To Become a Dove

AbbeyChurchCurrentAs some of you know, back in my early 20’s I spent a short while at a Benedictine Monastery here in Florida. At this point in my life that has been the most important moment I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been busy working on teddy bears, we all know that. But, I don’t think I’ve spent enough time working on my spirit. And for some reason (and we learn to never question reason), I’ve had the most profound desire to go back there, feel the place again, the lake, the grotto, the temperance of noise in the head.

I’ve contacted the monastery with a simple email asking what would be required for me to come back for a retreat. You know, just for a few days to freshen up the soul.

I’m waiting to hear back from them.

There is something unusually strong in me right now to go back there again.

I feel I need to go back. Maybe to remember something? Or to learn something new? To FEEL something that no moment in life can hand to you unless you touch it. No books can share the knowledge, no music care share the joyousness. You must live it.

I thought I’d share some writing of mine from that first time there 15 or 20 years ago at that monastery…..where my life changed forever.

***

I stepped slowly from the guesthouse, my sounds muffled or impeded by the merry chirping of the crickets, and the sudden coo of an owl. There was no moon and no light. All the matter that God had made was hidden under a blue of nocturne.

Down the short road I stepped towards the abbey, clutching myself tight against the quick chill of an unusually brisk autumn eve. The tall Spanish tower that served as a steeple was dark and ominous, but glowed somewhat, as if it were something preternatural, a ghostly beacon of some kind, ready to shout with fire.

With a slight creak of those huge wooden doors, I stepped within the confines of the abbey church, shutting them behind me with a heavy resistance. They didn’t want to close. Alas, once the hinges snapped tight, there was no sound other than my sullen footsteps in the abbey. It was a stillness that terrified me. It was warm in here. It was also disturbing, as though I were trespassing upon some kinetic energy ready to embark in spastic flight should its stillness be interrupted.

AbbeyChurchCrossI moved towards the massive crucifix. The simple stain glass windows captured and pulled in whatever light the moon had to offer. My footsteps had become like thuds, like monstrous, heavy thuds in a slow rhythm that sounded like distant bombs. The closer I stepped towards the crucifix the more I noticed that the iridescent light heavy with the dark frame of night was casting clean cuts along the chiseled muscles and limbs of the murdered messiah.

There was a shifting movement of air in the room, as if like breath, and it made a ruffled sound as it hit the acoustics of the abbey walls. Past the pews I timidly stepped towards the crucifix, transfixed by His eyes. They were red and real, but not human at all…as if they belonged to an animal. I felt frightened, for there was something in the air, some feeling that was painful almost, some feeling akin to the ghostly coldness of pin sharp needles against the skin. And slowly there was a bubbling in my subconscious as the muffling in my thought turned towards audible and apparent voices, voices that I had carried with me since the beach of Key West, since that night of nightmares and visions that had led me finally to this monastery.

AbbeychurchChristFaceIn my mind I heard the monks chanting, but only slightly, for their pristine prayer was drowned out by the sound of sobbing, women crying, soldiers laughing, and spectators gawking in bewilderment. Yes, I think what I was hearing was the moment at Golgotha where He was summoned by divine design to His own execution. I could almost smell the dust of the desert, feel the arid sand within my nostrils. And when lowering my head to catch my step, I could almost see the dunes beneath my feet as I made way for His body hanging limp there from two boards fashioned into a cross. And above his head screamed the regal announcement of his crime against the state: SEDITIO. And when lowering my head to catch my step, I could sense I passed both women named Mary, and I dared not look at them. The pain upon their faces the same horrific degree of crying and screaming I had seen in the mother of the man whose memorial the monks had massed not too long before. Their bodies shook when they cried, their own fingers bled from the making of fists, fists held high to the sky screaming “Why?” But, this was all but a vision in my mind as I stepped along side the pews and icons in the abbey church, timidly approaching the crucifix, whose eyes were too detailed in their artistry to be anything but real.

