Sunday, March 19, 2017

Seeing Patterns

Those of you who read my Blog regularly know that Mme Mère’s genius with a needle and thread was rivaled only by my own ineptitude with same. 

Vintage Sewing Patterns

It never failed to amaze me how she could take all those wispy pieces of yellowed paper and turn them into everything from a frilly apron to a fancy cocktail dress.  Somehow those bits and pieces came together in her mind first and she could see the finished product before she even pinned the first piece of paper to the material.  In other words, she could see the pattern as a whole and how all the parts would work together to create that whole. 

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this and if you want to follow along.  Well, I promise it will all come together in the end. 

Victorian Wallpaper
The thing is, it’s all about patterns -- whether or not we see them and what we do with them. 

Here’s what I mean. 

Last week, I stopped in to my local Sephora to buy a birthday gift for a friend.  Now, I have nothing against facial piercings (Well, actually, I do, but that’s another subject.), but I generally try to find a sales clerk who has a minimum of them, because I find them distracting.  When a nice young, facially unpierced woman offered to help me pick out something for my friend, I was delighted.  We got to talking about this (men/boys) and that (marriage/babies) and she told me she had just been “dumped” by her boyfriend. 

“It’s always the same story,” she sighed.  “I always fall for the same kinda guy and think I can change them.  It never works.” 

After expressing my sympathy, I said, “I’m not an expert on the subject, but it seems to me that there’s a pattern here that’s working against you.  Maybe you should change it.” 

Victorian Wallpaper
One of the many casualties of the proliferation of political correctness, in addition to a sense of humor and common sense, is the ability to make judgments.  We are constantly being told not to be judgmental, but if we can’t make judgments, how can we hope to connect the dots that create the patterns that help us make sense of the people and the world around us?  Children learn early on the difference between pain and pleasure and will quickly make the judgment to avoid the former in favor of the latter. 

"What, Do I Have to Draw You a Diagram??"

Even my cats know that if they knock enough objects off my desk, I’ll finally realize that lunch is late.  They recognize the pattern – annoy Mom long enough and you get fed. 

I love watching C-SPAN 2 on the weekends.  They almost always have something interesting that you won’t find on any of the other channels.  On Saturday morning, I got up in my usual grumpy cat mood, fed the cats, put the kettle on and turned on C-SPAN 2.  A young woman was giving a lecture on physics, a subject not normally very high on my list of interests.  I had never actually taken a Physics class, but had suffered through more than enough science courses in high school and college to know that Science would never be my subject of interest.  The French call Chemistry la cuisine du diable (the devil’s cuisine), and just the smell of a Chemistry lab can put me off. 


The young lecturer, Helen Czerski, a Professor of Physics and author of Storm in a Teacup: The physics of everyday life (Bantam Press 2016), was clearly brilliant, very funny and had the gift of making a highly complex subject seem, if not wholly understandable to the layman, at least approachable.  Her energy and passion for her subject was infectious and almost made me think about signing up for one of her courses…..almost!!

Victorian Wallpaper
What really caught my attention and fired my imagination was when she talked about the crucial role that physics plays in helping us to see the patterns of the physical world.  Helen Czerski is one of those rare, wondrous creatures who loves getting lost in the details but never loses sight of the big picture.  We need more Helen Czerskis in the world to help us make sense of it.  Here’s how she puts it: 

"In science, you dig and dig and dig and dig until you're absolutely sure you've done the best possible job. You spend a very long time thinking about very tiny details.

"With the communications side, the rigour comes somewhere else. It comes in understanding, seeing the big picture, and picking out the one thing that will be of interest to someone who hasn't ever thought about it before.

During the question-and-answer session following her lecture, a man asked her one of the great questions that has baffled mankind for millenia:  “Why does the toast always fall butter-side down?”  She smiled and said, “Experiment and find out for yourself.  And, no, it has nothing to do with the butter.”  


  1. I have never learned to sew either. I know how to darn a small hole and sew on a loose button. But, if the hole is huge, it would surpass my skills. Love the pretty Victorian patterns. My blog post is about a Victorian, the era is vey much on the brain presently. 🌸

    1. Sewing on a loose button it about all I can manage, too, provided it's not a shank button....although....I have been known to repair a hem if need be. The Victorian patterns are lovely, aren't they?

