Waiting for the salmon

This is a view of our dining table right now. (We’re eating on the deck and let’s hope the weather lasts so I don’t have to tidy up any time soon…)

Some time ago I dyed the salmon squares and then took Forrest and Manon to Sechelt to choose cotton to frame the squares for a quilt. I am not a methodical quilt-maker. I never begin with a plan, exactly, but accumulate fabrics until they speak to me. Yellow might call out, “Stars!” Scraps of red might suggest the hearth square at the centre of log cabin blocks.

This is the way I write, too. I have a sense of pattern, though it’s often very flexible. (When I quilt, I seldom use templates so the pieces are uneven; this means I constantly have to adjust and adapt. Sashing is a great equalizer as you can see from these photographs. And even the sashing is uneven.) I have a deep need for texture, whether it arises from the prose itself, the shifts in sentence structure, or how a lyrical passage might modulate to terse description. (I always hand-quilt because I love the way a smooth square of cotton takes on the hills and valleys of landscape, the long running stitches of rivers, under my hands.) And I write from memory, the stores of experience and my personal hoard of sensory material. (I once made a quilt for Angelica in which I tried to replicate the astonishing sensation of seeing the Leonid showers. And a windmill quilt for Brendan and Cristen because, well, let’s face it, it was the closest image I could think of to suit a mathematician and an atmospheric physicist. I used buttons from John’s grandmother’s collection to adorn it.)

So I’m waiting. Waiting to see how the salmon might move across that deep red cotton which echoes the smell of blood as the fish make their way up Haskins Creek each autumn, how the watery blue (the result of leaving an old sheet in the bucket of indigo dye after I’d coloured each square of batiked fish) might balance the darker blue of the shibori squares.

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