On Balance

This week I picked up my embroidery again. I had stopped working on it around the same time I stopped working on my old cross stitch project. But a couple weeks ago I revived my cross stitch practice simply by switching to a different project, and this week I found the need for an embroidery project to balance it out. I like working on more than one thing. The two together, my cross stitch and my embroidery allow me to stitch in different moods and circumstances. When I feel done with one, I’m often ready for the other. They are related, of course. They both give me the pleasure of working with my hands, the hiss of thread through fabric, the calm that descends upon me. But there are slight differences. Cross stitch is all a geometry of squares, which I prefer to work on using my Lowery stand. Cross stitch is structure. Embroidery I work by holding the hoop in my hand, and each stitch lands in a slightly different place with few truly straight lines in the design. Embroidery is freeform. My current cross stitch fabric is an even weave imported from Greece which smells pleasantly of hay. The cloth of my embroidery is a tighter weave and so the thread pulling through it resists a bit more, hisses a bit louder. These small differences matter to me. They allow me to keep working. I guess I like the variety.

I do something similar with writing. I write both essays and poems, and historically it has worked well for me to switch from one to the other. If I was stuck on an essay, I’d work on a poem, and vice versa. I even took my book of poetry, removed all the line breaks, fleshed out a few spots, and turned it into a series of three essays, one of which was published in The Hunger as The Pure Blue Burn. Similarly, there have been essays that turned into poetry. Lately though, for some years, I’ve been more focused on my nonfiction. I have a manuscript I’ve been working on about being a parent with bipolar disorder and I’ve really wanted to have it done, so much so that I’ve let poetry fall more by the wayside. So I find it funny, or perhaps just telling, that I’ve taken myself out of my latest writing break by participating in the poem-a-day challenge for April. I haven’t managed a poem every single day. I did the first two weeks without missing one, but then have missed some days in the third week. But I’m not beating myself up about it. I’m simply opening up a new file on a new day and writing yet another poem. Most are simply play, and I doubt I’ll come back to them. But a couple I intend to revise, try to shape them into something, and then I’ll likely share them with my writing group. I’m glad to be writing poetry again. Going forward, I’m going to try to remember that for me, writing nonfiction and poetry balance each other. Each has its different pull.

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