first spiral

A Saturday, raining, Bob Dylan singing of Key West and happiness:

People tell me that I’m truly blessed ‬
Bougainvillea blooming in the summer, in the spring
Winter here is an unknown thing
Down in the flat lands, way down in Key West

My bougainvillea died over the winter, a winter colder than usual here on the western edge. I loved its magenta bracts, the way it filled one corner of my greenhouse with tropical beauty. I’ll buy another if I see one in one of the local garden centres and will let it overwinter in my sunroom next winter. But while it was blooming? I did feel blessed.

I’ve been quilting. I backed the panel I pieced together last month and it’s been in my basket waiting for me to pick it up. I was busy with last minute work on Blue Portugal, busy in a little cluster of fine days planting beans in pots in the greenhouse and transplanting tomato seedlings, peppers, and eggplants. I thought these would be in their summer places by now, garden teepees (beans, including a new one to me, Doukhobor poles) and along the south wall of the sunroom (tomatoes, etc.), but it’s still too cold. Yesterday morning there was new snow on the mountain, quite a lot of it on the peak and easing down one shoulder. We’re still making fires in the woodstove and the day before yesterday I was drawn by its warmth to sit and thread the beautiful Japanese needles with sashiko thread. I didn’t know how I would quilt this piece. Maybe waves, I thought. Maybe just outlining the strips that mimic the 2x4s we used to frame our kitchen walls. But I found myself beginning a spiral and I thought my hands knew something my thinking mind didn’t.

When I sew my spirals, I am finding my way into darkness, hopeful that I will find my way back. I am walking a path worn to the bare earth. It’s one way I know to hear myself think. I sew small shell buttons to the ends of each trail, a place-marker, shining as the light shone by my face in an Edmonton room where I lay in intense pain, but also in joy as I heard my grandchildren singing: Two little dicky birds sitting on a wall, one named Peter, the other named Paul.
        –from “The Blue Etymologies” in Blue Portugal and Other Essays, just released

Dylan sings of Key West, a complicated story, and I listen, taken away by the lyrics. I am in my little cold cottage on an island on the edge of the Atlantic, hearing him sing “Just Like A Woman” and I am back, back in my room, studying for my university exams, listening to “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”, and he never gets old. On that island I was preparing to leave. I would spend a few days in Dublin where an acquaintance had arranged some readings to celebrate the arrival (at the Clifden Post Office) of my second book of poems, Ikons of the Hunt, one at the Brazen Head on the Liffey, one of the oldest pubs in Ireland, and one a reading and interview on a pirate radio station, ARD. In Dublin I wondered why I’d ever left that western island but it was the beginning of something else, a key, the life I live now, and Dylan somehow knows that and offers his own strange consolation.

I’m searching for love, for inspiration ‬
On that pirate radio station
‪Coming out of Luxembourg and Budapest

‪Radio signal, clear as can be
‪I’m so deep in love that I can hardly see ‬
Down on the flatlands, way down in Key West

My hands knew something. They know something, where a mind can travel as it stitches a spiral, as the fire warms my bare feet, the cat who is crouched between the two rockers of the chair I am sitting in, and the room dense with a voice I have known for decades, atmospheric, listened to in every season, not least this season that will surely become warm enough for tomatoes by a southern wall, a tumble of bougainvillea in the corner.

spiral one

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