The days meander. I wake, I make coffee, a fire, feed the cat. Some mornings I swim. I try to stay straight in my lane but my body drifts, sidles. It wants the next lane and maybe the one next to that. The news cycle meanders. One day we are all holding our breath as the rivers rise, flood farmland, as mudslides destroy roads, wash farms into the rivers already swollen with rain. The next day we are all holding our breath as the new Covid variant, named for the fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, floods into our anxieties. Meander too is Greek in origin, though now located in Turkey, near the ancient Greek city of Miletus, a river that gave its name to a concept. The Greek historian and geographer, Strabo, said of it that ‘…its course is so exceedingly winding that everything winding is called meandering.’ We are holding our breath. It’s the Christmas month. Gifts accumulate in the basket by my closet. Some will travel to Edmonton next week and some will be mailed. Others will wait under the tree for the beloveds who will join us here.
So a day meanders. Three needles currently meander through red and blue cotton, the quilt I am working on, stitching rivers through its three layers, a way to explore the sinuous curves of the rivers eroding the banks containing them. How much thread these meanders will take because of course a river doesn’t flow, or these rivers don’t, as a crow flies; they turn and ox-bow and sidle and erode. Or they would, if they were water. I am hopeful the thread will hold, in both senses: that the quilt is strong and that the two spools of special red sashiko thread last, are sufficient to their task.
A day meanders. We swim, we talk, we do our chores (cutting wood, doing laundry, writing overdue letters), and then one of us sits by the fire to sew and the other one heads out to the printshop to prepare a Christmas card, something he does gladly because last year he wasn’t able to operate our old Chandler and Price letterpress, treadle-driven, and this year he has recovered enough from a slightly botched surgery to pedal the press as he feeds paper under the friskets and hopes the ink covers the lino block evenly. It’s a block we’ve used before but this year it will be printed in a different colour and there will also be sewing involved. No more hints! You’ll have to wait!
When I woke just after 5 a.m., not yet ready to meander downstairs, I could see a few stars of the Big Dipper tangled in the firs. Not Dubhe and Merak pointing to the North Star but the elegant handle, in place, light spilling out of its old well-scoop like winter water. There was frost on the blue metal roof and I thought of that beautiful poem by Li Bei (whom I first encountered as Li Po 50 years ago), translated by J.P Seaton:
Before the bed, bright moonlight.
I took it for frost on the ground.
I raised my head to dream upon that moon,
then bowed my head, lost, in thoughts of home.