”What for sorwe & eke for paine” (“What for sorrow as well as pain”)

This morning a friend met me in the parking lot after my swim. She and her husband are moving to a smaller home on Vancouver Island and she asked if she could bring me a few books about Japanese textiles. (She lived in Japan for a time and visited many textile studios, accumulating some beautiful pieces.) She brought the books, yes, and also some gorgeous gifts—pillow covers, a table runner, a long length of something so incredibly fine that I only want to sit with it in my lap, and two garments: a man’s silk kimono, shibori-dyed, in a pattern I think might be rasen; and a boy’s kimono, traditionally given as a gift when a child turns 7. She thought my grandsons might like to wear it when they visit and oh, I can imagine each of those 3 wild boys in the beautiful linen robe decorated with fish. I think I’ll hang it in the room my grandchildren sleep in, with the Inuit print of Sedna and the mobile of birds.

The work of these textiles reminds me of the word painstaking. Hours and hours and hours of preparation. For the red jacket, thread wrapped around a tool or a small bean or pebble to resist the dye. I’ve done a little of this but nothing, oh nothing so intricate and subtle as the kimono my friend gave me. Painstaking, the taking of pains, the application of careful and attentive effort towards the accomplishment of something (from my Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). I thought of painstaking because of the work being done in my house as my husband struggles to regain his lost mobility, the years of pain as he waited for hip surgery, and now the daily effort to encourage a sleeping foot to awake. Will it wake? There’s a 50% chance of recovery within a 2 year period if the nerve compressed during surgery is able to regenerate. Painstaking, because he goes out on the deck to walk back and forth to urge his foot to remember its old work, in tandem with the other foot, forward, forward, one after the other. Painstaking, as he lies on the bed and presses his toes, the ones without feeling, against my hand; raises each leg; makes a bridge of his body.

My dictionary tells me that painstaking is a noun and an adjective, though the former is rare. Rare work is being done in my house, with patience and care. One day we will spread out the table runner from Japan, set our blue willow plates around it, fill glasses for ourselves and others, and celebrate what we hope will be the result of the painstaking effort of waking a sleeping foot.


7 thoughts on “painstaking”

  1. We out here are all rooting for John’s foot! Hmm – since I read you, Theresa, now I’m wondering about the etymology of the word ‘rooting,’ meaning ‘cheering.’ Because roots and taking root are what you so often write about.

  2. He is so moved that people out there are leaving such kind messages, Beth. And aren’t dictionaries addictive? I’ve kept volume two of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on my desk (where there’s barely room for a pencil these days but no matter: I just push stuff aside!) to look in it some more.

  3. Please tell John that we’ve been thinking a lot about his feet lately (though not quite to the point of fetishism, we feel…) All will be well!

  4. What touches me most is how much John is working at regaining the use of his foot. As I’ve mentioned before, when I had a stroke, it was such difficult work to get my leg and then my foot to respond again. I worried it may be futile but I was determined to try and get my brain to send out new neural pathways. So, because of that, I can relate in some ways to what he is struggling with and working so hard at. It sounds like he has the determination. I am confident he has what it takes to get his own pathways going again.

  5. You know what hard work it is to coax an affected limb to do what it should! I can tell there’s more life to J’s right foot so we’ll persevere! Thanks for your encouragement!

  6. Thank you all so much for your kind concern and encouragement re my recovery. Theresa is the true hero here, caring for me and feeding me delicious meals! One day I’ll help her harvest greens from the greenhouse we’ll construct in the coming Spring. I’ll think of everyone’s kindness many times between now and making the dressing for that glorious salad.


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