Word of the Year: 2022

I never was much for Resolutions. Didn’t like the nature of them, or the tendency for them to push the social agenda on us to continue having unrealistic goals to pursue someone else’s “ideal” for our bodies, our lives, our energy, our pursuits. Nope. Not a “resolution” kind of gal.

However, there was a time when having a “Word of the Year” or a “theme” made a LOT OF SENSE in my life. I’d stumbled into a passionate, heart-consuming pursuit of dancing and made DANCE the word of 2012. The third time I picked a word, 2014, I selected CREATE which also really resonated all the time, and one might say has become a permanent part of my life’s posture.

The rest of the words selected along the way? Maybe they made sense, maybe they were already part of my make-up, maybe they’ve just been superficial sign posts in life that didn’t always work the way I’d hoped they would. The other theme words along the way included Focus (2013), Mastery / Color (2015), Habits (2016), Goals (2017), Practice (2018), Strengths (2019), Intentional (2020), and Present (2021). I look at those words and none of them really made a huge impact the way DANCE or CREATE did in all those years.

But then again, the world around me has intruded in ways I never could have seen coming.

Today marks 661 days since I was sent home from work at the first start of the quarantine, March 11, 2020. There was a brief stint in July 2021 when we were mandated back into the office, but then Delta surged and we were sent home again by the end of the month. I’d already gone home after only two weeks and told my boss I wasn’t returning yet.

And in these past 661 days, my world has almost exclusively consisted of “one bedroom, one studio, one dining room, one living room, one kitchen, two bathrooms, and two adults.” My Sweetie has been the primary leave-the-house human: Getting groceries, running errands, exercising by taking walks in the evening. I spent the first 17 of 21 months doing almost no movement at all: Sleep, sit at the computer, sit on the couch, sit at my crafts, rinse, repeat.

After 17 months, I finally noticed the not-so-healthy trend (can you blame me? survival in quarantine also meant zero understanding of time!) and so I got a fitness tracker and started “taking walks” in the house, working towards improved health at a nice, incremental pace.

Then Santa season came upon us and my walk-through-the-house routine was paused as I did administrative support for our home-business. I can proudly tell you that I’m pleased with how “the Santa months” went. The paperwork was all caught up on 31-Dec, the candy canes are sorted and put away, the dry cleaning has been sent out, and the house is not a disaster. In fact, we managed to keep up with the house demands regularly. It was never a complete disaster.

But overall, what’s been going on in the decade since my first theme word? While Dance was a huge part of 2010-2020, when I went on hiatus it seems that I set down dance for longer than I meant to. I’m still not sure if/when I might bring it back. But that was a great decade, so I have no regrets. I came away from it with an amazing set of experiences, memories, and some stellar close friends. It might not be part of my current life, but it fed me well for a full decade.

I went from 42-years-old when I found that dance passion to facing 2022 New Year’s at age 53. Coming into my 50s has been a time to clarify what matters to me. Less expanding to add things to my world, more contracting and concentrating and focusing on the pursuits that matter most.

It also meant shaking up my understanding of the world. I cannot just ignore the injustices in the world. I cannot “just leave politics out of things,” because honestly how we treat other humans is embedded in all of our history and all of our present (and by extension, all of our future). There’s a lot I still need to learn about what’s embedded in the assumptions in society and how I can push back against injustice, how to advocate for the under-served around me.

I’m not sure if that helps me find my “word of the year” or my “theme” but I know that I’m looking at the connections I make with individuals. So I suppose I’m looking at how I interact, what assumptions I can dismantle and fix in my own world views, how I can actively try to improve the world.

And as I do so, I’ll be spinning yarn, weaving, memorizing weaving knowledge that’s been entrusted to me from my indigenous friends in Peru, and trying my best to make human connections that improve the world.

Last year I stared down the barrel of 2021 and thought all I could do is be PRESENT.

I suppose this year I know what I want to do is make CONNECTIONS with people, to let them know that they matter to me.

You matter. My life is better because you are in it. 💖

You. Yes you. You matter to me. Thank you.

Personal Year in Review 2021

2021 was not much of a year to describe. We started with political insurrection during quarantine, here in the US. We ended still in quarantine. The first day of the year was Day #296 for me in quarantine, the last day of the year is now Day #660. There was a short break in the middle, two weeks of July when I was required to be “back in the office” in person. And there were a few small trips here and there, along with the relief that was two vaccinations and one booster.