I had made my way past the altar and stood now at the very bottom of the crucifix, staring at His impaled feet, watching what I was convinced was sweat and blood mingle down along side His ankles, then drip past His toes to the floor where they disappeared into nothingness. My eyes studied Him carefully, the eyes slowly moving from His bound feet to His thighs, then upwards to His stomach, His abdomen, His chest. It occurred to me then, that this particular crucifix that had bewildered me since my first moment arriving in the monastery gave the impression of Christ as He may have appeared just one second before death. The closer I looked the more it seemed to have been chiseled in representation of the last gasp, the last push of air from his living form, as if caught inhaling for the last time. And how important that seemed to me. The body of Christ, still alive, though pained, though tortured and near His dismal end, was still alive, still here, still in need of saving, of comfort, of pity, of solace. This symbol meant something so much more than the representation of a religion. It was the essence of that religion; that if a Christian were to claim that name and call himself “saved” then he must remember the body of Christ. The living human community was near death always, near its dismal end always, and in need of solace, pity, and comfort. But, that last breath, that last push of life into his caving veins was the hope and salvation that all true Christians should strive for. Yes, as if in suspended animation, that last breath, this chiseled crucifix before me was the human community, the Christian community at the final second before death, where that last breath kept Him alive, though He was sure to die in suffering. That last breath was the chanting of the monks, was the charity of the poor who have nothing, but give all. Should the Christian forget any of this, that final gasp is released from the crucifix, from the living body of Christ, and He would die. The real, Christian God of mercy and hope would die. And all that we would be left with is a relic, an artistic chiseling of a murder in the desert two thousand years ago.

I raised my hand to touch it. Alas, I was suddenly repelled by it, afraid in so many ways to experience it, my mind so filled with visions, my subconscious so filled with sound, I feared that should I dare feel the crucifix my hand would be met with legitimate flesh. He seemed real, alive, and if I should disturb Him, He would be cross with me. Angry. Those heavy lidded eyes looking down at me with anger, vengeance, sadness, and acceptance all clearly repelled me to leave Him be.

I felt I had finally come face to face with God. Trembling, I fell to my knees, but did not pray, dear reader. I did the contrary. I did what I felt the extent of this journey had required me to do. I questioned Him. I whispered in the darkened abbey, my eyes alight and wide and staring at the dead man.

“I wish You would just talk to me. Just tell me what You want from me. No symbolism, no mysteries. Just talk to me. My heart wants to be here in the monastery. I feel such a want, such a need to be here that I can’t imagine my life anywhere else. But, You don’t want me here, do you? I’m supposed to aspire to be You. And that’s the problem. Because every time I’m told how much I’m supposed to be You, I’m then told of its impossibility. What do You want from me? Why did You bring me here if I wasn’t to stay? Why did You hand me this beauty? I get so mad at the way they portray You sometimes. I get so angry with them. Is that why You look like you do to me? Is that why I see Your face hanging there with such a scowl? Is it because they portray you incorrectly? Why do I feel a fondness for You? Why do I feel that, though sometimes I cannot understand You, or what You want from me, You always understand me, always pull, tug, or push me to where You want me to be? But, again, when all of that is said, when I sit here nearly ready to scream at You, why do I get so angry at You? Or is it really You I’m angry with? Or that vision of You they’ve painted.

“I can almost see your chest move slightly with breath. Do you want me to save You from the grave? Is that what You will of me? To take You down from that cross? It would seem fitting. You saved me. You resurrected me at the moment I was at my last breath, so why shouldn’t it be fitting that to repay You, I save You, too? My body tingles ever so slightly in Your presence. Its my body, I think, finally aware of its surroundings, its reality. Or is that Your breath and not the air? The breath of a man left hanging at His last moment of death, is that the breath of a man whose execution has continued and continued and kept on for thousands of years?

“What was Your perfection anyway? When was it that You had finally realized how much God moved through You, then gave Yourself over to God? So much that You were willing to die for Him? Is that what aspiring to perfection is supposed to be? That I give myself completely over to God inside me? That I hand my life over, my self over to the point that I would be willing to die for Him? For You? Is that it? I wish You would just talk to me. Just talk to me…..You confuse me, You give me headaches, You give me as many reasons to turn from You, as cling to You. What do You want from me?”

I was sobbing quietly, as my voice grew louder in speech. “If You perpetuated miracles in Your step then just talk to me….Let me hear Your voice. I’ll ask You again. What do You want from me?”

“To be as wise a serpent and as gentle as a dove.”

Startled by the voice, I turned round to find Brother Robert in the doorway….

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A Friendly Bear For Christmas

IMG_0812So, here’s the plan. I wanted to do something special for Christmas. A special bear just for Christmas. Here he is. A simple little bear with a friendly face, slightly hidden behind his little cap, his little pout proudly above his mock sweater. I know we are just at the whisper of October, but the plan was to get this little guy adopted out, so that I could make sure every single bear gets to their adopted home by Christmas day. Therefore, only 10 of these will be sent out. And if all 10 of them get adopted, I’ll be set with rent for the next two months and that will allow me the time to get some older orders to where they need to be. So this friendly bear means a lot to me. He’s going to make this year end on a high note. His journey will allow us to start January 1, 2015 with no back orders. And we start next year doing fascinating and wonderful things.

