Saturday, 3 November 2018

By the Square Inch

These days, it just seems as though the news swirling around us is a lot more bad than good. What we really, really need right now is a huge bucket of joy to wash away The Uglies. Where is that to be found, I wonder?

I got an inkling of an idea when I read a blog post by a woman named Beth Merrill Neel. Beth is a middle-aged woman who became a wife and mother later in life. She and her husband are both pastors. She is also an artist, who is making some beautiful stuff with paper.

She made this picture using the condolence cards she received after her father died.You can read the whole blog and see her art work at

 Beth often feels despair at the injustices of this world. She wonders where the hope is. “But for the many Graces that surround me, I would give in,” she writes, “and yet we still have good to do and we still have to do good. Maybe everyday I can do something that would fit into a 1 inch square. Maybe most of us can.”

I wonder, have I gotten so focused on the big picture – world peace, NOW! Environmental regulations, NOW! Political good will, nations working together, an end to babies dying of hunger in underdeveloped nations...NOW! – that I have not seen the little things right under my nose? Do I need to have a vision correction?

I am reminded of a recent example of vision correction (literally!) right here in the studio where I’m writing this blog. My studio has been a twilight zone for years. I didn't realize it, however. Then a visitor pointed out to me that the lighting in here is very poor. So yesterday the Resident Sweetie and I hung a new light fixture, one that’s better environmentally than the old one, one with four lights shining into every dark corner. Whoa! Who knew that good light could make such a difference? I had gotten used to looking at things in a certain light, but now I see differently. Can I also change the way I look at issues in life?

The one-square-inch concept challenges me. If I'm looking for joy, perhaps I shouldn't be looking for it by the bucketful. Perhaps just one square inch of joy, one inch at a time, would do the trick. What would happen if I hold up a viewfinder just 1 inch square in front of my mind’s eye? What if I focused on the little things that I find in the little patch where I stand right now?

Last night the goblins and ghosties made their rounds for Halloween, proudly dressed up and showing off. They roam the neighborhood in packs, but not packs of hooligans. Instead, most are  traveling in groups of parents with children, everyone dressed up and having a great time. And not a one of them forgot to say thank you, not even the big guys way taller than I am. That right there is a square inch of joy.

My almost-4-year-old grandchild, the Amazing Grace, asks me if I’d like to see her leap – it’s something she’s learned in dance class. She stands in front of an obstacle which she wants to leap over, a small wagon. “You can do it! You can do it!” she whispers to herself. And she does! The second time she tries, she falls down, then jumps up, dusts herself off, and reassures us, “I’m okay! I’m okay!” With an attitude like that, this little one-square-inch of humanity is going to change the world, no doubt about it. Maybe our hope should be in the littles, maybe they’re showing us the way. Travel in packs, say thank you, believe in yourself, and never give up!

Grace at Halloween. The cartoon character Owlette has a "sharp mind, super planning skills, and is quick to act. She can fly, has super eyesight, and when she flaps her powerful wings, the bad guys are sent airborne." Sounds about right!
Blogger Beth has been making square inch art pieces out of paper. They are very colorful and delightful.

She says, “I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my squares. Maybe a quilt-like thing.

"Or maybe little boxes, following the words of the poet Rumi, who said that “Joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box.” Maybe I'll give them away to people to remind them that good and joy can come in jumbo-size but if we all tried to just make one square inch of Joy a day that would be enough.”

Amen, Reverend Beth, amen!

I have too many unfinished projects to get involved with a fabric version of these 1 inch squares (called "inchies"), but there are many examples of them on the internet if you do a google search. For instance: 

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