What We’re Missing

The qualities handweavers put into their work are reflected by and emanate from the textiles they make. These qualities are what our modern world lacks, and what we yearn for, even if unknowingly: Attention to detail. Minding the small things. Care. Love. 

These qualities remind us that seemingly insignificant individuals and seemingly little things do matter. 

Each person, every thing, has a place in the world, and no one and no thing is to be overlooked or discarded. 

Each individual person holds a unique spirit intrinsic to their being; this spirit is a necessary component of the greater whole. 

Likewise, each single thing has a distinct essence innate to its being; this essence is an indispensable component of the greater whole.

In the grand scale of things, these unique spirits and distinct essences are threads brought together with care, love, and attention to detail, weaving the tapestry of our world so that not one thread is overlooked or discarded. 

We hold this all in our hands when we touch a handwoven textile. 

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© 2021 Kelly Manjula Koza | Textile, Isa Frongia

This is cross-posted on SardinianArts.com.

Certainly Not Small

Small things make a big difference. 

My favorite way to illustrate this stems from design school. Back in a time when we drew straight lines by hand using T-squares, triangles, and Rapidograph pens, we used a simple exercise to demonstrate that absolute care, attention, and precision was necessary in creating the very first to the very last element of a project. 

Think of drawing horizontal lines on a piece of paper to emulate a sheet of 8.5 x 10 notebook paper, which generally has about 32 lines. If you were to draw the lines by hand, you would start from the bottom of the page, draw a base line, use that line to align and draw the line above it, and then use the newly-drawn line to align and draw the line above it, continuing this process until all 32 lines on the page were drawn. 

If the very first line you drew was off level by 1/32 of an inch — the width of a fine pen nib — your design would be ruined: by the top of the page, after repeating the 1/32 inch error 32 times, your top line would be tilted one inch. 

Now think of an architect guiding the construction of a skyscraper a hundred stories high, and the precision with which the foundation must be laid. Consider a handweaver making a bedspread that requires weaving thousands of crosswise weft-fibers, and the careful alignment necessary for the first row, and every row, of fibers. Think of the navigators, mathematicians, and engineers calculating courses for ships traveling oceans, skies, universes, and how the initial degree, minute, and second of direction must be absolutely precise, and then checked and corrected constantly to ensure the ship reaches the intended destination. The tiniest bit of imprecision — or an unseen factor affecting calculations or the project — would drastically change the outcome.*

Simply put, the tiniest detail affects the outcome in ways we can’t imagine. 

This is true within and beyond architecture, construction, navigation, sciences, arts, and crafts. This is true in everything — and for everyone. This is true for presidents, prime ministers, actors, sports figures, scientists, saints, mystics, people of fame — and each and every one of us.

Each one of us affects the whole. And each of our actions affects the whole.

This can be staggering to consider — yet this realization is also a gift, a blessing. 

If each of us, each of our actions, each of our interactions, each of our words affect the whole, affects our world, how do we watch, use, care for our actions, our words, and that which we contribute to our world?

Do we, in our personal spheres and work, act with disregard, condescension, hatred, and anger, spewing toxic dark clouds of negativity that increase with time and distance to create chaos, war, and destruction on a global scale? 

Or do we bring awareness, compassion, love, and care for small things into the tiny moments of our daily lives, filling what we touch with light, harmony, and joy — all of which increase with time and distance to create a world more beautiful, inclusive, harmonious, and supportive that we can perhaps imagine?

When we realize that we’re all connected and that each one of us contributes to the creation of the world we share, I believe we have the responsibility to act upon that realization: to live with love, act with compassion, care for small things, and give attention to the tiny moments of life. 

If the tiny things are cared for, if small acts are done with love and kindness, if we bring joy to our work, if we treat people, animals, plants, nature with compassion — imagine how the results would — will — magnify. 

Can we each play our part, no matter how small it seems, to help the world change for good, beyond what we can imagine?


I think of those so often invisible in our modern world, and what they bring to us. Living and working with care, compassion, love, and awareness are mystics, mothers, artists, and others, including handweavers. 

Women weaving in the hills of Sardinia; rebozo weavers and lace-makers in Oaxaca and Teotihuacan; Native Americans weaving in the Southwestern U.S.A; rug-makers weaving in the Middle East; sari-weavers in India; and others comprising the dwindling numbers of handweavers: All are working with care, focus, and attention, placing and aligning each fiber of every textile they weave. 

Beautiful textiles are the visible, tangible result of the precision and care handweavers bring to their work. 

But what are the invisible, intangible results? 

