Monday, October 13, 2014

The Company of Friends

I've written here before about the quilt retreat I attend several times of year, at a beautiful retreat center here in Sonoma County called Bishop's Ranch.  I go with a group of 40-45 women, most from Northern California, and many who've been coming for quite a few years.  You might remember that quilt up there -- it's one I did a few years ago for a Ranch Hands' challenge which required us to incorporate that hunky cowboy in a quilt.  I used photos I'd taken during many of the show-and-tells, to celebrate the women at the retreat that I have come to know and love.

I was just there for another 4 day retreat, and as usual, it was fun and productive and inspiring and filled with laughter.  And, as I always do during these retreats, I ended up thinking a  lot about how enriched I feel from being part of that community of women.  We're all different ages, and we've had an enormous variety of life experiences.  But we come together to create and share and laugh, and it feels satisfying and joyful in an important way. 

In past years, I've taken a lot of photos.  But nowadays, I try to stay in the moment and just enjoy what is happening without trying to record it via my camera.  So all of those moments of intimate sharing, of raucous laughter, of silly joking and delirious punning --even the awe-filled moments sitting outside in the evenings watching the harvest moon float up into the sky -- they're in my head and my heart.  I don't need photographs.

When I first started coming to these retreats years ago, I appreciated them for the concentrated chunks of time to get projects done, and for the inspiration and education I got from working around other quilters.  But over time, the quilting part feels secondary to me.  Now, what's most important to me about these retreats is the pleasure and fulfillment of spending time with these friends.  We talk freely about our lives, our families, our experiences as we grow older.  I feel like I'm part of a tribe, and there's a lot of tribal wisdom that gets shared over fabric and pins and glasses of wine. 

And of course, I always end up thinking about the long tradition of women making quilts together, and I love feeling that in our modern way, in a big room with our fancy electronic sewing machines and enough electronics to challenge even the best-supplied electrical system, we're carrying on that tradition.  We take little bits of fabric and turn them into something bigger and prettier, just as we take the bits of our lives and share them to weave a strong and beautifully colored fabric. 

If you are one of the Ranch Hands and are reading this, please know how much you mean to me! 

Do you have a community with whom you share your creative endeavors? Or with whom you can laugh and be silly? 


  1. Thank you Diane for such lovely sentiments regarding our time together at the Ranch Hand Quilt retreats. I missed you and everyone soooo--much this time. The first time I have missed our time together since 2003! I spent a wonderful time with family this Oct. instead. Birthdays, our 54th Anniversary, and the birth of first Great Grandchild happened this past week. Wonderful memories were made here at home. I love the quilt you made! I'm in awe every time I see it. So wonderful!

  2. With your beautiful words you have summed up the marvelous experience of Bishop's Ranch. It is always a pleasure to be there with you and all the other terrific ladies. We all learn so much from each other. That harvest moon was pretty spectacular!

  3. Your words strike a chord for me. I am not one of those that attend Bishop's Ranch, but I couldn't have expressed the sense of community quilters provide for me better than you did. I am fortunate to have several such "communities" to share with; one locally, one from my previous town of residence and one online. Each and every one is sharing, supportive and very special.