Monday, October 7, 2013

Getting it Wrong

I was on a long trek through the Iowa countryside to pick up B. when I listened to my first-ever smart-phone podcast, a free excerpt of a talk by Thich Nhat Hahn on "offering your presence." Afterwards, I was so exultant with the autumn beauty and my resolutions to be present for others that I missed my turn. That was okay, as I had time to spare, and I could laugh at myself. But...

On the way home I stopped at a small-town grocery for garlic. Must. Get. Garlic. Beer was also on the short list. Uh, oh, I thought. B's getting out of the car; she'll be asking me to buy her something. I dashed to the produce section but I couldn't find garlic--or a store employee. My indignation kicked into high gear. What culture doesn't consider garlic a staple? Answer: the culture B. grew up in; she won't eat anything but McDonalds. Where was the help, anyway? What kind of service was this?

I finally found the person who was clearly the manager, behind an adding machine in a small office near the front. He led me back to the produce section. "Oh!" He spoke with a smile. "Here's why you couldn't find the garlic. It was hiding behind this." He held up a purple plushy doll with wings. I took the garlic, but did not give that mass-marketed made-in-China object a second look.

I went straight to the cash register with the garlic. No one there to serve me. My inner voice was practically screaming, "I demand to be served!" I stopped in the office again, where the manager was back at his calculations. "Can someone check me out?" I asked, impatiently.

"There is someone; she's in the beer cooler."

"Oh yeah! Beer was on my list." Another opportunity to get it right, calm down and laugh at myself. I didn't, as B. had found her way to the self-care products aisle. (Like many a 13-year-old, she loves the products, but generally fails to apply them). Several gruff exchanges ensued, about how I was not going to spend the rest of the afternoon in that store, and I finally escaped with just a cheap stick of fake-scented deodorant.

Back on the road, it didn't take long to realize how I'd had all those opportunities to get it right, but hadn't. I could have noticed the purple plushy doll on the shelf, and how it was out of place. I might have smiled at its cuteness, or how it was the "keeper" of the garlic. Instead, I got it wrong--less than an hour after I had vowed to "offer my presence". I had loved the "product" (available at, but had not applied it. Instead of cultivating peace and joy, I had bombarded the place with recrimination and anger.

In the sphere of sewing, the weekend was much of the same. I was wondering whether I'd gotten it wrong when I made this Double-X block:

I was a little surer when I put two blocks together,

Or put together a field of them. Just not working. Way too busy!

But I liked the core idea of using a print as the background fabric. So I made this Double-X block with a background print that was a little less demanding:

Now, look carefully at the block above. Do you see any place for the block on the left (below)? Do you see any place for the block on the right? Yet, lo and behold, no matter how many of these subunits I made, the ones on the right kept showing up.

How do I keep getting it wrong? I guess I get bored, and start thinking of something else.. 

It's interesting that both Buddhism and Christianity have forgiveness as a central message. Alas, human nature gives us plenty of opportunities to apply that message.

Maybe that's why it felt like a miracle when I actually, by accident, got something right:


  1. ooo - pretty with the florals as the background. I like the one super-colorful one. The darker green and the red blocks do kinda get lost in it, but the others look good, especially the solid! (I had to chuckle at the store tale). ;D

  2. Solids do work best. I'm still working on this idea. I think such a large-scale floral needs bigger patches to work. Thanks for checking in!