But it’s still not over.

So what do I have to look back on?

One thing I do regularly is sort my photos at the end of each month so that I can watch my artistic progress. It’s hard to remember sometimes what happened or what I accomplished, without that tangible record to enjoy.

I posted some individual highlight photos over on Facebook in Cayswann Crafts.

highlights posted on Cayswann Crafts (Facebook)

I made seven albums of just concentrated homework photos, shared with my weaving and spinning mentor.

Then a few albums focused on the classes or events over at Franquemont University (online courses and international textiles community).

There were other crafty albums from virtual events or personal pursuits or artistic distractions or ongoing homework or stash building or class preparations or skill development.

And then there were just a few special times with friends and family.

I took the time to highlight ALL MY PHOTOS in 2021, minus photos from other people for events and some obvious memes and administrative images, just to get an automated count for how many photos I took. There were 2100 images or videos to document my year. Two thousand, one hundred images. At one point I actually declared out loud, “That was THIS YEAR!??! How was THAT from THIS YEAR?!?!” (A shipment that left Peru in December 2018 arrived in April 2021. I did NOT realize that was THIS year.)

Although I often say that I “no longer know how to TIME,” when I look through my photo albums, apparently I do know how to capture memories.

While the past 660 days have been pretty horrible, my year has had a few bright spots. I am so thankful for my closest family and friends, my employment, my home, my crafty pursuits, my online friends, and my ability to feel so thankful in such a time.

Ways to Study and Learn

On twitter a friend asked, “how have you been learning your Quechua weaving methods? Regular online lessons? Traveling to workshops? It’s something I want to do in the future.

The photo that prompted the question

Start with a Master Teacher

What’s the best way to learn from a Master Teacher? Take every course offered, regardless the topic. No seriously. It didn’t matter if Abby Franquemont was teaching weaving, spinning, or fiber prep, or just giving lectures about textiles and culture–it all fed into my interests for more information.

Let’s start with the three-day weaving intensives offered by Abby Franquemont for the past several years. First, I went to Ply Away in 2017 *because* she was offering an intensive on Andean Backstrap Weaving. She was already my “spinning hero” for her book, Respect the Spindle. Any weaving she wanted to teach? I was in for the ride and I had no idea what I was really signing up for.

After the regular intensive in 2017, she offered two more titles in 2018: A one-day version and a two-day intermediate course. Unfortunately there were some folx who didn’t respect the pre-requisites and so some of the students didn’t have as good an experience as I had. And I think that’s just a shame–the arrogance of closed-minded “I already know what I’m doing” could have soured several people, but I didn’t let it sour me.

Then when Abby wasn’t teaching at Ply Away in 2019, I wrote her to ask about her 2019 travelling and teaching schedule. That’s how I found out that I could head to Prince George, BC, Canada in June 2019. Then an opening for a slot came available for the same intensive in the Boston, MA area in August 2019, so I squeezed that one into my budget and calendar. Didn’t matter if I had to sleep on a floor and eat bizarre groceries, I was going to this event! (Fortunately I ended up cementing my weaving-best-friend out of the adventure, so that was a plus.)

Abby also launched her Patreon somewhere in those years, and as my interest in weaving increased, I invested in taking private lessons online. With Abby in Peru and me in the US, having a monthly check in and status report gave me some deadlines and structure for my self-study pursuits.

Support the Teachers Your Teacher Respects

When I showed up for the Intermediate level intensive, Abby handed us each a copy of Textile Traditions of Chinchero: A Living Heritage by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez. It’s one thing to take an introductory intensive course more than once. But where do you go next in your studies if you’re not embedded in the community and don’t have access to the primary sources? You find every book that has photos of the primary sources as well as rich narratives about all the textiles and cultural context. Not only have I been weaving my way through the examples in Textile Traditions of Chinchero: A Living Heritage (sometimes I label a specific band as from a specific page in that book), but I’m constantly reading and studying any book by Nilda.

These are not your typical “how-to” books with every single step spelled out for you, intending that you can learn just from the book. This weaving tradition comes from an experience of community and so you’re supposed to learn from your elders and weave in the courtyard with everyone else, developing your learning skills and your ability to do trial-and-error, hands-on with strings in your fingers.

Oh, and I hadn’t yet mentioned: You would typically be taught to spin first, as a very young child, before weaving. Because where else are you going to get a stash of yarn ready to weave if you haven’t been spinning it and contributing to the supplies of the community? Hmmm?

