intentional living

RIPPING BACK FOR A SPIRITUAL SPRINGTIME

 
child's bedroom mantle rainbow and guardian angel by samantha spigos
child holds onto mother's sweater by samantha spigos

The hat I wrote about in my previous post on creative restoration is finished, and I do love what it signifies (read: taking a respite to tend to myself). Just as quickly as I wrote that post, I cast-on a hat for the littlest among us, who has a formidable head and has been without a proper hat the whole winter long. The hat caused me some strife right from the beginning, but I slogged through and tried to make do, pushing aside the voice in my head saying, this isn’t right; you need to start over. I pridefully ignored, the way we do. A furrowed brow and a most unpleasing sea of stitches later, I was reduced to a Complaining Knitter with a hat that hardly resembled the pattern.

I ripped back the hat to the beginning. I am starting over. On one hand it really feels like I wasted time and energy forcing my way through something I knew was not working. On the other, I am poised to begin again, this time with a more thoughtful approach. And while the story of the baby’s hat is true, it’s a metaphor. But I suspect you’ve gathered as much. How often do we hear that voice gently but persistently saying, this isn’t right; you need to start over. How often do we hear but ignore it?

wool yarn and a tea kettle on a windowsill by samantha spigos
vintage antique angel doll and beeswax candles by samantha spigos

We hear it in the midst of creative pursuits, but also in the words we use with our children and partners when we are particularly short on sleep. We hear it when we are thick in social media addiction, scrolling ad infinitum. We hear it when we lambast the world and all the wrongdoers in it until it is us who have turned bitter, hateful. We hear it after we have ignored the physical and emotional needs of our bodies. This isn’t right; you need to start over. Is not this voice a call to cast aside stubbornness and welcome humility? But, ah, that first part — casting aside stubbornness. It’s terrible! Becoming little and quiet so we might listen and experience renewal of spirit . . . is no easy feat. On the part of my personal story, it is much more than Rosemary’s hat that needs to be ripped back and laid bare. It’s my heart. As I crave (oh, how I crave!) for the soil to thaw and the Earth to come to life again, so too do I crave a spiritual springtime. The good news is I know the time is now. Out my window I hear the birdsong of the mourning dove and the chipping sparrow.

In the practice of my faith, tomorrow initiates Lent. Lent culminates in Easter—the truest spiritual springtime. But first we are invited to put in the work of stripping away and laying bare what must go, that we might see and feel the Very Best flowing through us. Whether it is the learned habit of Lent (it always arrives in the hardest part of winter), or the compounding of life’s funny way, I feel deeply eager to strip away the mud in my head and lean into something other than my own thoughts. Even if you are not recognizing Lent, and many of you are not, I am curious to know if you too are feeling a stirring in your heart for restoration? For a springtime, externally and internally? I would be honored to hear how you’re planning to enter in, wherever you might be.


—S

ON CREATIVITY | EARL GREY + PINK STITCHES

 
ceramic bunny tea cup kata golda by samantha spigos

I am a gift knitter. Any knitting skill I possess is something I consider an offering to others. This is less about self-sacrifice and generosity and more about motivation. I am motivated to be-woolen my loved ones, and sometimes their loved ones, and that desire keeps me knitting. Coupled with Mark’s and my economic life being stringently tight every month, I experience major guilt over the notion of purchasing or using yarn for myself. This is a little silly, as I’ve gone three winters without a hat or mittens of my own making. Wait, is this what it means to be a mom? At the onset of this year, I burnt out on knitting — even for my own child, who is generally my ever-flowing spring of inspiration. I managed to cast on a few things, but if the single child’s pant leg taunting me from the other room is any indication, they were not seen through. Surely a stuffed penguin was the answer after the joy I felt sewing Rosie’s bunny (who has since been named Posie), but in the end each attempt fell by the wayside and I spent too much time on my phone. Surely you can relate.

