Tuesday morning saw me headed south on I-39. Destination: Glen Carbon, Illinois. My car was loaded with completed wool applique projects, patterns and kits for many of the same, and other wool applique designer paraphernalia.
I was scheduled to deliver a presentation at the TNT Quilt Guild Monthly Meeting at 7:00 that evening. I’d never delivered a formal presentation in my life, not in all six decades of it. I’d expected that by now, by the time I was actually on my way, I’d be a nervous wreck. But I wasn’t, so I set about to enjoy the drive. Maybe nervousness would kick in later.
The Illinois section of I-39 boasts a terrific view of prairie flatness, once you get south of Rockford. The vanishing point of the road in front of you is as low to the ground as it can be, which makes the great majority of your view sky. And of course, that’s what the prairie is. Sky.
The prairie would seem to have very little to offer the sight-seer, especially when barreling along at 75 mph. Just something to get through, to be put behind, on the way to somewhere else.
The prairie requires effort to be seen. I’ve never understood my attraction to it, but maybe that’s what it is … part of what it is, anyway. Maybe it’s because it refuses to dazzle you, the way mountain grandeur does … refuses to throw itself at you, like the ocean waves against shoreline rocks. Rather, it insists that if you want to see it, if you want to know it, you will have to make the first move, and a move of deliberation, at that.
It struck me that maybe this was why, as the date for my presentation had grown nearer in the past weeks, I’d found myself increasingly committed to a conviction that I would never agree to do such a thing again. A presentation positively requires that one throw oneself out there, that one attempt to dazzle the audience with the wondrous results of one’s own efforts. I smiled to myself as I drove along … nothing could be further from who I am.
“Well, you did agree to it, so, make this as wondrous as you can.”
I think I was still somewhere north of Bloomington/Normal when these considerations meandered through my mind.
By the time I was rolling north through the same area, some thirty-or-so hours later, and the presentation and workshop were behind me, I had a lot to reflect on. First and foremost, I was still very much struck with the group of ladies among whom I’d spent some ten or eleven of those past thirty hours. The presentation on Tuesday evening had me in front of nearly 50 of them … a much larger group than I’d anticipated, and there I was, for the first time in my life, with a microphone in my hand. Oh, dear.
I’d been very worried that I wouldn’t find enough to talk about to last even a half hour, but by the time I finally quit babbling, a whole hour had gone by.
“How did that happen?” I wondered. And I’d really not felt very nervous. Hmm.
Later, alone again in my hotel room after the presentation, I’d realized it wasn’t that I had gotten myself through it, but rather the group of women I’d stood in front of who’d gotten me through it. Their friendliness and congeniality, their helpfulness … their kindness and smiles … no one gushed, no one dazzled. With much inward satisfaction, I realized I had been among a group of women who see no need for pretension.
In fact, many had sat stitching away on their own projects as they listened, and that, surely, set me at ease as much as anything. But there was yet something more in the room. There was a camaraderie among them that went deeper than the bond of their love of quilting. Quilting was the easy-to-pinpoint connection of commonality … but I wondered if there was something maybe not quite so palpable that drew them together, as well. I still wonder. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Spring had made greater inroads in Glen Carbon than it has in Woodstock, and I drank in the quietly emerging colors of the wild plums, red buds, and forsythia as I drove through town the next morning on my way to finding the library, where the workshop was to be held. Greenness was pushing up through the deadness of last year’s grass. There was a whisper of it in the trees, as well.
Once inside, I was again met with the unfeigned graciousness of the (now much smaller) group who had signed up for the class. I relaxed … and wound up very much enjoying my day. In fact, when I left later that afternoon, I felt a little guilty. It occurred to me that I’d spent a little too much time enjoying and not enough time actually teaching. This reaffirmed my determination to not accept any more requests to lecture and do workshops in the future. I had been most fortunate this one time, thanks to the ladies of the Threads Needles and Ties Quilt Guild in Glen Carbon, Illinois.
With all my heart, ladies … thank you.