”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.