Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness. This quote is attributed to the Chinese Philosopher Zhuangzi (369 BC to 286 BC). Although I just cannot imagine how one would verify this ancient source, this insightful saying is timelessly valid and implies the peaceful sensation of an inner calm when one experiences moments of happiness. In my view these are not brought on by striving for them, by planning or pursuing them. They happen with the sudden realization of a moment being truly special, joyful and meaningful, calming and setting one’s mind at ease. It may well be that the fascination with and performing textile crafts such as knitting creates such moments of happiness, as I am sure my mother felt when she embroidered the above cloth album cover with her own design, to hold photographs from her precious time in Lausanne (Switzerland).
The pursuit of happiness – open for interpretation, and the older I get the more meaningful this declaration becomes and the more conclusions it allows. The unalienable right to pursue happiness – one of the most remarkable and influential promises of the constitution of the United States, phrased by George Mason. I appreciate the wisdom of the true meaning of the pursuit of happiness. It has nothing to do with accumulating exterior signs of wealth and riches, nor with having a prominent and powerful position in the community.
Happiness achieved is feeling the absence of striving for it – like seeing this bookmark, the last one my mother made before she succumbed to cancer. When I opened her Embroidery Basket, I felt my mother had just put her work down for the day, and I felt very sad and very happy at the same time.
She cross-stitched her own and the name of her husband on it, the year they got married and the year she made this bookmark as a gift for him. I can see her sit in the corner, with a bright lamp at her side, in her upholstered armchair that allowed ample space for movement, surrounded by her tools for knitting, crochet or embroidery, and in later years with a magnifying glass which she wore around her neck to apply particularly small and tricky stitches. She gave her thoughts free reign and I know that more often than not they circled around the fundamentals of her life: her family and her home and she stitched those thoughts into her work.
Her granddaughters received bookmarks almost every year, always a different design and style, adorned with animals or flowers, destined to become cherished collector items.
This is the last embroidery piece my mother started before she passed away. It was going to be table center piece (Milieu de Table) for the time before Christmas. The snowy top of the church, some roofs of the house and the windows shining with candle light from inside the house are almost done. The linen provides a shimmering background to this precious and peaceful scene. The colors of the embroidery floss were carefully chosen before starting and the 6-ply floss split into varying thread combinations to achieve three-dimensionality. She kept a number of needles threaded with the various chosen yarns, on this picture one can see that she had just completed the orange-red windows, the needle is idle while the other one is still threaded with the white floss for the snow. Do I finish it? Or keep it as is? I am of two minds about it. Let me know what you think, please!
12 June, 2011: A wonderful contribution on this embroidery by pandatomic: “if I may say, I think it’s beautiful as it is and a marvelous souvenir of your mother, it’s like an endless embroidery”.
Letvy thought it would be a true family heirloom if I continued and completed the work my mother started – also a very beautiful option, thank you Elena!