Robert and I tied the knot January 12, 2001 in Victoria BC after being together for 3 1/2 years. We were both over 50 and had never previously been married. When we were saying our vows, Robert jokingly answered the 'til death do you part query under his breath, whispering maybe (not yes, but maybe). Although it was sort of funny at the time, perhaps I missed an undertone of truth, a current of unease that has run through our relationship.
|Intersections - Robert & Me, 2011|
If you know me, you know my bead embroidery is almost always improvisational, meaning unplanned and spontaneous. I like to stick a thought in the back of my mind, letting it guide my beading in a subconscious way. During our 16 years together, I've beaded about our relationship several times. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of these pieces in this post.
|Marriage Bag, 2000|
This is the first. It is Marriage Bag, started shortly after I met Robert and completed just before we got married. My intent was to explore the idea of marriage and commitment, to ask the question, Do I want to get married to this man?
|Marriage Bag, Totem Animals, 2000|
|Marriage Bag, Intertwined Pathways, 2000|
As I beaded the second side, the intertwined strands, representing our connection, grew much longer and stronger. It suggests a good and lengthy future together, don't you think? Back then beading this part gave me great encouragement and optimism about our relationship and marriage. Things looked pretty good during the "honeymoon phase" of the marriage, a time when we both turned blind eyes toward the signs that all was not well.
|His Parents Were Alcoholics, 2007|
This piece, from the first year of the Bead Journal Project, is a portrait of Robert, showing childhood wounds, inflicted by parents, altered by alcohol, who probably did not meet his needs. I see scars, a wall, and the spirals of recovery passing under small holes in the wall. I see beaver, able to pass to either side of the wall, facing outward toward the light. I hoped that the wall would gradually fall apart, allowing us to be closer.
|Hearts in Delicate Balance, 2008|
A year later, I beaded this visual statement of our relationship. Look what showed up.... the same intertwined path, which I think represents the part of me that still held optimistic hope for our marriage to be well-rooted and to grow upward in a healthy way. But more dominate in this piece is the precariously balanced hearts. Even the thing upon which they stand is unbalanced. Bear is there, climbing up hill. Will we make it?
|Lunar Marriage Dance, 2009|
Three months later, this piece again shows my optimism. Yes, we sometimes drift apart, but then, like the cycles of the moon, we come together again, a "close dance" in the fullness of the moon. As I stitched the last bead and looked at it, I had a sense that the dance between us is good and that it passes naturally through phases, yet remains and will continue to remain a good dance. Looking at it now, I wonder if it actually predicted how the future would find us drifting apart, spending more time in solo dancing than in partnership.
The next year, I was trying to re-invent myself, trying to make changes that would improve our marriage. This piece is inspired by two words: forgive and flow. I wanted to flow through our relationship in a peaceful way and to forgive us both for all the rough spots along the way. In retrospect, I notice that the flow divides the branch and the birds. The two birds closest to the flow have their backs to one another. Improvisational works seems to be like that, suggesting different interpretations at different times. Ten years earlier, on Marriage Bag, the two birds on the branch were facing each other (see the second loop of the intertwined pathways).
|Intersections - Robert & Me, 2011|
Here is another improvisational piece about our relationship, the intersection of Robert and me. I am the red/pink arm of the intersection; he is the blue arm. This is a tough one to interpret. There is a small black heart at the top of the wooden heart in the intersection. What does that signify? Wedding rings are most often shown overlapping. In this case, they are side by side. Again, I believe my choice of fabric with spirals represents hope and optimism.
None of my beadwork in 2012 is about our marriage or him. I don't know what will happen in the year ahead with either my beading or our relationship. Maybe it's time to tuck the word marriage in the back of my mind, pick up some beads, and start stitching...