We are in the last hours of 2018 and I find myself thinking about the psychological concept of negativity bias, explained on Wikipedia this way: “The negativity bias, also known as the negativity effect, is the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things.” I admit I fall victim to this. If someone asked me “How as 2018?” I might respond with a long sigh…even a groan. I mean, hey, I listen to a LOT of NPR. My political and social proclivities are known to most of you. No need to elaborate here. But I’ve got a great antidote to our natural negativity bias. Go back and look at your Facebook or Instagram photos from 2018. Yes, it’s a known hazard of social media that we post our “highlight reels.” This does have the effect of perhaps sugar coating things and, it is ever important to say, we should never judge our own real lives by the highlight reels of others. But I am arguing here that these photos can also serve as a gratitude journal of sorts, assembled perhaps unintentionally but there nonetheless.
The working title of my upcoming book is A Year at the Parris House and that’s exactly what these photos, culled from the Parris House Wool Works Facebook page and posted during 2018 show. While these are highlights, and specifically highlights related to my fiber art and homesteading life, they also represent a good part of my personal reality and one that I enjoy sharing with others. It doesn’t mean that nothing bad happened to me, my loved ones, my friends, or especially my country during 2018. But these photos are one hundred and seventy five or so touchstones for gratitude. They show in my professional life: a book contract, a successful gardening and beekeeping season, an article and project in Making Magazine, my first book advance, a writing and making trip to my beloved Nova Scotia, work on a major commissioned piece, my ongoing work with Beekman 1802, happy times teaching and demonstrating skills and arts (here, at Beekman 1802, and at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village), two hook-ins (Belfast & Paris Hill), and our remarkable Get Hooked at Sea trip aboard the Schooner J&E Riggin with so many other talented souls.
I shared some personal points of gratitude too, including another trip to Nova Scotia for the graduation of my son James’ girlfriend, Beth, from Dalhousie University, and the highlight of my entire year, the wedding of my son, Robert, to his beautiful bride, Tracy. My relatively new Collie companion, Wyeth, has been at my side for all of this.
2019 is already shaping up to be another year of gratitude. I am working on another magazine project and article, finishing up that major commissioned piece, finishing up my book manuscript, and starting the redecorating/sprucing up of the Parris House for its opening in 2020 as a fiber art/homesteading/heritage skills center, just in time for the publication of my book. I am also in the beginning stages of a new teaching initiative I’m brainstorming with some cherished collaborators and, of course, Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking and I are already taking registrations for Get Hooked at Sea II. I may even get to Rhinebeck this year (fingers crossed on the new vendor juried application) and I will definitely be back at the Sharon Springs Harvest Festival. On a personal note, my two youngest sons, Peter and Paul, and Paul’s girlfriend, Gabi, are graduating from college in May. I have reached an age where not knowing what else a year will bring is met with anticipation rather than anxiety, although, being no stranger to tragedy in my own life and in the lives of those I love, I am hoping all of us can avoid that unknown this year.
I would encourage you to look back at your own photos from the past year and linger over them long enough to remember the moments in which they were taken. Most importantly, remember the people in your life who made that moment possible and take some time to thank them for their part in making the best of whatever 2018 dished out. We do nothing, achieve nothing, are nothing, alone. In my case I need to thank my family, my friends, my VA, Paul McCoy of Practically Arts Studio, my assistant, Heather Daggett, the Tuesday group, my online customers, and all of the makers, including Ron Adams of Bear Pond Wood Works and Edna Olmstead, who have helped stock the shop with good things since day one. I need also to thank Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Brent Ridge, and everyone at Team Beekman 1802 for continuing to afford me an opportunity to better make a living with my art and also spread the art to a wider audience than I would have on my own. To every venue and every publication that has ever hosted me for teaching or writing – including Beekman 1802, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Telstar Adult Ed, Stitchery in Rhode Island, Portfiber, Rug Hooking Magazine, Making Magazine, the Schooner J&E Riggin, and now my publishers at Down East Books/Rowman & Littlefield. To mentors who have generously taught me so much: Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Designs, Susan Feller of Susan L. Feller, Artwools, Eric Davis, Vanessa Rogers of Backwoods Bee Farm, Carol Cottrill, Lisa Steele of Fresh Eggs Daily, David Homa of Post Carbon Designs, Edna Olmstead, Mike Iamele and the incredible people in our Mastermind group, Britt Bolnick of In Arms Coaching, and more. I know I am risking leaving someone out by name; there are just so many to thank as this year winds down. If you tried to write a paragraph like this, who would you come up with? Perhaps take some time in the next few weeks to privately and even publicly thank them.
I don’t expect all of you to look at my pictures. I have compiled them here as much for my own future reference as for your possible enjoyment. There are about one hundred and seventy five of them, so click through some, all, or none, but do click through your own and, if you feel called to, tell us what you were grateful for in 2018. Sometimes gratitude is just the fuel and inspiration we need to go out in to the world and help right the things that are wrong in it.
Thank you to every single one of you for your support in 2018 and I wish you a very happy, prosperous, and beauty filled 2019. – Beth
*Note on clicking through…be sure your cursor is pointed on the side arrow which will appear as you hover on either side of the photo. The arrows tend to shift up or down a little bit as the photos appear.