Perhaps the fragile balance of our world is subtly maintained by the magnified effect of the order, precision, care, and love the handweavers bring to their work. 

Who’s to say otherwise?

*Professor Edward Lorenz famously discussed how small acts — the change of a single variable in a set of conditions — would be magnified over time and distance and thus change outcomes. This has become known as the “butterfly effect”, simply stated as a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world could cause a typhoon on the other side of the world. 

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© 2020 KM Koza

This piece is also posted on SardinianArts.com.

The Gift of the Handmade

In an era replete with an overabundance of machine-made, ready-to-go, disposable stuff, many people don’t think about handmade items or their value, which is a value that extends beyond a dollar amount or shelf-life longevity. The unquantifiable value factor is human: The value is in and of the makers as well as the receivers of the handmade. 

Creating handmade items requires a great deal of time and much consideration. Many handmade gifts, of clothing especially, are created for a specific person. Such handmade items are highly prized not only because they are made and stitched “to measure” — a time-consuming and skillful process — but because, when you understand the process of making a handmade item, say a shirt, you realize the time and the consideration required to make the item. Making a shirt demands good project planning skills to manage the many steps: the purchasing or making of component pieces (the fabric, thread, buttons, interfacing, and related); the acquisition and maintenance of the necessary tools (sewing machine, needles, scissors, table, and so forth); the taking of the recipient’s measurements, and more. Of course, making a shirt also necessitates the craft or artistic skills and engineering ability necessary to make the item, plus time: setting aside the hours necessary to complete all the steps of cutting, matching, sewing, and applying details to finish a shirt. 

Yes, handmade items are an expression of the maker’s mastery of their particular craft, and handmade gifts are a demonstration of the maker’s love and consideration of the person to whom the gift is given. The gift given is not just the item: the gift is comprised of the time, thoughts, and love of the maker. 

This consideration and love, as well as the attitude of the maker are present in every fiber and every stitch of the item. Especially while making a gift — during the hours, days, and perhaps weeks and months required to create an item — the maker would have thought often of the recipient, imagining how the recipient would use and appreciate the item. The concept that the thoughts of a maker imparted corresponding qualities into an object was commonly understood in many traditional cultures; hence the stories of women weaving, spinning, or stitching thoughts of joy, contentment, and abundance into a textile. 

The type of handmade item does not matter: whether a shirt, rug, ceramic mug, carved wooden toy, poem, painting, a plate of cookies, or a home-cooked meal, the thoughts, attitudes, and qualities of the maker pass into the very substance of that which they create. 

Realizing this, we begin to understand what we as individuals and as a society lack when we no longer have handmade items as a component of what we touch, feel, wear, and eat in our everyday lives. 

May we all consciously put love, care, and attention into all we create, so that our creations carry these as offerings to the world. 

Even if we are not creating a tangible object to gift to another, the gift itself may be as simple as a word, a glance, or a hug that transmits our love and caring.

~ Kelly Manjula Koza

The photo is of Susanna Frongia, renowned Sardinian handweaver, warping a traditional handloom. This article is also posted on SardinianArts.com.

You Are But You Don’t Want to Be

This was a silly piece I wrote quickly one day and emailed (BCC) to several friends and then put on Facebook. The responses I received prompted me to post the piece here — not because it’s a masterful work, but because I found the consistency of the responses, especially on Facebook, so funny.

Most of the women to whom I sent this wrote back, “I’ve turned into my grandmother”. When I posted the piece on Facebook, I received many personal messages from women, again stating “I’ve turned into my grandmother” and “I really liked this” — yet I don’t think any one of them shared or publicly gave the piece a thumbs-up!

Perhaps I should add to the following list one more point: “You know you’ve turned into your grandmother when you don’t want anyone to know you’ve turned into your grandmother!”

You know you’ve turned into your grandmother when:

