Classes · My Book · On Writing · Writing Life

Sew Songs

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art

I haven’t written about my new collection of poetry (launching Spring 2021! Weeeeee!) in quite some time. It’s not because I haven’t been working on it. Oh no, we’re still working on it. The editing process is going calmly and patiently which is very important to me because the writing process was (and still is for new pieces) difficult – at best.

When I read the above quote, it struck the heart chords that have blared with symphonies of fear over the last year and a half since the book began to take form. How do you write about one of humanity’s hardest realities – death – and the fear of loss attached to it? This is one of the themes I tackle in the collection. Fear of losing my beautiful Nonna. Fear of losing a huge part of myself in her going…Fear of the ability to exist…to breathe without her.

She is alive and as healthy as her aged body and dementia-flowered mind allows her to be. She still knows who I am…who her children are…and that makes such an immense difference in all of our lives. Fear was and is in my heart when I write about her, about us. But as Pressfield writes: fear tells us what we have to do. I have to write about her. I have to write about she and I. I have to be the voice of her legacy…give it shape in words on pages in a book. The more afraid I am of her dying, the stronger I feel…the more confident I feel about creating this book for her, for us.

She knows I’m writing a book about her…about her life and legacy…about my love for her and how she taught me how to love…when I remind her that I’m writing it. Her face lights up with intrigue and shyness. But her face lit up in a bigger way yesterday when I stopped by for a quick visit and to tell her that I was taking a sewing class. Because I also must learn how to sew.

Oh, it was like a hidden light found its switch and flicked itself on high. My Nonna started sewing when she was 11-years-old in a small room in a small building in a small town in northern Italy. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to witness her sewing, to wear clothing she made from thoughts in her mind, to hand-sew and mend with her, and to see her teaching Miller how to thread a needle and sew by hand. These are gifts that will live in my heart and hands forever. But I’ve been wanting to learn more. To really challenge myself to learn how to sew.

And sew (!), I signed up for a two-night, intensive introduction to sewing class at Fusion Fibre Arts in the SHO building in Walkerville. It started last night.

This is the machine I’m using. She sings, oh yes, she does.

One of our first jobs was to sew onto paper. It was a cool experience. I tried to sew the word ‘love’ onto the paper. I’m super interested in using sewing to write things…

I have to tell you that my mind kept getting continually blown. As I learned what all the parts of the machine do, how to thread a bobbin, then thread the actual needle (I didn’t know there were two places where the thread came out!), and finally, ever so gently push my foot down on the motor peddle…I immediately felt a deep heat of love for my Nonna. Sewing is not easy! Not that I really thought of it that way, but she was always so pure and simple about it. The machine, the thread, the needles, the thimbles…the ironing board (another necessary part of the sewing world!) – all of these things were like extra body parts that were extending out of her body, her face…like joy or an outside soul.

The sound of five sewing machines purring in one room nearly moved me to tears. All those years of hearing the songs of Nonna’s Singer came flooding back.

I will bring my machine to her house and get the singing going again.

One thought on “Sew Songs

  1. Even though I appreciate your work, imagination and all that goes with your writing process’ I’m not a big poetry fan but I need a copy of this book when it comes out.
    Give Nonna a huge hug for me please ! Love you, LS

    ________________________________
    From: VANESSA SHIELDS, writer
    Sent: February 4, 2020 11:02 AM
    To: pieshields@hotmail.com
    Subject: [New post] Sew Songs

    Vanessa Shields posted: “”Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it”
    Respond to this post by replying above this line
    New post on VANESSA SHIELDS, writer
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    Sew Songs
    by Vanessa Shields

    “Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art

    I haven’t written about my new collection of poetry (launching Spring 2021! Weeeeee!) in quite some time. It’s not because I haven’t been working on it. Oh no, we’re still working on it. The editing process is going calmly and patiently which is very important to me because the writing process was (and still is for new pieces) difficult – at best.

    When I read the above quote, it struck the heart chords that have blared with symphonies of fear over the last year and a half since the book began to take form. How do you write about one of humanity’s hardest realities – death – and the fear of loss attached to it? This is one of the themes I tackle in the collection. Fear of losing my beautiful Nonna. Fear of losing a huge part of myself in her going…Fear of the ability to exist…to breathe without her.

    She is alive and as healthy as her aged body and dementia-flowered mind allows her to be. She still knows who I am…who her children are…and th

    Like

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