He’s made of Lionbrand’s Fisherman’s wool in Nature’s Brown and Creme, with his little mock sweater and hat made of Lionbrand’s Wool in Ranch Red. Great color combos. Perfect for Christmas. And nicely simple.

If you’d like to adopt him, just click on the picture.

IMG_0811Oh! and as I was taking pictures I noticed Mario sleeping on her side of the bed so I couldn’t resist putting the bear up beside her. She woke up and gave me this look.

“Dude…..I was sleeping.”

Just take the picture and try and look happy.

“I was dreaming I was chasing a lizard and I had almost got him.”

Just sit there for a second and take the picture…..and try and look friendly.

“Fine…..”

So, all 10 Christmas bears are complete with a numbered and signed card by me. This is going to be an amazing way to end the year. :) This is bear number 1. Who wants him?

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My Patterns on Ravelry

IMG_0768Ok, so I’ve had a lot of people ask, “Why don’t you sell your patterns on Ravelry?” Good question…..I don’t have an answer. I dunno! Honestly? I just don’t know! I do like the ease of Craftsy, and love LOVE the way they handle all the payments. No invoices at the end of the month. But, seems so many of you really love going through Ravelry, so I’m good with that! Not sure how to promote it on Ravelry, but I’m hoping all of you will be able to tell your friends on Ravelry about the link to my little shop.

So, here you go. All my patterns are now for sale on Ravelry. And thanks for the heads up on that. I’m hoping this be another way for little Mario and I to pay the rent, keep the lights on….and order a dang pizza every once in a while……and a few dollars closer to getting my own little tiny white house.

Cheers!

http://www.ravelry.com/stores/gregory-patrick-designs

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The Simple History of Mario

IMG_0492I’ve gotten quite a few emails about Mario. People want to know where she came from? Why is she so important to me? Why does she have a boy’s name?

When things started to collapse for me I was walking home from work one day. I found this little kitten stuck in a chain link fence. I could tell the poor thing had tried to move through it, gotten stuck, had been there long enough for a pile of poo to amass behind her. The cat had probably been eating whatever it could find crawling by its path to keep it fed. So, I knelt down, pulled a wine key out of my back pocket (I was a server, remember?) and twisted this way and that to loosen the chain link and let the cat free. I patted it on the head and said, “There you go, little one. Take care,” but that little kitten followed me. “No, you need to go chase mice and……”

No, the little bugger found its way to my front door. I called a friend and said, “So, I saved this kitten and it followed me home. It’s just a kitten. I mean, maybe 8 or 9 weeks old.” He said promptly, “Keep it! That cat trusts you. He’s being loyal. He knows you’re good. And he wants to help you the same way you helped him. He will always be by your side. No matter what. Name him Mario.”

“Why Mario?”
“Why not?”

I let the kitten in and said, “Your name is Mario. We’ll get you a cat box and food tomorrow. I’m off to bed.” It plopped under the covers with me, in the crook of my knees.

It was six months later that the little kitten was rolling around on the ground with belly up that I realized Mario was actually a Maria. But, the name had stuck and I never stopped calling her that. She answers to it. She responds to it no differently than had her name been Charlotte.

Then things took a turn for the worst. I was vacating my apartment and I was going to be homeless. I had a duffel bag filled with my clothes and a back pack that had my laptop and some other personal things. I had resigned myself to knowing that cat would be fine without me.  She’d find a way to survive. She seemed like a survivor.

And just before I left that apartment I stared into those big golden eyes and realized what my friend had meant. She was going to be loyal. She was going to save me. You see, I snagged that little cat and stuffed her in my duffel bag and went on into my uncertain future. But, there was a lesson learned. You NEVER hit rock bottom, when something relies on you. You always find a way to prevail when there is a mouth to feed. And you NEVER EVER feel like you’ve lost everything when you have something to hold, to comfort, to shift your sadness from yourself.

That little cat and I went through hell. People telling me they wouldn’t take me in because I had a cat, and I would refuse. People telling me to give her up, because she’d be better off in a shelter. I telling them that was going to be the last conversation we ever had.

And when we lived alone in the woods, we protected each other. She killed rats and snakes. I gathered pennies to be able to buy cat food for her. She was companionship in the woods. No voices around. No people. She was all I had to talk to. To spend a Christmas with. To fight off loneliness. She clung back when I cried in fear and worry.

We became a team. She reminded me of how strong I needed to become in order to feed not just me…..but, her, too. It would be ok in some way if I fell through the cracks and disappeared, but no……I had something that counted on me every day. Not just for food, but for compassion. For companionship.

