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Teetering on Summer

The current quilt is nearly done.  Last week four women sewed on it while others prepared for the rummage sale that happens on May 19th.  The week following that we convert the space we quilted in all winter back into the museum that it will be during the summer.  From Memorial Day until Labor Day, people can tour the buildings at the Historical Village – the old church, the school house, the first cabin and the various other ones.  The lawn’s rich greenness will beckon children to roll around and young people to sit and talk about life.  Families will gather at the picnic tables and tIMG_0953he cyclists camping in Riverside Park will come over to walk around the grounds.

Yes, this time of year is a clear reminder of why we quilt. To raise funds to keep these buildings and the grounds in good condition so they can be enjoyed and so that locals as well as tourists can learn about the history of our valley.  During the winter it sometimes feels we quilt for our own pleasure as its such a treat to sit around the quilting frame talking quietly with the other women, laughing over Bev’s jokes or smiling when Bonnie arrives with her banana bread.  We are there together on Fridays because it is the ideal place to be for those of us who show up.  But now in late spring when we transition the place we quilt in back into the museum space, its a reminder.  We are quilting to maintain the buildings and the history.  The fact that we enjoy the quilting so much, is really just a perk.

Its finding a balance some of us look for in life.  Giving to make our community (however we define that) the best possible place and at the same time taking pleasure in what we do.  I see Scout leaders in our community give time to do projects and go camping with the boys.  Or the group of people who organize the weekly community soup night, finish up Tuesdays at 7:30pm exhausted.  But these individuals as well as the women quilting, also enjoy aspects of what they give.  The women savor Fridays’ quilting.  The Scout leaders appreciate their time in the forests hiking with the young people.  I watch the soup night volunteers smile at the families and older folks who come through to eat on Tuesdays.  It is giving in a way that also brings pleasure to those who give.  It isn’t drudgery although of course there might be touches.  The Scout leader finding enough other adults to go on camping trips; the soup night volunteers getting enough donations to cover the cost of ingredients.  And for the quilters, there are also harder moments.  How much will it cost to get the old library building painted this year?  Who will chink the first cabin? But in general, these individuals nurture our community and themselves at the same time.

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It is February after all

Despite the mounds of snow currently in the Tobacco Valley, img_0782we are inching towards spring.  Days are getting longer.  The sun, when it is out, seems warmer even when it is bouncing off the snow.  There is even that sense that below the snow, small green shoots are getting themselves ready.  Before you know it, in just a few months, we will see crocus coming up and the lilacs in the Historical Village will be putting out buds.

We are still working on the Hawaiian fabric quilt that Joan pieced.  Yes, it isn’t the easiest fabric to quilt and all the women are quick to point that out. At the same time, there are the bright colors and we are doing some lovely designs on it.  The border has leaves that remind us of February hearts.  At least that is what I think when I sit there appreciating the quilt and the quilters.  Lynda pointed out to a visitor last week that some women can quilt and talk, while other can only do one or the other – not both at the same time.  I am one of those who can quilt or talk.  Actually even listening to a good story or some interesting idea requires me to pause in my sewing.  Cathryn on the other hand can easily quilt, talk and listen, managing to do all three very well. I like to think it is a skill that comes with age.

Most of the quilters here are in their eighties.  A few are in the nineties and some others in their seventies, but eighties is our average.  This is probably one of the criteria that makes this group so special. All those accumulated years of experiences, wisdom, taking care of babies and family, work, travel, love and hard knocks…so many things that polish a life, creating that wonderful patina. And when the women are quilting together on these wintry mornings, there is a glow that comes from their conversations as well as their silences.

The visitor Lynda spoke with was encouraged to try quilting with us as she waited in the old school house for her car to be fixed.  She said holding a needle would probably give her hives and we laughed at that one. And then different women started telling how they began to hand quilt, the wheres and the whys.  All those threads that brought the group together here in Eureka, Montana, sitting around the quilting frame stitching hearts during a frosty February.

another fabulous dinner

The Dinner on the Lake was over the top fabulous this year. If you didn’t attend, I am sorry but perhaps you can grab a ticket for next year.  Cathy did a spectacular job with the food and I would be hard pressed to say which was my favorite course as they were all delicious.  The setting is always lovely thanks to Rick and Lynn opening their home. Elena and Ruth provided beautiful music on violin and harp. Dawn and Niko served so graciously that everyone who attended felt cared for. Tickets were sold out for the event which meant the Tobacco Valley Board of History made much needed funds to keep the Historical Village going for another year.  The weather and the bees cooperated.

Now as summer winds down, all the volunteers who help with the Historical Village including quilters, docents and the board will celebrate another successful season with a potluck on August 16.  I very much enjoy this event. It doesn’t have the haute cuisine of the Dinner on the Lake nor the lovely music, but the volunteers are a special group and it is a wonderful time to join them for hamburgers and pie, to talk about the summer and to look forward to quilting starting up again in the fall.

The women who gave their time to work the Dinner on the Lake along with all the other volunteers who attend the August potluck have one thing in common. None of them are spring chickens.  This is a concern as we look down the road and wonder who will continue maintaining the Historical Village, help with fundraising events, tell visitors about our valley. We know there are individuals out there who can find time for this. It might require doing a bit less social media or perhaps turning off the television, but you can give Lynda Young a call to say, “Yes I would like to help. What can I do?”  Thank you.

