I am not really sure what I am going to write tonight; I just know that I need to write. And not just write, but write to someone, everyone; the real need is to write words that I know someone out there will read. My footing in the world is shaky right now, for more reasons that I could possibly count. I’m once more feeling that disconcerting distance between me and my body, that unnerving sensation of being within ones body rather than actually inhabiting it. My brain, too, feels as though enveloped by a miasmatic aether.

With my studio essentially shut down for the past month as the family and I have been packing up the old house and moving to our new home ten miles down the road I have been feeling adrift. All of the frustration with the world, the anger at the ubiquitous injustices that normally went into new quilts has been left to run rampant in this complicated tangle of neurons inside my head. Though you’ve never been inside my head, from the years of posts here you just might have a sense of what a dark and dangerous place it can be. Even temporarily constrained it easily becomes and unbearable place.

As you might guess, the days since the election have not been the best time to be unable to dive into new work. As I walk the sidewalks surrounding our new home I feel a resonant distance between me and the world, as though I am not quite in it, or of it. This election seems to have been less about policy than worldview, and what has emerged as the dominant worldview in this country is one I cannot quite fathom, one that is more of Hobbes than Locke, more tribal than social. Quite honestly, I don’t know how to exist in this world. I know what to do, how to resist it and challenge it, but that is different from living within it, surrounded by it. Now my every footfall feels as though it lands upon an alien landscape, a world fraught with impending danger. The fact that I will likely remain insulated from the impending refashioning of the world offers me no solace. While just what shall happen remains unknown, even now I grieve as the first hints arrive. Tonight I grieve for the future, for a world in which swastikas desecrate Adam Yauch Park. And tomorrow I will undoubtedly grieve over yet another desecration of the world I used to know.


Though these past weeks have brought me to a place of coming to terms with a new relationship to the quilt world, one less engaged with the industry and more involved with the community, I feel little else than uncertainty about just how to exist. I suppose that is to be expected as understanding seeps in that my sense of the world as fundamentally benign with outcroppings of injustice was merely a façade, a tissue-thin lens that only my privilege supported for so many years.

I suppose that is why I feel this dislocation so acutely; to put it simply I do not know what to do. While I can, and will, continue to affect what I can, that all seems so small in the face of a world so rife with base mandates. If you have followed my writings here or in the pages of Quilters Newsletter you have likely noticed that my anger, my critiques, are all predicated upon a fundamental utopianism. So much of my life has relied on the idea that words matter, are important, but in this rising tide of (white) nationalism, that premise feels merely quaint, an archaism of the Enlightenment, a matter of clinging desperately to a rock rapidly transforming to silt.

Yet even these words feel profoundly self-indulgent, a sadness that only underscores the enormity of my privilege, an anger so fundamentally bourgeois. Indeed, what do quilts matter in this world? Further still what do I matter? Honestly, I just don’t know; yet I still cling to something, some reason for continuing to resist, to hold on to a hope. More than ever I turn to my children, to Matilda Grace and Simon Thaddeus, in hopes that they may do what I have been unable, that what K and I teach them now might lead them to find a way to build the world I have always wished to give them, that they and everyone deserves.

I suppose that is truly the crux of my sorrow: the truth that my forty-four years have thus far been a failure, that the world is turning ever further from the ideals I hold so dear.


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7 Responses to Dislocated…

  1. 1
    Ella says:

    My students and I had a talk about the power of artists after my Lit group read Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry. One girl’s argument was that artists are inherently powerful (and dangerous to the norm) because they can hold a vision of what might be. I think she’s right. I think grief is hitting a lot of us right now. I’m trying to be more active and hold the light. And, I’m ever so thankful for the artists around me, be they twelve year olds or adults.

  2. 2
    S Miller says:

    Thank you for writing.

  3. 3
    Donnalee says:

    I am a little bit older than you, and have had the same feeling of personal failure. For real, though, it is ME feeling grief that *OTHERS have failed me and all of us by their hateful actions*. *I* did not choose to act racist/homophobic/antisemitic/hateful in any ways: some sad messed-up others have been doing that. Please keep doing your creative work, which helps make the world/s better. Otherwise it makes the world/s all much poorer, without the contribution of the thoughtful who try to create the beautiful and personally-meaningful–thanks and best wishes

  4. 4
    Paula says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful writings. Yours is the only blog that I continue to think about after reading. I empathize with your struggles with depression, and finding meaning in life, especially given current events. I just finished reading your post about the myth of perfectibility … maybe you could apply that idea to life itself? Your last line is sad, but we can’t perfect the world, we can only live in it and most of us will only make a tiny contribution. Your contributions to the quilt world (designs, quilts, fabric, articles, books) and expanding the dialogue in the quilt world are much greater than most.

  5. 5
    Mary Elise Herbert says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. I’m thankful to have found your thoughtful blog.

  6. 6
    Trisha says:

    Hi Thomas, first time I have read your website and so sorry to read about your sadness. We here in the UK have heard and read about the US elections with horror, cannot believe what is happening in the world. My husband and I loved from England to Scotland about 18 months ago in retirement (me teaching art and design – textiles) as we no longer felt inline with politics there or the way things were going. Scotland, thank God, voted to stay within the European Union, the rest of the UK did not, further adding to nationalistic feelings with the rise of Ukip there, to our mind a nationalist, racist, sexist organization. Some of my own family members, I am embarrassed to say, support such groups, through complete ignorance I feel. At least the Celtic people seem to be more open and enclosive and less afraid of others who are, perhaps different in colour or race or sexual orientation. The bad feelings against Polish immigrants in England (quite legal, as they are part of the EU free movement of people) is horrible to witness. Keep positive, it is a hard thing, we are struggling, it is no use to talk with such relatives, we keep to safe subjects on the phone, as ignorance is rarely ever dealt with rationally. Art, progress and goodness in the hearts of people will win through, always, always in the end, but we may have a struggle ahead. My dear father died this year, aged 93, he fought Nazism in the war and hated what is happening now, although my younger brother seems to have not learnt from him or his generations experiences at all. I hate to say it, he never left home or got a good education, and I feel thats a lot to do with it. Keep hopeful and keep working, Trisha

  7. 7
    Auntie Pami says:

    Please don’t give up. The good will prevail. We must believe.

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