  • Your pockets are filled with tissues you used lightly to wipe that smudge off your iPhone because why waste, you just might need a tissue later.
  • Your large framed photos all have corners jammed with tiny photos of your spiritual teacher and images of your favorite saints.
  • Your windowsills and door jambs all hold small statues of a divine incarnation. 
  • Your doorknobs, rear-view mirror, and shift lever all bear rosaries or malas; the one on the shift lever usually makes its way into your hand when you drive.
  • You say prayers as you get into the car to go anywhere.
  • You swear profusely at semi-truck drivers who nearly side-swipe you on the highway, and when you’re going 92 mph in the middle lane, you both swear and flip off the kids who have the gall to pass you on the right.
  • You have to consciously control your eye-rolls when talking with males wearing the robes of ordination and/or carrying cameras with large lenses.
  • You secretly give food and money to people who need it.
  • You carry seeds and nuts to the park to feed the birds and the squirrels.
  • You’ve given names to the birds and squirrels, and they know what time to expect you — and are waiting if you’re late.
  • You worry about the birds and squirrels when planning your (frequent) trips, and have a little talk with the critters before you go so they know you’ll be coming back.
  • You’ve taken the screen off your kitchen window to better be able to lean out and feed the birds and see what’s going on up and down the street.
  • You scold the drug dealers who park on your street and tell them to skedaddle after they laughed off and ignored the Men In Charge.
  • You don’t give a S#!t what people think, yet are polite enough not to state this directly.
  • Your own version of a silent glance rivals that of Dame Maggie Smith.
  • You read stuff like this and think it’s funny.

The California Tourist Association Welcomes You to the San Francisco Bay Area

AKA Why I (Mostly) No Longer Write Satire, Part III: There’s often no longer any difference between satire and reality. See the first part of Why I (Mostly) No Longer Write Satire in the archives and Part II here

Welcome to California!

We have COVID safety restrictions in place for our stores, restaurants, and hotels, so come, wear your mask, and enjoy the San Francisco Bay Area!

You’ll be happy to know that this summer, the city and the entire Bay Area are disproving Mark Twain’s saying, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” as we’re experiencing unusually warm temperatures!

Wear your shorts, wear your sandals, and rest assured that you won’t have to buy a fleece jacket at exorbitant prices in Chinatown in this year, as our temperatures are over 100F!

While we’re sorry to announce that all our beaches and most of our parks are closed due to COVID restrictions and wildfire damage, we offer thrills and excitement beyond the beach.

Visit us and enjoy:

  • Extreme fire warnings — Indications that wildfire possibility is very high due to elevated temperature, wind, dryness, and potential for dry heat lightning strikes.
  • Evacuation warnings and orders — Indications that you may have to (warning) or must (order) leave your home or hotel due to oncoming wildfires or other natural disasters.
  • Rolling blackout warnings — Alert us that if too much energy is used, sections of California will be blacked out for a few hours at a time to save electricity.
  • Wildfire smoke — Ever-changing winds blow thick smoke in such a way that you may or may not see blue sky, the mountains, the hills a mile away, or our spectacular waterfronts. It’s not fog; it’s smoke!
  • Spare the Air alerts — These encourage us not to drive, as car exhaust makes the air even worse. Stay in and have more time to enjoy your hotel room!
  • Traffic*— A California tradition which, in reality, is not affected by Spare the Air alerts.
  • Earthquakes — California’s historic speciality. Today we’ve had two already, both before noon: A small, 2.6 tremor and a larger, building-jolting quake (enough to rattle dishes) of 3.4 magnitude. 

Even though most state parks and campgrounds are closed, if you’re an extreme adventurer, you may enjoy camping within Bay Area cities! Bring your tent and join the throngs of homeless “sleeping rough” on sidewalks, beneath underpasses, in city parks, and the on back streets of San Francisco and Oakland! (Travel insurance is advised.)

We hope to see you soon!

Sincerely, 

The California Tourist Association – San Francisco Chapter

*Please note that as you drive into the state, you’ll encounter no delay. Most traffic is flowing out of California. Just plan to spend a few more minutes looking for parking at pee stops, as all spots may be filled with U-Haul trucks and trailers of residents relocating to other states. 

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The Feeling Understanding Experience

“I don’t get it. It’s just a picture of a girl sitting in some field.”

A subtle nod of comprehension, acknowledgement without judgement: A student did not understand the previous day’s lesson. 

A quiet query posed to the class. 

Silence. Murmurings of agreement, admission: Many not understanding. 

A gentle question to the student: Would she help demonstrate and explain? 

Acquiescence. 

“Please go sit on the floor.”

The girl rises, hesitating, and then sits cross-legged in the middle of the circle of desks. 

Instructions, softly-spoken:

“Put your legs out behind of you, with your knees bent. The other way. Good. Straighten your left leg just a tiny bit. Good.”

“Turn your body to your right. Good. Put your arms out, and your hands on the ground. Right hand back. Good. Now put your left hand forward. Palm flat on the ground. Twist your torso a bit more to the right. Good. Keep your legs bent. Palms flat! Good. Now turn your head just a bit to the right. Good. Hold that.”

The girl sits.

A few moments pass. 

“What do I do now?”

“Keep sitting.”

The girl sits.

Seconds pass. 

The class senses the girl is becoming uncomfortable. Watching, waiting, some of the students are themselves becoming uneasy.

