For this month's embroidery journal project, I struggled to think of something that would reflect the month. No patterns seemed to capture the main highlight of the month: Mother's Day.
The other major holiday this month is Memorial Day, but that one reminds me too much of Fort Snelling National Cemetery - where my father (who was a veteran) was buried in January of this year.
Sophia, Olivia, and I will be taking my mom there over Memorial Day weekend. I may change my mind and incorporate a small symbol somewhere on the quilt square, but at this point I did not include one. My dad's death still is a difficult memory.
So, the flowers represent something that I enjoy seeing. In fact, this year on Mother's Day there are flowers already blooming which is very unusual for this time of year. The beautiful purple butterfly weed dominates the garden in the backyard, and is attracting monarchs and other butterflies each day.
A couple bushes by the house have deep pink flowers set against dark green leaves.
The wild irises in the west pasture just started to bloom the last week of May. The horses don't touch them, so they stand out amongst the neatly trimmed grass the horses have eaten.
The eagle seems oddly out of place with a basket of flowers. It needs a bit of explanation: this month I have seen eagles a number of times. One of the most interesting times was seeing an eagle that has made its home along 35W heading towards Minneapolis. For years, two eagles nest there and spend the spring, summer, and fall around the tree.
Whenever my dad and mom would come to visit me at the farm, my dad would mention if he saw the eagle or not. Ever since he pointed out the eagle nest, I look for it (and its family). The girls (especially Olivia) are interested in seeing if the eagle (or eagles) are there as well.
On May 19th, the day I moved my mom from the transitional care unit to the assisted living apartment, I looked out my car window. Not only was the eagle there...but it was in flight. It was carrying a huge branch back to its nest.
I have never seen the eagle that lives there flying nor have I seen it carrying anything. It was one of those times I wish I could have pulled over on the side of the road and watched it.
The other symbol in this month's embroidered quilt square is in one of the flowers. It's the symbol of the Unitarian Universalist church.
According to the UUA, "The flaming chalice combines two archetypes—a drinking vessel and a flame—and as a religious symbol has different meanings to different beholders.
"Chalices, cups, and flagons can be found worldwide on ancient manuscripts and altars. The chalice used by Jesus at his last Passover seder became the Holy Grail sought by the knights of Wales and England.
"More recently, feminist writer Riane Eisler has used the chalice as a symbol of the 'partnership way' of being in community. Sharing, generosity, sustenance, and love are some of the meanings symbolized by a chalice.
"As a sacrificial fire, flame has been a central symbol for the world's oldest scriptures, the Vedic hymns of India. Today, lights shine on Christmas and Hanukkah, eternal flames stand watch at monuments and tombs, and candles flicker in cathedrals, temples, mosques, and meeting houses. A flame can symbolize witness, sacrifice, testing, courage, and illumination.
"The chalice and the flame were brought together as a Unitarian symbol by an Austrian artist, Hans Deutsch, in 1941. Living in Paris during the 1930s, Deutsch drew critical cartoons of Adolf Hitler. When the Nazis invaded Paris in 1940, he abandoned all he had and fled to the South of France, then to Spain, and finally, with an altered passport, into Portugal.
"There, he met the Reverend Charles Joy, executive director of the Unitarian Service Committee (USC). The Service Committee was new, founded in Boston to assist Eastern Europeans, among them Unitarians as well as Jews, who needed to escape Nazi persecution. From his Lisbon headquarters, Joy oversaw a secret network of couriers and agents.
"Deutsch was most impressed and soon was working for the USC. He later wrote to Joy:
There is something that urges me to tell you... how much I admire your utter self denial [and] readiness to serve, to sacrifice all, your time, your health, your well being, to help, help, help.
"Thus, Hans Deutsch made his lasting contribution to the USC and, as it turned out, to Unitarian Universalism. With pencil and ink he drew a chalice with a flame. It was, Joy wrote his board in Boston,
...a chalice with a flame, the kind of chalice which the Greeks and Romans put on their altars. The holy oil burning in it is a symbol of helpfulness and sacrifice....
"The story of Hans Deutsch reminds us that the symbol of a flaming chalice stood in the beginning for a life of service. When Deutsch designed the flaming chalice, he had never seen a Unitarian or Universalist church or heard a sermon. What he had seen was faith in action—people who were willing to risk all for others in a time of urgent need."
Learning about the meaning behind the flaming chalice was new to me. It's part of a program - a spiritual journey - called Wellspring that I'll be embarking on in September through the UU church. (I went to an introductory meeting in May.)
One of the goals is to learn more about your faith...your beliefs...and what defines you as a person. I thought I'd get an early start this month; and begin reading and learning more about what I value and what motivates me to try to make a difference in this world.