Don’t Forget to Look Behind

We’ve returned home from our travels, and are recharging for our fall touring schedule. It was a great 3 1/2 month tour. We met so many wonderful quilters, saw some wonderful work (I live for Show & Tell!), and even got to be tourists here and there. We took some great ferries (the new one across from Portland Maine to Yarmouth Nova Scotia was notable), and saw lots of scenery.

Mount Robson, British Columbia

Mount Robson, British Columbia

Many years ago when I was embarking on a drive around the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island (Nova Scotia), I received the best piece of travel advice I’ve ever heard.  “Don’t forget to look behind”.  

Usually when you travel a road, you only take it in one direction.  As Robert Frost wrote: “Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back” (from The Road Not Taken). If you don’t look back, you miss half the journey!

John and I constantly remind each other to look in the rear view mirror, especially when we’re going through a beautiful area: mountains, sea, prairies.  The light is different, the view is entirely changed behind. 

It occurs to me that this is a good idea for other areas of life as well. Looking behind shows me a few things:

How far I’ve come
Just look at that first quilt I made!  I’m so much better now!,
That song was the best thing I’d ever written, and I was certain I’d never write a better one – how boring it was!  It needed a chorus, at the very least.

What I’ve learned
Thank goodness I’ve figured out how to mitre corners!
Look at that binding!
I’ve finally figured out how to SHOW not TELL in a song lyric.

Where I’ve come from
I remember going to Bali to buy that fabric
I wrote that song while I was taking jazz guitar lessons with Paul in Ottawa – what a time that was!

Who I am
I like this kind of structure in my songs: AABABCAB
I’m easily bored, which leads me to try new techniques a lot.
I love colour and contrast in my quilts.

In quilts, as well as songs, I can reminisce when I see them/sing them again. I love visiting quilts I’ve given away because I can indulge myself in those memories.  I know that each of the songs I’ve written and quilts I’ve made were the best I could do at the time, and I celebrate the steps forward that each of these projects represent.

In looking back, I can also begin to see what makes a “Cathy quilt” or a “Cathy song”, but only by seeing the body of work together.  And I learn to see who “Cathy” is.

I’ve heard so many people be embarrassed by their earlier works – apologetic, actually.  But that misses the point for me.  As creative people, we don’t start out with excellence.  Ability comes with doing.  I’ve heard it said that it’s not possible to practice singing – either you’re singing, or you’re not, so I don’t say “ability comes with practice”. If you need 10,000 hours to achieve excellence in any job/hobby/skill, I’m still working on it. That doesn’t mean I can’t do wonderful stuff in the meantime, while working up to that masterpiece. Or two.

“Someday if I live to tell
I want to do just one thing well
And give myself a bit of peace
When I finally make my masterpiece.”
(From “Masterpiece” on “In the Heart of a Quilt” cd)

I’ve been keeping a personal journal for over 30 years.  These days I don’t write in it as much as I once did, but it’s there to show me how my thoughts and actions have gone during that time of my life, what I was concerned about, and sometimes even what was going on in the world around me. I re-read it once in a while. I helps me keep things in perspective. I don’t know where I’ll be in another 10 or 20 years, but I hope I’ll never forget to keep looking behind.

 

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9 Responses to “Don’t Forget to Look Behind”

  1. Judy Morningstar Says:

    thank you for this reminder!

  2. Joy Vale, Anglesea Says:

    A fantastic post Cathy. I love looking back at some of things I’ve done. Personally I don’t believe we ever achieve ‘excellence’ – if one believes they have then it’s time to move on. Wanting to improve on what you do, be it singing, sewing, or whatever, is what makes the person.

  3. Vireya Says:

    Thank you for the thought-provoking post, Cathy. I hadn’t considered the value of looking back.

    I love the “Masterpiece” song, by the way!

  4. Sue Papouschek Says:

    How did you know that what you just wrote here is what i needed to hear? I tend to be impatient with myself and harder on myself than I should be. I need to realize where I am at with my quilting and not be so impatient. Thank you and come back to WV soon!

    • singingquilter Says:

      Hi Sue – I’m glad you found this useful! When I get impatient, I don’t enjoy the process very much. I’m sure that shows in my work, too. Hey: it’s summer, time to relax!!! LOL

  5. charmers3 Says:

    Oh that is simply a beautiful thought. How many times when our eyes are forward do we actually stand there and look behind us. Since you wrote these thoughts, I have started doing exactly that. And also taking time to look up and be thankful, stand quiet and listen, and even now look down and see what treasures await us in the ground, grass, and am surprised what I find in all these areas. Thanks for sharing your idea with us.
    Denise from Sarnia

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