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Hopping through life

I spent all day Saturday hopping with my good friend…to quilt shops. Each summer various quilt shops in Western Washington host the five-day, Shop Hop event.

As we drove (200 miles out and home again), I kept thinking how our adventure was like a metaphor for life.

We started out with a plan, a route and enthusiasm. We stopped first in familiar territory – our local shop – where I made a panic purchase. “What? This fabric is almost gone and you don’t expect to get more?” I bought the rest $$$.  I felt like a customer at George Bailey’s Savings and Loan. What if I can’t get what I need for my plan? Will this be enough? Am I enough? 

We drove on.  We followed a map and reached our destination. We ducked into a shop that was a wonderful surprise! Low prices, great fabric, bright lights and great people. Even if your plan flops, the universe offers more.

The weather was stormy and sunny and unpredictable and truck tires kicked up gallons of road water onto our windshield: Sometimes the journey is blurry and still, we persevere.

Our map got us places, but some places - after driving and driving – were a disappointment. “This whole store looks like the inside of a (very brown) coffin!”  We left. Sometimes when you know the decision does not fit – you end the relationship and move on.

 MapQuest failed and the two of us (both extremely geographically challenged!) had no clue where we were. “There’s Starbucks. Young, smart adults work there. Let’s stop, get a cold drink and ask for directions!” But when we pulled in, the building was under construction, not yet open. Sometimes, when you need help, you go to a familiar place, only to discover emptiness, or someone unable to give you what you need. Try another source, perhaps one you would not have consulted before.

 At the Visitors’ Center (such an obvious choice) a kind woman instructed us and as we got back in the car, I muttered, “This is a leap of faith. Drive next to the bridge – what, into the water?”  I told my friend, “When we find this shop, there will be incredible fabric, warm cookies and friendly, helpful people!”  We moved on, the guide’s directions were perfect. And it was the only shop that served cookies. …After the struggle, appropriate help arrives and you are nourished.

Quilting offers a chance to take remnants, pieces and create something new and beautiful, just like the pieces of our lives that we may want to discard or hide or ignore, but somewhere, they may actually fit.

When I was undergoing cancer treatment, a colleague – only a few years after her own cancer – made a lovely pillow for me. The quilted top has little scraps of colorful, triangle-shaped fabric. The pattern is called “Broken Dishes”  and on the back she wrote “in honor of Catherine Johnston.”

My cancer journey created a lot of broken pieces, but some of those pieces have helped other people and created new patterns in my life.

Patterns that just may help another friend, as she begins her cancer treatment this week.  

(S-R archives photo: Girl Scout Troop 3014 made a quilt for the North Idaho Violence Prevention Center in Coeur d’Alene.)

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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