In the midst of all of my mental overload, the constant pleasure has been doing needlework for the past four weeks. I used to do a lot of cross stitch, lo these many years ago -- it was my stress relief during grad school -- but I haven't lifted a needle in almost a decade. But just about a month ago, it occurred to me that embarking on a cross stitch project might be a lovely thing to do during a busy summer. And it further occurred to me that I might do something Jewish-themed in this project.
And that is how I wound up taking on this beautiful project, pictured to the left. Susie Lubell is an American folk artist living and working in Israel, and this is a cross stitch pattern based on one of her prints. It's a huge project, and one that's bringing me so much joy to work on. Just this morning, I worked on it for at least a couple of hours, and the time just flew past. It almost feels like meditation.
Why did I stay away from cross stitch for so long? Maybe I needed a break from it, but knitting and crocheting have never brought me the happiness I'm feeling with this cross stitch project.
Plus, Younger Niece asked me to teach her how to do it during her visit -- made me so happy!
The other thing that D. and I taught her during the visit was basic ukulele, and at the end of the visit we lent her my uke to play at home, with the understanding that if she really enjoys playing and sticks with it, the various members of the family will pitch in to buy her a ukulele of her own for her birthday in November.
As delighted as I was to lend her my uke, it did mean that I was giving away (temporarily) an instrument that I hadn't played in two years but had enjoyed noodling around with during her visit. But I was happy to let it go, because in the meantime I'd decided to try my hand at mandolin. D. being the musician she is, she happens to have an electric mandolin that she's willing for me to play. So for the past three days, I've played mandolin!
And when I say "played," I mean tried chords for no more than five minutes at a time, because wow, steel strings hurt one's fingers! So I'm working on building up callouses while also learning the easiest chords.
I think I've needed these arts and crafts during this busy summer, and I'm bringing both my cross stitch and my mandolin (which is small and travels well) to the diversity conference this week. I anticipate that both will be welcome diversions during an intensive week.