So in that vein, I also follow any and all information put out by CTTC in Peru: https://textilescusco.org – The Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco. If I’m not studying the communities and looking to the owners of this cultural wealth of knowledge, then I’m not honoring the cultural heritage that they are representing.

Memorizing the Content

This is a step that can be a stumbling block for quite a number of people. If you come from a literate society that no longer memorizes things, it’s hard to see the value in doing anything by rote anymore. That’s what we have Google for, right? IMDB? Calculators? YouTube?

Except that there’s something amazing about what happens in your learning process when you commit something to memory. You could perform a recitation of a story or a poem, paper in hand. But what if you memorized the whole thing and then got up on stage? You could read sheet music. But what happens when a Drum Corps takes the field with all their music memorized?

You could weave complicated material from a chart and stay glued to that chart. No one would know the difference looking at the finished work. But what if you started to learn to read the patterns in the strings, in the color, and then you wove? From memory?

This weaving style that I’m embedded in comes from thousands of years of community weaving and oral tradition. They could look at existing textiles or they could talk to one another, passing down the patterns. There is *not* a history of drawing up charts. So what if I tried to get to the point of weaving patterns from memory?

Do the Actual Work

The funniest thing was that I used to be slightly frustrated when Abby would ask me, “What happened when you tried weaving it?” for any of my weaving questions. Now I see how AWESOME that question is: Because tons of this learning HAS to be done in the hands, the body, and yarn.

In the stories Abby has told us, typically weaving instruction started with children as young as 5 years old. The first weaving is always the same pattern: They hand a properly warped band to the new weaving student, and everyone learns the same pattern when they start. They have many fundamentals to grasp first before they are taught to measure out a warp for a new band. And by the time you can measure warps and tie the various types of heddles, you have a responsibility to measure and prepare warps for new beginners. You have *chores* to do, to support your community.

That means part of my learning has to also come from creating and supporting new weavers. It’s part of my “teenager chores” to keep making warps for first-time weavers. It’s part of my weaving development to be there for encouraging weavers to go beyond the first lesson and try the second and third lesson. And when you’re lucky enough to have a blossoming advanced weaver trying to keep up with you personally, it means your own goals and boundaries get a great push from the camaraderie. Technically, I should have a weaving partner that I can warp with in person. And while geography and a pandemic have been keeping me apart from any student or any weaving partner, we still have found ways to connect online and spur one another on to better and more ambitious projects.

That means I just have to weave. Oh, and spin more yarn for my stash. Oh, and add twist to “student yarn” and measure warps and send them out to beginners. Oh, and address the issue of tools acquisition. I found some woodworkers who were able to recreate some of the shed sticks (kaulla) I needed, which then I made available to other weavers. I always have a tapestry needle (yauri) at the ready, and buying them in bulk means I can give one to every new weaver, too. I still need to acquire a few more tools for the more advanced work—there’s a llama bone beater (ruki) I really lust for, as well as my need for a serviceable pickup stick (tukuna). And since I cannot stake things in the ground and weave outside in the courtyard, I’ve had to create reasonable equivalents for sitting indoors on a couch and not completely blocking my Sweetie’s view of the TV. (Amazing what you can do with a luggage cart handle and a heavy Sparkletts bottle filled with over 50 lbs of loose coins.)

The TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) summary answer to the original question “how do you study?” boils down to, “In-person, online, with books for resources, and with online connections with a large community as well as a specific teacher.”

So What’s Next?

Who wants a starter warp and some time learning about Tanka Ch’oro, the pattern every weaver memorizes first? Drop me a note.

Where is all starts: Tanka Ch’oro – the foundational pattern

Word of the Year: 2021

It’s funny how many different posts on social media I am tagged in nowadays when it comes to the last week of December and the first week of January. In 2012, I decided that I had a “theme word” for the year rather than a New Year’s Resolution. I’d found a community of dancers and a dance style that truly resonated with me, in June 2010, and I dove in head-first, specifically with the intention to learn and then teach this style. 2012 was deep in the full pursuit of this challenge, and so the theme word DANCE made tons of sense. I was still doing other pursuits, spinning and weaving, volunteering and organizing, traveling even! but as a theme word, that’s where it all started.

Some years, when I chose a theme word, I really pursued it most of the year. Some years, I barely even remembered the theme word as the year got under way. But the process of stopping to think about things has been a process I’ve enjoyed now each year.

