The Latin name for yarrow, Achillea Millefolium, comes from the Greek Trojan War hero Achilles, who, as a baby, was dunked in a vat of yarrow tea to protect him from harm. (His heel was the part held out and therefore missed the magic!) Throughout history, it’s been named “Soldiers Herb”, “Woundwort”, and “Nosebleed” for its blood clotting properties, and used all the way from Ancient Greek conquest to the American Civil War! Yarrow has been used around the world for millennia as an antibacterial agent and a decongestant.
The Chinese have used Yarrow for centuries, and credited the herb with increased intelligence, protection from wild beasts (when planted in your garden) and the essence of Yin and Yang!
In ancient Chinese Philosophy, the yin and yang are the meeting (or balance) of two opposite yet complimentary forces. Night and day, male and female, heaven and earth, chaos and order.
I’ve always tipped over to the chaos side of the chaos-order scale. I’m kind of messy. I don’t like my time all scheduled. I work better on inspiration than a deadline. I never keep up with the dishes or the clothes washing. This works ok when things are chugging along smoothly, but when you throw in 3 kids (aka chaos monsters), an interstate move, and both of us working full time, for the first time, into the mix, it’s amazing how quickly things get thrown into a catastrophe. Not being able to make it to the grocery store, or running out of clean socks in a normal week is just a hiccup, but when everything is in chaos, it’s enough to make you break into tears. And gosh, there were so many tears!
Making quilts has taught me a lot about creating order. If you want to make a quilt, you stitch it together piece by piece. One stitch after the other. It’s the opposite of immediate. It’s slow and patient and deliberate. It’s faithful and hopeful. If I do a little of this same stitching action over and over and over, eventually I will have a finished quilt.
While researching about the healing properties of Yarrow, thinking about balance (not really work/life balance, but more the kind of balance where most things are working pretty smoothly, and there’s room for surprises), I began to make tiny, stitch-like changes to try and create more peace in my home. In all this mess, what were some little things I could do that would make things better, things I had the energy for today? Sometimes it was small and short term: “If I put on a load of washing now, it will make tomorrow easier.” Sometimes it created long term, life-changing order, like switching to online grocery shopping or writing a checklist for the kids in the morning. Sometimes it took uncomfortable sacrifices: “If I stop work at 3 rather than trying to keep working from home after school, the whole afternoon/evening goes a whole lot smoother.” I started to see some things as a gift to my future self. “Tomorrow Jodi will love me if I take the effort to do this now!” And I did!
Nothing changed overnight. Many days in the mix included cereal for dinner and too much tv. And it’s definitely not like life is ‘fixed’ now. (There will forever be dirty clothes and dishes, after all!) But oh, so slowly, we have gotten to a point where I’m not on high alert all the time. I know some things are sorted. Decisions or plans have been made and don’t need to be kept in my head anymore.
Stitching this quilt was like a meditation in order. It was my reminder to ask myself how I could help myself today. Sometimes that meant I only got a little done before I remembered that I really should be doing something else. Sometimes the right answer was to sit and keep stitching. This quilt took me the longest of all the quilts to make. And yet, in the end, all those tiny pieces came together into a finished quilt.