the pain got ahead of the drugs it was almost unbearable. I injured my cervical spine and the only hope at recovery was to have three of the damaged discs removed and replaced with bones from the bone bank along with plates, screws and glue. A cervical collar was my only accessory, earrings and necklaces hung on my jewelry tree, unused for almost a year.
My adult children assisted me with almost everything. Less than 10 months after my husband of 38 years lost his battle with ALS, I had a cervical fusion. I sometimes sat in the living room and looked out the large bow window; its view was almost breathable. Most of the time though I remained in the music room, using the lift chair and the hospital bed, I had easy access to the items I was most dependent on. My daughter in-law kept me supplied with books from the library and my son-in-law downloaded music to my I-pod. God, friends and family, Literature, music and nature is what I leaned most heavily on to sooth and replenish my shattered self.
One summer evening I planted myself in the living room. The kids had taken a ride and I expected them to be gone for a while. As I sat looking out the window, I closed my eyes, enjoying the warmth of the setting sun coming through the panes, then as if alerted I opened them. My eye caught the movement of something, something near the radiator cover. That’s weird, I remember thinking.
The radiator covers were new. My brother in-law Bob skillfully made this one and many of the others in the house, replacing the old rusty paint peeling, metal ones. Most of them were large with slotted fronts and had a chain that hung from the center. The one in the living room was smaller and ran the length of the window. Its beautiful poplar wood frame covered the metal fin like heating unit. The wood, about 12 inches in height surrounded the copper metal grate that allowed the heat to circulate, creating a useful and visible improvement.
Nearing 100 years old, the house had been built in stages. The living room was the first addition to the original red brick Dutch colonial. The cellar under the brick house had been hand dug and was completed around 1920, after the owner returned home from World War I. The living room and laundry room were added in the 70’s and only had a dirt crawl space beneath it. If you looked at just the right angle you could still see parts of the old stairs and concrete porch floor through the access opening in the old basement.
There it was again, a smooth movement, fluid almost, dark in color yet with a lighter stripe. It’s length approximately 18 inches. I could see it clearly now, it was a snake. I watched it, unable to do anything else. I wondered and questioned whether it was real. I shook the fuzziness out of my mind and I keep glancing at it. Yep, it’s still there, I said to myself as I confirmed its presence again and again, my foggy mind reeling.
When the kids returned, they were surprised to see me still sitting in the chair in the living room. Well I said I had to keep an eye on something, “Come here, will ya?” I said calmly as I watched them come into the living room. Then I looked back at my carefully watched snake, it wasn’t there. I explained to Gus and Heather what I had seen. Raised eyebrows and titled heads were their first response. My son inhaled slowly and deeply, “Ma, how many pain killers did you take today? His concerned look and his new parenthood style, made me sit back. Now isn’t this something, I thought. Then I stated, “I know what you’re thinking, and yes, they do make me loopy, but I take them only as directed.” I folded my arms under my chest to further emphasis my point. He walked away, shaking his head in disbelief, not so unlike his father.
They went into the kitchen and began playing Yahtzee. It was nice to just hear their banter and jeering, it felt warm and normal. For a minute I almost forgot about my new job as lookout. I must keep an eye out for the snake; I was of course holding the position of self-appointed scout. It didn’t take long, he came back and this time he ventured out from under the radiator cover. As I called out to the kids that they might want to come into the living room, I heard their almost unison exhalation.
With my head held as high as I could without giving myself more pain, I pointed to the gardener snake that had been doubted. Their exclamations were music to my ears, better than anything that could have been downloaded. My son took the snake out of the house and into the woods. It was a bit of a scramble, of who’s going to get the door, no, wait, ok, go past me, watch out, be careful, don’t get near the snake, ok now go get the back door, all the commotion that an unwelcomed guest can bring. But in the end all was well, and I returned again to be the parent, well at least for the time being.
This life experience was somewhat grungy in nature and as I look back now with some more clarity, I see even more clearly the connection between my grunge fabric and my life. Moda produces well over 200 colors of grunge fabric allowing a great variety which will enhance any form of textile art. My life has produced well over 200 life experiences to choose from, to write about and ponder. They are all filled with a variety of textures, the process uniquely mine. Perhaps they are blending, helping and challenging me to fully live out and live into this one glorious human life.
Rebecca Long Manoogian is a retired nursery school teacher and former camp director. Rebecca enjoys spiritual education, contemplation and discovering new ways to be creative. A certified Zentangle teacher and Spiritual Director, she enjoys creating textile art and is an avid quilter. Inspiring others to discover their own unique creativity is what energizes and draws her to both Spiritual Direction and Zentangle. Nature is her inspiration and she enjoys unearthing new ways of expressing what draws her closer to the Divine. She is currently pursuing her passion for spirituality, nature, writing and various forms of art.