Words of quiet encouragement: “Keep the pose, don’t lose it.”

The girl adjusts. 

More seconds, a minute, pass.

Gently spoken, another instruction: “Look out the window.”

The girl looks out the window, expectant. 

Another minute passes. 

The girl looks further into the distance, searching through the window glass.

“How do you feel?”

The girl turns her head towards the teacher. “I don’t understand why I am sitting on the floor, espec—

“Keep sitting.”

The girl lets out a small sigh and turns her gaze back towards the window. 

Gentle light filters into the old classroom, soft shadows of spring leaves dancing on the floor in the afternoon quiet. A lovely light, increasingly disparate with the tension rising in the girl, spreading throughout the classroom. 

Silence. 

“Keep sitting.”

The girl sits.

“How do you feel?”

Again, the girl complains: “I don’t see anything. What am – “

“Keep sitting.”

The girl sits. A heavier sigh: The beginnings of resignation. 

More moments pass. The sense of the girl’s discomfort and growing impatience fills the room.

“How do you feel?”

“This is uncomfortable. My body hurts. I’m tired of sitting and waiting. I want to get up, I want to move.”

“Ahhh! Now you understand! You can get up!”

The girl lifts a hand, shakes her wrist, and slowly unfolds herself. Rising from the floor, she looks quizzically at the teacher. She does not think she understands. 

“The girl in the painting: Can you sense that’s how she felt in that moment, sitting in an awkward position in the dry grass in the field, so far from the farmhouse?”


This is how Jay Criche, my beloved, brilliant, and wonderful high school English teacher, taught Art as Experience, using Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World (also known as The Girl in the Field).

Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 painting Christina’s World is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

L’onda

Un giorno l’onda chiese al mare: “Mi voi bene?”

Ed il mare le rispose: “ Il mio bene è cosi forte che ogni volta che t’allontani verso la terra io ti tiro indietro per riprenderti tra le mie braccia.”

Grazie a Tiziana, che me ha inviato questa citazione. Non lo so l’autore.

Sì, la spiaggia si trova in Sardegna. La foto è mia.

The Wave

One day a wave asked the sea, “Do you love me?”

The sea replied, “My love is so strong that every time you move away and towards the land, I turn you around to bring you back into my arms.”

Thanks to Tiziana, who sent this quote to me. I don’t know who the author is.

Yes, the beach is in Gallura, Sardinia. From my photos.

The Day the Bush Scolded Me

One bright spring day when I was in the third grade, I was having a conversation with the boy who lived a few houses from mine. We stood in his front yard, the only one on the street that had a basketball hoop. We—me and the neighborhood guys— would play pickup basketball in the boy’s driveway a good part of the year. However, the guys suddenly went from always wanting me on their team to not wanting me around at all. The boy with the basketball yard was defending the male opinion, and the conversation was a bit tense.

As do many people with labels such as OCD and Asperger’s Spectrum, I tend to center myself and listen, think, and feel better when doing something mindlessly repetitive with my hands. At school, I would take apart my mechanical pencils and put them back together again, over and over and over during classes. Sometimes, I would take a small piece of paper, methodically tear it into tiny bits, and make a neat pile on my desk. When I was outside, I often picked up dry leaves that had fallen to the ground, tearing them to pieces that would flutter gently back to earth.

That day, as I listened to the boy, I automatically and unconsciously searched the ground for a twig or leaf, but none were to be found: The strong March winds that rushed the white cloud puffs through the sky had carried away any desiccated foliage left from the previous autumn. 

Lacking a fallen twig, I reached for a leaf from the hedge beside us. My mind bushed aside a thought that came as my hand moved: “Don’t pick. The bush is alive.” 

My hand continued. I picked a leaf, a few leaves. The boy kept talking. I started breaking the vibrantly green, pliant leaves I had just plucked and letting the cracked pieces fall onto the ground.

WHOOSH. 

All exterior sights and sounds stopped. I felt as if I were in a vacuum. Although I could no longer hear the boy, I heard — sensed — another voice. It was clear, it was direct, and it was inside, yet it was also coming from the bush and the leaves, which came sharply back into visual focus.

“WHY DID YOU PICK US? WHY ARE YOU JUST KILLING US AND DROPPING US?”

I remained motionless. The bush continued to speak, more quietly, transmitting rather than speaking words. The bush made me understand it was alive, all plants and rocks were alive, and that I was not to forget they were living beings, with feelings, intelligence, and wisdom. Yes, plants could be picked, eaten, used with moderation for right purpose, yet humans should do so consciously, with gratitude. And rocks and earth and water were also to be respected, talked with, used judiciously, given thanks.