At the root of this creative slump were two factors: I wanted to knit with vibrant color but did not own any, and I wanted to knit something for myself. After prodding my sister over how to get over these feelings and rise out of the slump, she rationally replied that I should buy some colorful yarn and knit myself something. A novel idea if there was one.

mondim yarn fingering weight hat knitting by samantha spigos

I probably first imagined the moral of this story to be something like, “avoid rewarding the notion that life will get better if you spend money, and use my knitting piety as an example,” but the reality is that investing in myself was a very healthy decision. This is what the internet calls self-care. Knitting, it turns out, is more than an avenue for gifting woolens to loved ones. Methodical and centering, it is a practice that not only takes me out of the wildness of the world, but it also connects me to sheep who worked hard to grow the wool that I wind and throw between my fingers. For living in town and possessing no more than 1/4 acre backyard, it is remarkable that I can interact with specific breeds of sheep daily. Putting a small sum towards this practice reinvigorated my creative spirit. As for the color itself, staring at saturated pigment during a wet, icy, gray winter has been a truly effective way to offset the lowness I have been experiencing. Slump conquered.

And one other thing. Are you a tea drinker? Always good for a cup of tea but never particularly jazzed about it, my love language was, until recently, coffee. A good ten years with a decidedly unhealthy coffee addiction, I became foreign to myself when, after pregnancy, my body could nary tolerate the caffeine or acid. I made the switch to black tea (with one blessed cup of decaf to start the day) and feel just about ready to identify as a Tea Drinker. Do you have a tea you love? A blend you make yourself? A story about a particularly good cup of tea or coffee (or Diet Coke; I’m looking at you, mom)? I would genuinely love to hear from you in the comments. Talking about food and drink experiences ranks in my top ten list of ideal topics.

black tea ceramic tea cup lilac teapot by samantha spigos

P.S. The yarn is Retrosaria Mondim in colorway 205, and the tea is Lord Bergamot with heavy cream. Both enchanting.


—S

THE CHRISTMAS TREE CHOP, SANTA LUCIA, AND LITTLE DREAMS

 
Christmas Tree Chop Tiny Tree by Samantha Spigos

The tiniest tree we’ve had yet. Technically only part of a tree; a glorified branch, really. We found it among the lowly pile of “tree tops” relegated to the fence at the Christmas tree farm. So dainty, this tree, that Mark and I were able to forgo the tree wrapping and tie it to the top of my station wagon with ease. This was our fifth year to caravan out yonder for the Christmas Tree Chop, and the first year that no one actually chopped a tree. It was more of a wintry walkabout with hot cocoa and sledding. Turns out none of us could afford to chop a tree, and all the better. As grandma would’ve said, we are clear tickled with our tree.

If my absence here has been any indication, I’ve been finding it hard to share much publicly this year. Mark and I are still so fresh to parenthood. We opt not to share much about our daughter on the Internet, even if we would love for you to enjoy her gap teeth and scrunch face. As for everything else we pen about, we are in a very slow season. I don’t mean winter, though it has been plenty restful. I mean life. There is just . . . not much happening. I suspect it is not for naught. There are things that need tending in our relationship and hearts, and they must be mundane, silent things. (Ugh.) I trust God knows this better than we. Better put, I am trying to trust. We had grown accustomed to major change around every bend, our joint life seeming to always gain momentum. Then Autumn hit, and life slowed. Stalled, almost. We thought we were buying a farm, and when that did not come to pass, we resumed life as usual. The Big Dreams went to hunker down for a nice, long hibernation. Daily life was replaced with Little Dreams like baking cake again, like playing basketball again, like going to the Christmas tree farm again.

Christmas Tree Chop Sledding Family by Samantha Spigos
Christmas Tree Chop Family by Samantha Spigos
Christmas Tree Chop Rosemary Child by Samantha Spigos
Christmas Tree Chop Kids Sledding by Samantha Spigos
Christmas Tree Chop Festive Kids Sledding by Samantha Spigos

And then there is Nicholas. Guadalupe. Lucia. The feast days of December that punctuate the end of the year and bring greater meaning to Advent. We celebrate these saints and Our Lady as a family, joining the multitudes around the world who do the same. During an otherwise anticipatory season, these small celebrations are grounding, acting as a sweet reminder to take proper notice of the day at hand. Who came before us? What did it mean for the world? In a special way, I love Saint Lucia. She was an Italian girl who brought light and hope to Sweden, and now brings light and hope to me. We baked the traditional recipe associated with her feast day — lussekatter, or saffron buns — in all manner of traditional shapes: the lyre, the Christmas pig and horse, the golden wagon, the little baby, the hair of the priest (every kid’s favorite around here). Meanwhile, my mom sat on the floor and read aloud a story about her. There is something quite beautiful in watching a child at work in the kitchen. . . that is, if you can look past the constant sneaking of bites and patting down of perfectly risen dough. And really we ought to, because children teach us so much about how to appreciate Little Dreams, especially when you give them their own handful of dough.