Last year, none of us had any idea what was in store for us. I selected the theme word INTENTIONAL as a means to say what I would pursue would be what I *intended* to pursue, not just based out of habit or declining obligations. Of course, as of today, I’m still under work-from-home pandemic quarantine. Today is day number 296 for me, since I was sent home from work. This week, our CEO announced that the two US offices (in CA and in NY) are back under mandatory work-from-home through the end of February (all previous optional come-in-to-the-office has been rescinded). I don’t miss the commute, but it wasn’t originally my intention to remain mostly locked indoors.

Which brings me all to this year. What theme word resonates with me today?

PRESENT

I feel a little bit like a Dickens ghost, the Ghost of Being Present. In the Muppet version of the story, the Ghost of Christmas Present cannot even remember having introduced himself to Michael Caine’s Scrooge, he’s so embedded in the present. There are days when I *only* know what day it is because I keep a large calendar widget on display in my laptop desktop. I have to look up what day it is, what hour it is, heck what month it is, sometimes.

But also, thinking about going forward, I refuse to make long-term plans right now. Until there is mass vaccination throughout our town, county, state, country — there’s no point in making plans to travel and gather. I cannot risk getting infected and being either asymptomatic and spreading the disease or being symptomatic and risking hospitalization or death. Our hospitals are nearly out of oxygen. There’s 8-18 hour waits, outdoors or in your car, until you can be seen (that, or drive two hours to a different hospital two counties away). So I can only live in the present when making plans for “what do I want to do next?”

But living in the Present is also just a healthy approach, too. I want to be present and in the moment with my Sweetie, the only other human I see every day. I want to be thoughtful about my interactions online, over text, or over video. I want to be aware of my surroundings, right now, and be involved in what can be done here, now, in this moment.

Because that’s all I have.

I live right here in this moment, in the PRESENT, and why not take advantage of this opportunity?

Here’s to living in the PRESENT and making the most of it

The Words-of-the-Years List

Word of the Year: 2020

Right before New Year’s, I was pondering words and phrases like “TAKE RISKS” or “STUDY” or even “DECLUTTER,” but these weren’t quite right for my own theme for 2020. As my friends do, several jumped into the discussion to make suggestions or share their word of the year. A few observed that my thoughts sounded like “simplify” or “align” or “nourish,” all of which are very worthy themes indeed.

But since Wednesday, I just keep coming back around to the same word:

INTENTIONAL

The more I settle into the new normal for my age and interests and abilities right now, I am being more carefully INTENTIONAL about how I spend my time and energy. For example, sometimes habit kept me teaching. And while I adore my students and I really loved sharing dance knowledge, it was getting obvious I needed a new training and treatment regimen. I’ve had knee troubles and lately low back pain, and it just didn’t get any better by ignoring it. (Duh.) So I’ve put my dance teaching on hold, a very intentional hiatus, for the express purpose of training my body back into a more healthy state.

My time spent in particular hobbies has changed drastically. Some of my choices have been intentional changes to remove myself from environments that have some problematic community trends. There are times when it’s no longer my calling to fix everything that’s broken in some spaces. And that’s okay. I have no regrets for the years I spent in some activities, and I have grand friendships from the experience. But I don’t have to attend every event to still show love and affection for friends I value. Instead, I can choose intentional interactions with these friends.

My own artistic pursuits are somewhat broader and somewhat more narrow than ever before. And that’s okay. I’m perfectly happy being very intentional about what arts I spend time on now. And this also means that I’m looking for ways to gift some supplies to others who will be more likely to use them in the pursuits I’m no longer chasing. It’s a time to send the treasures to other homes, where they’ll be used immediately.

The past several years, my immediate family at home and I have been watching specific TV shows together in order to grapple with the state of the world and our nation. As we dig into these discussions, I’ve found there are some topics around which I want to intentionally engage with the world. Likewise, I have to choose the audiences with whom I will engage. I’ve intentionally walked away from some interactions because I’ve lost hope that some minds will change. And that’s okay. Not every fight is my fight. But the fights that I want to be intentional about? Those I refuse to be silent out of laziness or silenced out of fear or other pressures.

And there’s just the time spent with family. Rather than allow time to just disappear, I want to embrace intentional time with those I love and that I am closest to.

Intentional. These are the things I *mean* to do. Yes.

The Words-of-the-Years List

Fire Hair: Intentional Use of Color