I listened, felt inside what the bush was communicating. I looked at the broken leaves I had dropped and bent down to caress them. Silently, I apologized to the leaves and the bush, thanked the plant, and said whatever was my version of a prayerless prayer. 

Marveling and dumbstruck by this direct yet loving communIcation, I walked away. 

The boy seemed upset — he was not done stating whatever complaint he had with me — but I had heard what was important: The bush.

Yes, bushes, trees, plants, rocks talk with us. Always. All of us. We just need to listen. 

In a culture based on competition, physical dominance, and external power, it sometimes seems easier to forget, to bury, to discount as crazy the voices, the lives, the importance of our plant and rock and nature siblings. 

I can’t. 

We can’t. 

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Appreciation

Both this article and this exercise may be “too long” for most people!

Want to appreciate someone you may have never before considered?

Take something apart.

I’m not kidding. This is an important lesson, especially if you’ve never made anything by hand.

If you have never whittled, worked with wood; sewn, worked with fabric; welded, riveted, worked with metal; or made something by hand—then take something apart. Carefully, methodically, and thoughtfully, undo all the pieces of something that a person used their hands to make.

A shirt, for instance.

Find a (discarded) well-made, long-sleeve collared dress shirt, preferably of 100% cotton. Get a seam ripper or Exacto knife, and set aside an hour or two. 

You’re NOT to destroy the shirt by shredding it to pieces — that would entirely circumvent the point of this exercise.

Study the shirt, and with the seam ripper, carefully and methodically undo each seam, each stitch, each button, and each label. As you take the shirt apart, lay each piece of the shirt on a table. You’ll probably find there are more pieces than you realized, more seams than you imagined, and wonder how in the world someone stitched all those pieces together. Or even figured out how to design and cut the pieces so they fit together perfectly.

That’s getting to the point of this exercise. 

As you take the shirt apart, consider the pieces. How were they sewn together? How were the pieces of fabric cut before they were sewn together? Look at the little edges folded under — consider the dexterity of the fingers that folded the fabric so precisely. The skill of the fingers that guided the fabric through the sewing machine, fingers next to the needle going up down fast fast fast so fast that needle-hole marks punctured too-close fingernails.

If there’s a pattern to the fabric, does the pattern match where the seams fasten together different pieces of fabric? What kind of skill did that take, to cut and to sew and to design the shirt so the patterns matched across fabric pieces?

Can you easily get the seam ripper in between the individual stitches of the collar? Can you even see the stitches? Think of the person sewing the collar — what would their eyes feel like at the end of the day, after making the shirt?

What about the buttons? The placket? Do you even know what a shirt placket is? Or the yoke?

Don’t give up. Don’t put the shirt down and forget about the exercise. 

Think about the person making the shirt. They didn’t put it down and give up on making it.

Finish taking the shirt apart. Your taking it apart was easier than their making it — and you probably never thought of who made your shirt before, or the skill, the time, the difficulty of making it.

Yes, the shirt you take apart was probably made in a factory, by several people, each sewing a particular part. But years ago, a tailor, or your mom, would have made the shirt for you, to your specific measurements, stitching each piece at their machine. Even further back in time, they would have stitched entirely by hand, without a sewing machine.

The hours, the abilities, the love of the tailor or mother for their craft: So much once went into the making of a shirt, and were valued by the shirt’s owner and wearer.

Now, the maker of the shirt is too often lost, a faceless factory-worker who has become, like the shirt itself, a commodity to be discarded. 

And you — the wearer of the shirt — feel this lack of care just as much as the anonymous maker of the shirt, but you probably don’t have words for the sensation. Blinded by labels and advertising, fashion and merchandizing, clothes-wearers pay for expensive brands, yet feel a lack of . . . something.

The “something lacking” is NOT a new fashion, not a replacement shirt, not a different brand shirt.

The “something lacking” is the spirit of the maker. 

Mass-produced items don’t have the same anima, the same spirit, as a handmade item. 

Items made with care and love bear the spirit of the maker. Mass-produced items bear the ghost of industrial production, the shell of spirit. 

We feel this, yet most can’t name what’s missing: the anima of the item and the spirit of its maker. 

We’ve discarded them. 

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Posted on Mother’s Day with much love and appreciation for my mom, a master seamstress who made, among other things, many shirts for me, and fostered my appreciation of the handmade and hand-makers.

The photo is of a handmade shirt by Angelina Pirastu of Samugheo, Sardinia, Italy. I’ll be writing more about her and the costume soon!