It has been a few years now and we’re doing so much better than we were when we were homeless and she was tucked in a duffel bag….and that little cat is still the thing I can’t stand to be away from. We stay out of each other’s way when we need to, and cling to each other when it’s necessary. Had I lost that little cat, or given her up, I would have admitted to losing everything, for which I was not prepared to do in my darkest of moments. I had her. I still had something. I had nothing and no one…..but a simple little cat proving its loyalty.

So that’s the simple version of how Mario came into my life and why she means so much to me. Had I lost her? I really would have lost everything.

IMG_0250It’s a touch before 11pm in Central Florida. Got a roof over my head these days. I got a bite to eat. I got my yarn and my little cat……

I have everything.

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Polar Shades of Grey

IMG_0803

Here’s a bear made up with the Cascade Eco Cloud I received in the mail. It’s a luscious mix of merino wool and baby llama fur. (Damn it feels good). He is a definite one of a kind, measures 12″ from head to toe, and is ready to ship with a signed card by me. He has a removeable hat and scarf, and mock sweater with booties. I think he came out a rather nice bear. I love the different shades of grey. If you’d like to adopt him, just click on the picture.

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When You Dream

When you work hard, and you give all of your attention to an ambition and a purpose, you find little things keep you focused as you strive towards bigger things.

ISdcyiv8ea1asn0000000000There is a little white house I have a picture of on my desktop. While I’m working I stare at it, I dream about it. It’s not too far from here, tucked on a side street near the grocery store. I’ve been by it on my bike and slowed down to take a look. Oh, don’t worry, I’m not stalking the people that live there. It’s empty. For sale. So, its my tiny little dream house. I bike slowly by it and smile…..then rush home to work harder.

One day, I’ll do well. I’ll do so well I’ll be able to take that little white house and make it my home. No one will ever be able to ask me to leave. I’ll step through the front door, greet little Mario and think how I went from homeless to homebody. I’ll have a real home with a table where Sundays are spent sharing my big pot roast dinner with my friends. A home where a carved snaggle toothed pumpkin grins on the front stoop at Halloween, and a simple lit tree graces the front window at Christmas. A home with a nice sized bed that I can tuck into at night with a comforter smothering me, where a back porch greets my morning coffee with the grins of gerbera daisies catching the first drops of day’s sunlight. I’ll have a pot of coffee on constantly in case anyone should come by for a visit. The smell of fresh linens tumbling in the dryer wafts subtly through the air. And look at all the room in the front yard to play croquet!

To be honest? I don’t wanna be the former homeless guy who lives in a 10×20 room anymore. I don’t. I wanna go big. I really do. I want a home. A real one…..for good. For life. A place where memories are made. A place that I’ll never want to leave….and a place no one could take from me. I go by that house often, smiling. I love its energy.

So, all I need to do is sell a couple of hundred thousand patterns, books, and teddy bears and that little house is mine. In the meantime, dreaming of that little house keeps me working hard, brightly smiling, and reminding myself that when we dream, we accomplish amazing things. Little bears in little hands and the smiles they bring will make a dream come true some day.

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It’s Llama, Baby.

Interesting day. Quite late…..I guess. About 11:30pm in Central Florida. I’ve actually been wanting to head to bed for a while now, since about 9, but I know if I do I’ll be back up at 4am and straight back to work. But then I’d be something of a zombie. Zombie man knitting.

I’ve had a rather great day, actually. Let’s start with pork chops. A package of 3 at the supermarket on sale for $2.50. So for dinner I made one pork chop, left over cabbage from my stew became cole slaw, and a little potato roared into a mashed. Great dinner on the cheap.

But! I received an email from my mystery gifter that sent the yarn from my last post. Turns out, it’s a mix of wool and baby llama fur. No WONDER it felt so luscious and REAL. Without dye and available in only a few colors (because they don’t have purple llamas yet), it’s an amazing yarn and I love the bear it made. It’s awfully expensive. Cascade’s Eco Cloud. Love it. Sadly, way out of my budget, but I sure do love looking forward into the future when I’ll make ALL my bears from this great hank.

Secondly, a stack of boxes by my front door allowed me to finally plop into a chair, wipe my brow in cartoon fashion and whisper with a word bubble, “Whew!” Ten boxes going out in the mail tomorrow. Ten teddy bear orders from past days all worked up and ready to finally go their new homes. Lot’s of work in rainy days while watching “That 70’s show” yielded a nice dent in my back orders while still trying to knit up bears to keep the rent paid. THAT is a great feeling. Accomplishment. Promises fulfilled. Progress is being made.

With a full and satisfied tummy, with some good work under my belt, and a tiny little cat intent on curling in the crook of my knee, it’s a good time to head to bed.