Santa Lucia Day Baking Lussekater Lucy Buns by Samantha Spigos
Saint Lucia Day Lussekater Lucy Buns by Samantha Spigos
Santa Lucia Day Peg Dolls Saint Lucy Bernadette by Samantha Spigos
saint lucia day lussekater lucy buns by samantha spigos
saint lucia day lussekater family generations by samantha spigos
Saint Lucia lussekater lucy cats baking by Samantha Spigos

For the inquisitive . . .

+ Lucia and Bernadette saint peg dolls.
+ We use the lussekatter recipe from this favorite book.
+ The pink pointy ear flap hat pictured above is a spectacular free knitting pattern.
+ Christmas Tree Chops of yore: 2017, 2016, 2015.
+ Last year’s Santa Lucia Day.


—S

BREATHING IN COLOR

 
Apple Orchard Ohio Organic Image by Samantha Spigos
Mushroom Natural Color Image by Samantha Spigos

Earlier in the Fall I picked up a book from the library for no reason other than the book jacket was covered in illustrated confetti, and I liked how it made me feel. What else are book covers for if not to be judged? The first chapter dove into how color impacts the human brain, and how we can take notice of it. For someone who considers herself attuned to the world around her, I sure had written off most colors. Suddenly, fuchsia made me feel happy, and golden ochres and caramels were all I wanted to wear. I picked out a red gingham apron with someone’s hand stitching on it at the antique shop, and when I wear it, I feel as if I’m donning a cape. I still love our calm and quiet bedroom, but now I understand that I gaze at the still-life painting above Rosemary’s changing table because the colors are invigorating and inviting. Simply put, it makes me feel good. Color is healing and life-giving. Our prehistoric ancestors understood that bright food indicated energy, and so our brains have been wired to be positively inclined towards color for its life-giving potential. (Something like that.) Taking notice of how color impacts my mental state was preparation for this season of hardship and healing. More on that.

Natural Dyed Wool Christmas Stocking Image by Samantha Spigos
Natural Dyed Wool Christmas Stocking Image by Samantha Spigos
Plants Are Family Print by The Far Woods Image by Samantha Spigos
Rainbow Soup by Brown Parcel Press and Sugarhouse Workshop Image by Samantha Spigos

Just a few months into the year, I sent a note to a woman named Jessica. Among other things, she makes quilts. She derives natural color from the plants and minerals that grow around her Vermont homestead, and uses those colors to dye cotton, silk, linen and wool. With a palette too beautiful to overstate, she makes quilts that are at once simple, and on the other hand deep and rich. It’s as though she grows her quilts like a plant from seed, watering and watching, but ultimately allowing it to grow on its own. Her quilts are agrarian by nature—a snapshot of the place, the plants, and the season. Naturally, I desired for Rosemary to have a piece of Jessica’s craft. That dream is coming true, and soon our little bunny will have her very own quilt. What I did not anticipate was the gentle, slow growing friendship between she and I. In a season of life that has not been without heartbreak and grieving — personally and especially worldwide — it feels ever more essential to rest in friendships; to work for justice while loving our families tenderly; to take notice of the color around us if for no other reason than because it’s beautiful. It might just be healing.

Native American Dent Corn Natural Color Image by Samantha Spigos

For the inquisitive . . .

+ The book that helped me love fuchsia.
+ Rainbow Soup, a set of four playful prints paying homage to natural color and quilting.
+ More about Jessica / Sugarhouse Workshop.
+ Plants Are Family print by two sisters working for justice and teaching us how to darn socks.
+ The knitting pictured above is my progress on Rosemary’s Christmas stocking, which I’m sharing about on Instagram using #RosemaryStocking. The red and green yarn is Wing and a Prayer Farm’s natural dyed (!) wool.
+ Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, November 6th! (Find your voter polling place here.)


—S