“in the meadow of life beyond a river where the dead walk” (Virginia Woolf)


One of those weekends where there was sun, rain, wind, often within the same half hour. But lots of usable hours, for weeding, for planting out cabbage seedlings, pricking out the second lot of tomatoes (the first lot having been eaten by the cat and then thrown up), putting tubs of salad greens up in their place on the second storey deck, in a corner which doesn’t get daylong heat in summer. When it rained, I came inside to try to work out how to back the quilt top I finished 2 weeks ago. I thought I was going to use a length of dupioni silk but I didn’t have enough. (The top kind of got away on me. I hadn’t expected it to be so large. I was “building” units based on the framing, 42 years ago, of our kitchen, and one led to another to another.) I have some sheets I dyed a few years ago and haven’t found a use for. The one I like, shown just above this paragraph, isn’t big enough. But I realized in laying it out with the quilt top that I could easily turn it on its side and then stitch a length from another sheet, Same dye, different results. Today I’ll do that and then baste the top, batting (I stocked up on this the last–the only— time I went to Vancouver, so I won’t have to cobble together the batting from offcut and remnants) and back with long stitches of thread I can’t use for anything else. (The thread gets snipped out once the quilting is finished and I don’t want to waste otherwise useful thread.)


The other thing I did on the weekend was to re-read The Occasions, a novella I finished just at the beginning of the pandemic, one that follows in the footsteps of Mrs. Dalloway. I wrote about it here. I’d sort of forgotten I’d written it but then, putting some broken bits of wood into the circle of stones we use as an outdoor fireplace in summer, I remembered. In the novella people are gathered at the fire for the maybe the last 1/3 of the story. It’s set here, mostly, though the characters aren’t us really. I mean, there are resemblances but there are more of them and there are significant differences. Some of those who come to the party are now dead. They hover in the smoke of the fire. Someone else is preparing for death. One of the children is a cellist. I can’t say that any of mine are musicians, though Forrest can claim rousing pieces on washboard, comb, and a mournful trombone as part of his repertoire of accomplishments. Another is an architect. You see what I mean. But reading it made me sort of wistful for Before Times, when we would often have summer parties. The epigraph for The Occasions is from Mrs. Dalloway:

A sparrow perched on the railing opposite chirped Septimus, Septimus, four or five times over and went on, drawing its notes out, to sing freshly and piercingly in Greek words how there is no crime and, joined by another sparrow, they sang in voices prolonged and piercing in Greek words, from trees in the meadow of life beyond a river where the dead walk, how there is no death.

I want those times again. Sockeye salmon on the barbecue, salads, an array of desserts, a bowl of whipped cream, flowers, wine chilling in the big galvanized tub, mosquitoes (even mosquitoes) biting my ankles as the coals glow in the circle of stones. I want dogs racing around, someone telling jokes, another singing, and I want to hear owls, as the character in the novella hear them, right by the garden. Some of us will be sitting on the long cedar log, slices taken from it by a guy with a portable mill years and years ago, and some of us will be stretched out on a quilt backed with indigo cotton, watching for shooting stars.

5 thoughts on ““in the meadow of life beyond a river where the dead walk” (Virginia Woolf)”

  1. Theresa, given one of your comments, you clearly deserve to be the President of MASC – The Mosquito Appreciation Society of Canada! How much is a membership?

    1. Kind of mad, right? But they sort of come with the territory on summer evenings and if having to deal with mosquitoes somehow also means being surrounded by family and friends, I’ll take it!

  2. Gorgeous quilt, gorgeous writing! Those are my favourite colours. Sorry I missed your reading last week.

    1. I am so much a Zoom novice that I couldn’t tell who was there and who wasn’t! I am really looking forward to working on this quilt over the next few months, now that it’s all basted and ready for the lovely sashiko needles.

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