Thank you all for a great day.

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A Mystery and a Favor

IMG_0794I received some yarn in the mail the other day and was amazed at how cool this stuff was. I love it. LOVE it. Probably my new favorite. Four small skeins in four different colors. Enough to do maybe 2 or 3 different bears with different hats and sweaters.

There’s only one tiny little problem…..I have no idea who sent it or what kind of yarn it is. It truly feels like a mix of wool and cotton. An extraordinarily durable, but soft yarn that was pliant in my hands, but whose fibers held close together… I love this stuff so much that I would definitely consider making this my go-to yarn for bears from now on. An exclusive yarn I work with. So! I need your help! Who sent me this???? I am so anxious to thank you!!! What kind of yarn is it???? It’s definitely a natural fiber, you can feel it, but who makes it???? PLEASE contact me and let me know. The return address was a little messed up by the time it got here, but there is one clue on there that I can use to identify you, so PLEASE be in touch with me and let me know who you are so I can thank you so much for this AMAZING yarn.

The bear I was able to make with this mystery yarn measures 12″ from head to toe, has a mock sweater and a removable cap. He’s ready to ship tomorrow morning with a signed card by me. He’s the only one……but, I sure would like to know what this yarn is so I can make more. If you would like to adopt him, just click the picture.

If you’d like the pattern so you can make this bear, click here.

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For Safekeeping

I’m doing a lot of knitting today while my cabbage stew is quietly brewing on the stove top. It’ll be ready soon, but in the meantime, I was working up a bear and watching Rick Steves’ Europe on Hulu. Just because I have problems traveling short distances, doesn’t mean I can’t travel in my mind, right? I was watching one of his pieces on Istanbul. I’ve always wanted to visit Istanbul. I want to see whirling dervishes. Real ones. Not dervishes on tour. I want to see them there in Istanbul. Swirling in prayer. And as I was watching the program he made a mention of one thing that called back so many memories I had to stop what I was doing to laugh a little bit. Rick Steves mentioned Donner Kebabs and I had instantly went into a trance of memory.

As some of you know, I lived in Berlin when I was a young man. I lived in Dahlem, in the south western part of the city. And on many occasion I would rush into the center, to the Ku’Damm with friends, to slosh around a Gothic club or two. Yes, you may not know this about me, but I was a very prized dancer in my day. :) We would hit the Linientreu, spend all evening listening to what we all know as classics. Alien Sex Fiend. The Sisters of Mercy. Dance or Die. Depeche. Siouxsie. My friends and I would spill out of the Linientreu, or the Madhouse in Kreuzburg late in the evening, heading for the last U-Bahn (subway) that would take us home. Without fail, there was always a kiosk with Donner Kebabs on the way home. Oh, mercy. Drunk and stoned off hashish (come on, I was 18), nothing gave more comfort into sobriety before heading home than a Donner Kebab. That richly spiced lamb cut thinly, smothered in a lovely, spicy sauce and gingerly placed inside a coven of folded flat bread was the highlight of the evening. I could go home (hopeful) that my parents had no clue I was a little screwed up :) When people find out I lived in Berlin for 5 years they ask me how the German food was, and I can honestly say, “I have no idea. If I wasn’t eating Turkish food, I was eating Burger King, McDonald’s. Pizza Hut.”

And the waft of my cabbage stew slowly snaked its way back into my mind, bringing me back to today. To here. To now. No memories of past. I was standing in my 2 foot kitchen with a wooden spoon stirring it slowly and I smiled. I thought of the memories good food remind us of.

Someday, I’m going to look back and think about a day when I was broke, no money, but so happy with a pot of cabbage stew. I’m going to look back and recall fondly a day where it rained, and all I had to my name was ambition, where my long fingers spent their days working up teddy bears to life….and I loved every minute of it. Great things will happen someday, and I just can’t wait for the day a memory brings me back here…..where life felt good having but a few things.

…..the good moments that happen now should always be kept for safekeeping…..They’re always a much needed smile in later days.

The lesson? Whatever you do, have a great NOW. There is nothing better for the spirit than enjoying what you have NOW.

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An Awesome Blue

IMG_0780Very drizzly weekend. Love watching autumn creep its way in slowly. I received an awesome stash of spare yarns and included was this great super wash merino wool from Malabrigo Yarn. An awesome blue, electric and striking, caught my eye and I got work on putting him together with a mock sweater and removable hat. The brown and creme is made from Lionbrand’s Fisherman’s wool. He measures 12″ from head to toe and is ready to ship with a signed card by me. Just click on the picture to adopt him.

I’m thinking a nice rainy weather stew of cabbage and sausage is in order today……

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