Sewing rivers into strips of blue cotton, broken by red, running my needle with its long thread in and out, ripples forming, oxbows, sewing rivers, each stitch part of the wild current.
It’s not quite the blue of jays, or the blue of veiled Tuareg men, not the deep indigo of new Levis. I love it but know that I’ll have to try again for the blue I really aspire to, my thumb print whorled and ridged on the edges where I’ve gripped before hanging up the cloth to dry in the sun. And later, printed again, on paper, as I make a note after washing my hands, the dye renewed by water. Marked by blue, as the 12th century artist applying lapis lazuli to a manuscript, shaping her brush with her lips repeatedly as she worked, is known to us now by the residues of pigment in the tartar of her teeth.*
Water is dripping off the blue metal roof, glistening on the moss.
“the lower Thompson River from Kamloops to Spences Bridge is at least fifty million years old”**
In my greenhouse, a boulder taken from the side of the road where we are looking down at the Thompson River from Walhachin, a boulder nudged into soil on its wave cut bench, lifted, eased from its place among cactii and brown-eyed susans, anchoring the little box of light as we prepare for its first winter.
Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life.***
Yes, when the rivers have returned to their ancient beds, when the fields have drained, when the houses floating out to sea have been numbered and accounted for, when the old side-channels have become quiet in the first hours of the morning, when I have sewn this into blue and red cotton with my needles from Japan, then ask me.
* from “The Blue Etymologies”, part of Blue Portugal and Other Essays, forthcoming
** from In Search of Ancient British Columbia, volume 1, by Barbara Huck
*** from “Ask Me”, by William Stafford