One thing is completed, another asks for a beginning. Yesterday I finished the first full edits of the long essay I wrote between October and February. I wasn’t sure as I was writing if the final thing would be a book or an essay and I guess I’m sticking with the idea of it as an essay. It’s a little longer than 30,000 words; it’s constructed in sections, some of them as brief as a paragraph, some of them 5 or 6 pages long. It’s illustrated with images of the paintings and sketches it refers to. We own most of them but a few kind collectors have photographed their own paintings and sketches and sent them to me to use. It doesn’t yet have a title but this afternoon I’m going to go through the manuscript with a title in mind.
And then what? What will I do with a 30,000 word essay about art and obsession? About pain and love? I’m not sure. I wrote the essay as a way to figure something out, a relationship I had with a painter when I was 23. Other people’s stories are involved because, well, they were. Some of those people are dead. But a few are still alive and I have some reservations about intruding on their privacy. John read the essay yesterday and his reaction was so gratifying. He thinks it should be published. (And he is one of the people whose privacy I intrude on.) So a title first and then a decision about what to do with the manuscript. I don’t have forever. None of us do. So I’ve become quite purposeful about tying up threads.
And speaking of threads: that beginning I alluded to. My daughter-in-law Manon is turning 40 this month. I’d wondered about making her a quilt but then I thought, Oh, I’ve made her and Forrest and their boys quilts. Why would anyone want another? But it turns out she does want another! She loved the quilt I made Angelica for Christmas, a French patchwork,
and so we talked about one of those. I have some likely cottons in the trunk where I store fabric and we looked at them. Something was needed, a good clear yellow. Then I remembered some cotton napkins at the consignment shop in Sechelt, a set of 6, that looked as though they’d never been used, still crisp and bright. I bought them. They are 18 inch squares and so I’ll quarter them and cut 9 inch squares from the other cottons we chose. Manon’s friend was in Avignon two summers ago and the two women were talking on WhatsApp one morning in the kitchen. Manon wondered if I’d like some Provencal cotton because her friend was willing to buy some for me. It was a video call and Karine was in the store that very moment. I chose a red and yellow print, the one you can see in both photographs, and a blue I’m going to use as a tablecloth. It’s only fitting that some of the red and yellow goes into Manon’s French patchwork.
One thing is completed, another begins. Even though there are wars, burning forests, floods, a sea full of plastics, I can write an essay and find its title, and I can cut bright cotton into squares to make a quilt for a new home in Quebec. I can finish and I can begin and the two are the same.
No, start here. Deer peer from the edge of the woods.
We used to see woodpeckers
The size of the sun, and were greeted
by chickadees with their good morning songs.
We’d started to cook outside, slippery with dew and laughter,
ah those smoky sweet sunrises.
–Joy Harjo from “How to Write a Poem in a Time of War”
4 thoughts on ““One thing is finished, another begins””
Lovely! It does feel like a cycle is turning this month.
I have a big quilt in progress, much more complicated, and this will be a nice counterpoint to that. (I like to have two to work on in tandem, one bright and simple, and one more challenging…)
I love your quilts! Why indeed would someone not want another?
Thanks, Pearl! This one will be a pleasure to work on, if I can just figure out its very simple geometry! (Yesterday I wondered why I’d never kept a quilt notebook with detailed dimensions, little samples of fabric, other bits and pieces.)