Thanks

It is official. We have stopped quilting for the summer as a group. Some of the women will imagework on quilts at home though. The other day I visited Cathryn and she nearly has the lovely orange one finished. Bev worked on the binding with Bonnie to compete the other one we had at the old school house. But now the schoolhouse has been decked out for summer visitors, looking like an old school inside rather than a place filled with quilting frames. Enjoying each other’s company though, we aren’t quite ready to stop meeting at least occasionally in the summer. Later in June all the quilters will gather for lunch and then a field trip to see the studio of a local sculptor.

The reality is that even when these women aren’t quilting on Fridays, they are actively giving to their community in other ways. Mary Louise and Bev volunteer as docents at the Historical Village. Lynda commandeers repairs in the Village during the summer –  the general store roof needs to be patched and the old caboose could use some fixing up.  Cathryn was out planting flowers in the town’s park Saturday with the  Weedettes. Judy is busy helping to arrange this year’s Quilt Show (August 6). Joan will help at the library’s book sale in August. It is understandable that not everyone has the time or energy to contribute to their community. But the amount these women give even in their eighties and nineties continually astounds me.  And humbles me.  They certainly set the bar high for what one can do to make a community a better place to live. Thanks. They really are terrific women.

We are on our way

Thank goodness for October. Today I went to quilting. There were nine of us there working on a quilt for Nikki. It is a top that her mother pieced many years ago and Nikki decided to have it finished. She stopped by today to have a look and take a few photos of the process. Cathryn wPicMonkey Collageas her usual diplomatic self and expressed how much we were enjoying the fabric (a very soft cotton) and didn’t mention our grumbling as it had been difficult to sew the border as a result of the color and the quilting pattern that had been chosen.  But we finished the border today and decided to set up a second quilt for next week.  Once we begin rolling the ends of the quilt in, it limits how many of us can sew on it at one time. The new one we set up is this sprightly yellow pattern that is going to make someone’s bedroom lovely.  The two quilts are so different in both their colors and their styles. It will be nice to have choices when we show up on Fridays.  Everyone was so enthused to be back sewing together that we decided to have a celebratory luncheon at a new place in Fortine the last Friday of October.

For me today was a reminder of time. Darla I(Nikki’s mom) pieced this quilt about thirty years ago.  Now Nikki is pregnant with her first child and here we are finishing it up so it can be used. This quilt will easily span three generations. Of course there are quilts that have been in families longer than that. I look around the old school house.  Many of the quilters here have grandchildren. Some even have great grandchildren. I wonder if the wisdom these women have is appreciated and passed down?  I’ve no doubt this quilt will be cherished for years to come.  I hope the wonder of these women is cherished as well.

yeah for Fall!!

It is official. Fall is here. Not perhaps according to the calendar but according to the rhythm of the Historical VIllage. We had a lovely indoor picnic (weather was threatening rain) on Wednesday to celebrate all the volunteers. The museum will close for the season this coming Monday. The blue quilt is finally done! Now we can start to prepare for the imagerummage sale in a few weeks. After that we will seriously get back into our schedule of quilting every Friday from 10:00 to 3:00. I for one am looking forward to it. I appreciate that time every week to spend in the Village.  I appreciate the time with the quilters.  I have even decided to cut back on my regular job so that I can have Fridays free. In life we need to make decisions about what is valuable. Yes, of course there are some things that need to be done regardless. I need to take time to wash dishes and pay the bills.  I try to get enough sleep and to exercise. But there are those other hours in the day, week, month, year which are more flexible.  Do I want to quilt on Friday or sit in front of a computer all day? Am I willing to tighten my budget so I can visit with these women a bit each week around the quilting frame?  And the answer – at least for me – is that I do want to spend time in the old school house listening to their stories and advice. I want to learn more about our valley’s history. I want to be able to answer at least some of the questions tourists stop by to ask.

Wrapping up summer

imageThat time of year again. Shakespeare in the Park happens this Tuesday (August 25). The county fair is the coming weekend.  Then the picnic for all the volunteers who helped with the Historical Village this summer takes place on September 2 with Lynda and Lewis grilling hamburgers for us all and lots of potluck salads and desserts. A group of us continue to meet on Friday mornings to finish the blue quilt. This past week a young Czech woman, Martina, was there to learn quilting techniques with us. Bev was very patient demonstrating how to sew through all three layers and make knots that don’t show.  Martina caught on quickly and the women agreed that she was a keeper. As she makes beaded jewelry, I guess it is not a surprise that she can take small neat stitches. But for me it not just the new quilting skills that were valuable for her but the exposure to these women. Talking about their life experiences, cracking jokes, giving each other advice – they are such great examples of how to age with grace. There isn’t any grumbling about pesky neighbors or inept politicians.  There wasn’t excessive complaining about aches and pains.  No one bemoaned inattentive children or the prices at the grocery store.  Rather than digging a hole of despair, they build joy. Often I wonder how good people can make a difference when there seems to be so many problems and sorrows to contend with in the world. This group of quilters has found a way. They support each other and set a standard for doing well and I’ve no doubt this impacts our community in a positive way. And although it would be hard to prove, I imagine this positive impact also reaches out beyond the Tobacco Valley as well. I am very glad Martina got to experience this for even one morning.