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  • Earlene Gleisner

Communication Can Build Community

When I first learned about quilting, I was in a church basement in Portland, OR. An older Lakota woman showed me the fingering technique of how to hand stitch the bottom, top, and batting together while it was stretched between us on a wooden frame. Gradually, others joined us, as she predicted they would. We were working on a traditional Star quilt to be raffled for financial support for ANPO (meaning Dawn), a drug/alcohol treatment program based on Native American philosophy. It incorporated the 12-step Program, Sweat Lodges, Talking Circles, and other ceremonies.

This is also where I learned not to ask questions. Talking was minimal at first. Then one person would sigh and share a thought, a bit of news, a personal event. Others added pieces from their lives. It was like we were stitching part of ourselves into the fabric of the quilt. The older woman made sure to smudge the quilt after our times together. “Not to erase our conversations,” she said. “But to release any negative feelings for the new owner.”

I don’t remember their names or what was spoken. I do remember the coming together of hands and hearts as we bonded three layers into a comforter for some unknown person.

This winter, I’m sleeping under a reversable duvet cover that was created for me by many hands. Different women friends designed and sewed the many squares which make up both sides of the cover and a dear sister-friend put it all together for me after my husband died. I can sense the community of women who helped to put this together and I feel less alone.

In this new year, I’m hoping to establish other gatherings of people where true connections can be made, moments of sharing. I have the thought that Reiki Circles could be one way or a regular poetry/writing time. I’ve thought of asking for hands to help me finish three quilt tops for fund raising or give-away.

May we all find ways to return community and communication into our lives.

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