At Least There Are Eight

Quilt designer Freddie Moran believes that red is a neutral color. This block was done in her color style.

Between dealing with the flu and my husband’s medical issues, the winter was tough around here, very tough. As John Lennon once said: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

My plans for this month included making a quilt to meet the annual challenge in my main guild, Northern Lights, as well as creating twelve of these bright house blocks based on the color scheme of designer Freddie Moran.

I had completed eight of the twelve I’ve promised to make in January when all hell broke loose around here. Then the flu pushed my plans for the challenge quilt back. So today, I still have four of these blocks to make.

But I am surely grateful that eight of them are done. Gettin’ twelve done today would never get got. Or something to that effect. (I think I’ve been infected by the Southern phoniness of the Repug Prez candidates.)

Whew, gotta go sew.

Making My Way Back to You, Girl

Sometimes, we just need to stop and remember our place in the world, beneath the sun, above the earth, among the trees.

Of all the treasures we lost because of Irene, it’s the river bottom land that I walked nearly every day of the 18 years we’ve lived here that I miss the most.

Try as I might, I cannot become accustomed to the way it looks now—covered in three feet of silt, gobs of grit-filled leaves strangling the branches, trees down everywhere, huge piles of debris.

To us, this was a paradise, a small green place where we recognized and looked for certain plants at certain times, where we watched the population of waterfowl grow, where we watched pink sunsets from rocks that jutted out into the water. There was a small tree, most likely a dead staghorn sumac, that loomed over the trail at a certain point. When it snowed, the white drape made it look like a magical dragon’s head.

Yes, I know. I am still grieving.

But some days, I just have to focus on the fact that the sun still rises every morning, that Orion has wheeled out of the sky until the weather cools once again, that the phases of the moon do pass with a reassuring regularity. Last night, two bright planets stood together in the western sky, reminding me, yet again, of my place in this wondrous universe.

The nature of the world took away the special place I loved so dearly. But the Great Mother herself reminds me every day that she has not abandoned me.

But there are times when this kind of gratitude comes hard.

The Comfort in a Quilt

Margie Clark was one of the first people to receive a quilt through the Parkinson’s Comfort Quilt Project.

I was at two events for the Parkinson’s Comfort Quilt Project over the weekend. The first, on Saturday, was at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center where I womaned a table covered with quilts, and talked to folks about the project.

During the time I was there, a woman came to tell me how her husband received one of the first quilts we gave away. It was one I made, a simple quilt of autumn colors. She told me how much he loves that quilt, and that he keeps it with him all the time.

Then a gentleman who was working at the table next to me told me that Margie Clark, who’s in this picture with some of her family members, is now in a hospital. She also received one of the first quilts we gave away. The gentleman told me how she keeps that quilt with her all the time, and how much it means to her.

That’s why I do this.

The second event was speaking at my son’s church, Saint Thomas Episcopal in Hanover, New Hampshire. I really like the priest at his church, Guy Collins. He sat in on my talk, and during conversation, I realized that working with clergy was a very good way for me to spread the word. So I have a new avenue to explore.

After I get through my next deadlines, I plan to start making some small, stuffed angels to sell in order to raise the money I need to make this a formal 501(c)3.

The Twice Warmed

Continuing my 40-gratitudes series, I want to talk about wood. Specifically, wood heat.

For those of you unfortunates who live by furnace alone, let me explain about wood heat. If you are chilled—as in cold down to your bone marrow—nothing warms you better than wood heat. If you have a wood stove with a glass front, you can indulge yourself in the ancient ritual of fire-watching. In fact, fire circles have inspired more stories than any other natural phenomenon used by humankind.

Then there’s the scent of woodsmoke on a cold morning as you walk to the end of the driveway to get the morning paper.

Nearly everything about wood heat involves ritual from the cutting and splitting of trees to the meditative state you can achieve while stacking to opening up the top of a wood stove to see the pulsing orange glow of the embers inside.

Yep, I do concede it’s work intensive, and you end up vacuuming around the stoves a lot. But I love wood heat, and when the power goes out, I am reminded once again of the fragility of fossil fuels and the benevolence of trees.

Dear Jane

Not long after we got hit by Hurricane Irene, a friend of my son’s sent me an article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy about the healing balm to be found in classic literature.

When we are under stress, the article stated, we find comfort in the familiar. And for readers, that comfort is most often found in classic literature.

When Marie sent me the article, I was re-reading Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, one of my all-time favorites. But as much as I enjoy Edith, it’s Jane Austen who rules my heart when it comes to comfort books.

For years, my collection of Janes was a rather dilapidated mess of old paperbacks, a couple of which had failed bindings. I once sighed over this, and told my husband that “someday, I am going to buy myself a full set of Jane in hardcover so I can read and re-read them to my heart’s content.” That year, for my birthday, he presented me with this wonderful set of Jane Austen done by the Oxford University Press from the earliest print editions of her work. They are a treasure of historical and literary pleasure.

The comfort of familiar books is powerful. It’s the reason why young children want to “read” the same book over and over because what Bartholomew does with the Oobleck on page 10 is exactly what he did on page 10 the last time the book was opened. Books are rational in that way, behaving as expected again and again.

And for me, when my whole life has been turned upside down by a hurricane or illness, there’s nothing better than Jane.

Today, I’m restarting my quest for Irene recovery funds to stabilize the bank on which our house sits. Please pass the Pride and Prejudice.

Author of the Carding, Vermont novels, quilt books, and book publishing guides.