I. Mandela, Mandala
I shed a few tears when I came home last night and heard that Nelson Mandela had died. He's one of those shining examples of human possibility:
it is possible to be good in bad circumstances;
it's not inevitable that we explode in violence and drown in hatred.
I spent a lot of last week cutting up old Christmas annuals to collage on cards (above). They're based on a hand-stitched star quilt––sort of a mandala––from my Missouri grandmother.
The quilt had been at the bottom of a drawer for years until the other week when Marz found it and draped it on the back of the couch. Then she worked out its repeating star pattern on paper, and I realized that a simplified version would make good Christmas cards. Sometimes it takes another set of eyes to see something overly familiar.
I spent many, many hours cutting and pasting, and only managed to make 35 cards. Everyone else on my list gets sparkly cards from the store. I love sparkles, so that's not a bad thing.
II. Thrift Star
In the past few weeks, I'd gotten a little down, waiting for a possible writing project (not even guaranteed), spending too much time alone (but not really wanting to socialize), and working on water-colors about me and my mother (which surprised me with its kickback, though it shouldn't have).
So when I saw a volunteer application at my favorite oddball thrift store last week, I immediately submitted mine. Seemed a fun and easy way to be around my species, and even to be of service.
Yesterday I worked my first shift as a volunteer cashier there. I loved it, like a wilted plant getting a drink of water.
I got to chat with customers about stuff like our favorite Johnny Depp movies (his earliest are his best); eat little oranges and chocolates; and sit in the back holding a cloth to the gashed forehead of an elderly volunteer who fell against a filing cabinet, until the emergency people arrived.
My capacity for worship always flares around the 9-1-1 crew, and sure enough, they came striding in past the jumble waiting to be priced, knocking over a pair of x-country skis, each one a Xena the Warrior Princess clone. (Even the men, somehow.)
When they escorted to the ambulance the walking wounded volunteer, who luckily probably only needed a couple stitches, I called after them, "Thanks for your work! I love you!"
I'm imagine they're used to such adulation? I mean, these are the sort of humans who pose semi–stark naked for calendars to raise money for the Fire Department.
It was interesting to be on the other side of the shop.
It's just a little place; there's only the one outlet. I've loved rummaging there for 30-some years, and it turns out I'm not the only one who goes there because they feel a little low, a little too alone and aimless---it's the sort of place where you can be anonymous yet connected to humanity, and not even have to spend any money, unlike in a coffee shop.
Seems I'd only thought I was anonymous, though. The longtime volunteer who was training me in said I looked familiar, and he introduced me to a whole stream of regular shoppers by name.
The store is not one of the big, national thrift stores, it's an outreach program of a Methodist church here, though you wouldn't know it. I mean, there's nothing particularly religious-y about it, and the manager made sure I knew that most of the paid staff, including himself, and volunteers aren't even associated with the church.
I guess he wanted to distance the place from the Salvation Army and its judgmental ilk, who won't give donations to "immoral" charities. "My" store gives its profits to local places like the AIDS project and battered women's shelters.
It's just what I wanted: a place to comfort and be comforted in little ways. And the older I get, the more I think there are only little ways.