Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | June 22, 2014

Finding the Weave

earth spinningI often hear people remark that they don’t believe in coincidences. I don’t either, but I don’t attribute uncanny timing to fate or God. I think it’s a matter of mindfulness.  Amidst all the whirling of the universe, there are patterns of causality that we can notice (sometimes long afterward), and that we can influence (sometimes subconsciously). The older we get, the more attuned we can become to the weave of our lives – those threads and patterns that make up all we experience. When we are paying attention, it seems that more unusual and meaningful things occur.


zero pointMy week among memoir writers at the Writers-By-the-Lake retreat at U-W Madison helped me to gain clarity on this idea. Our instructor, Julie Tallard Johnson, a gifted therapist and writer, had us focus on “pivotal moments” in our lives. I quickly recognized that if we connect the dots of these moments, we see our life’s narrative arc – the rise and fall of big events that have made us who we are. To explore these events is to become, using Julie’s term, a “meaning maker.” We construct the meaning of our lives and of the world as we see it. No one can do this for us, since no one has experienced life exactly as we have. If you agree with the old saying that “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it,” then you’ll agree with this point about unique construction of meaning.


3 - John waiting (2)Our pivotal moments are often related to trauma and triumph, but they may also involve powerful things we witness around us. They may be any experiences that teach us about what it means to be human or how the world works. Significant illnesses and losses in our lives or big milestones and accomplishments are obvious examples, but pivotal moments might also include a time we witnessed one classmate bullying another, or saw lightning strike a tree, or heard a haunting ballad on the radio at just the right time, or watched the sun rise at the Grand Canyon, or read a story (or saw a film) about someone who was persecuted for simply being who he or she was. (That’s my nephew John to the right, at the Canyon’s north rim in 2008.)


Looking back on our lives, we all can recognize pivotal moments that we have internalized – moments that have clarified for us who we are, what is important to us, and where we stand in relation to the world around us. Collectively, this set of key moments makes us unique.


The-Tigre-river-in-the-Am-001Who we are determines which experiences become pivotal in our lives and how they do this. Nature and nurture are involved into this process. We may be wired to be more or less sensitive than the next person, or more optimistic, or more of a risk-taker. Our parents and role models, along with the media, play a huge role in guiding our outside interests and passions. But might there be a third factor at work? Might it have to do with our ability to recognize and reflect upon our lives in order to consciously make meaning from our experiences? And can this ability be learned? I suppose the entire field of psychology hinges upon it.


?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????What I’ve begun to explore is the possibility that our internal growth might cause a shift in what we consider to be pivotal moments. As I mature and become more “awake” to life, might I begin to re-interpret moments as being more or less pivotal than I once believed? Or might I begin to see certain events yet to come as pivotal that I might not have had I stayed asleep? If I develop a broader notion of beauty, might my recognition of kindness or joy change? If I develop a deeper sense of empathy and forgiveness, might my understanding of pain or trauma change? Might I notice small acts or moments that I never would have seen at all just a few years ago?  Understanding how these shifts within us color the way we see the world – this is what is most important in developing a true sense of our ever-emerging self.


Those of us who want our lives to have richness and meaning come to the search in a variety of ways. And those of us who love words enjoy nothing more than sharing those most important stories.



Photo of the earth from “Sound of the Earth Whirling”

Photo of the Tigris River from the Guardian

Last photo from Weavolution


  1. So happy you had such an enjoyable experience in Wisconsin and the article that resulted. Will look forward to more.

  2. Hello Kate, I appreciate how you extend the use of pivotal moments in our writing and in our making meaning. I so look forward to reading your blogs, your poems and your story. And, thanks for mentioning my book.

    • I am so enjoying the book, Julie! It’s so dense with ideas, insights, great quotes…. I look forward to using it to prompt meditation and writing all summer long.

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