      I will be visiting your latest blog post about the Victorian era very soon.

      Always lovely to hear from you, Debra.

      Cheers, M-T

  2. Dear M-T,
    you continue to amaze me with your creative genius- I love the metaphor of patterns in our life.
    When I was a child my mother and I would venture out to Bullocks Wilshire which was an art-deco elegant upscale dept. store. Most would swoon at the stars that were shopping, but as soon as we entered the smell of ladies perfumes captivated my attention! I still remember all the wood and glass cases and how everything was behind the counter and how formality and niceties were exchanged between customer and sales person. Our expedition was for my mother who had a pad in her purse to sketch a drawing of a girls dress. She would make it without a pattern and would implement her own creations. My second grade teacher even asked where I got my clothes.
    As a teen, she tried to teach me to sew but being a rebel, I could not be placed under her tutelage. Later when I needed curtains for my first apt., I asked if she would reconsider teaching me- being a mother, she agreed.
    About 5 years ago I asked her to teach me to embroider and we both had fun working with kitchen towels and pillowcases.
    Your right about judgment. I think we should use discernment. Although not politically correct- some rules have to stay, at least for me.
    Thanks for sharing about your mother, it's always a pleasure to read how your mind works from current to past. Such a lovely form of expression.
    Your right about judgment

    1. What a beautiful mother-daughter story you have shared with us, my dear friend. I'm not sure if I qualify in the creative genius department, but I do have a curiosity about life that has only increased with age. I hope it never diminishes.

      As always, your comments are insightful and worthy of an entire blog post in and of themselves.

      Cheers, M-T

  3. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    Well, I sure can envision your dear Mme Mère's thoughts as I have been able to create also from envisioning and working it out. But I've left that behind me as I don't enjoy it anymore... Eyes age and time is also more and more an issue as we age.
    First off, I'm so sorry about your sweet Cecilia... But what a blessing for having had her almost for 23 years! Our eldest male cat turned 13 on St. Patrick's day and he had some allergies and needed a steroid shot. He'd over groomed himself to the point that he got bare spots and also had injured his tail. Another injection with Penicillin took care of a speedy healing and he's a lot calmer too. The vet came a couple of days later to our home for the problem cat Spooky who hates to be put inside the pet carrier. Traumatic and we're so glad we could bypass that. He even purred to her and her assistance and I wonder if he did recognize the woman that saved his life on April 1st last year when he had an obstructed urinary tract.
    They are smart and understand so much.
    Love your story and yes, I'm also more the practical person and for me and my precious time, things have to make sense or I better leave them alone.
    Sending you hugs and wishing for a happy spring.

    1. Dearest Mariette,

      Thank you so much for your condolences on the passing of our darling Cecilia. Yes, we were blessed to have her for almost 23 years. Your Spooky is just so handsome. As you know, I have a special fondness for black cats. Three of my most beloved cats were black. I have been through the whole urinary tract infection problem with several of my male cats over the years and came close to losing my Victor to that about five years. Early detection saved his life. Sadly, we lost him to cancer last year.

      We will be having some spring-like weather during the next few days. I am looking forward to that.

      Gros bisous, ma chère amie,

      Cheers, M-T

  4. Sewing used to be a form of stress release for me. All of my daughter's clothes were hand made, including those which were embroidered or smocked. Alas, now I wrangle with the machine tension and can't sew a straight line!
    Having a science degree, I'm a great believer in asking questions, being excited by problems and looking for patterns. Helen Czerski sounds wonderful - I am going to purchase her book. Thank you for introducing her to us.

    1. You know what I always say, my friend, when you can no longer do what you used to do to your satisfaction, teach others. They will be grateful for your knowledge, experience and expertise.

      I didn't know you have a science degree! Double kudos from me for being able to sew and handle one of my most difficult subjects in school.

      If you buy Helen Czerski's book, please let me know what you think. I'd be very interested.

      As always, thanks for stopping by.

      Cheers, M-T


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