Monday morning, thinking about spirals

wisteria vine

Yesterday, when I woke up, I stood by the window for a minute, looking to the west. Everything was grey with fog. Everything, but the little spiral of wisteria vine just beyond the glass. I am drawn to spirals. I remember visiting Newgrange in Ireland, an ancient passage tomb dating from 3200 BCE, and seeing the spirals carved into rock. Symbols of the cycle of life? The journey from life to death and re-birth? The seasons change, the sun rises and sets, a seed grows, a plant dies, the skies change and then are familiar again. There are logarithmic spirals in the natural world that must have inspired anyone who paid attention: insects approaching a light source, the shells of mollusks, certain beaches, the flight of a hawk in pursuit of prey, the arms of the Milky Way. I sew them obsessively, both logarithmic spirals and Archimedean spirals where the distances between the turnings are constant. The triskeles at Newgrange can be found in pottery and coins from the Classical period of Greek history. Could I sew those into a quilt? I’ve never tried. But I do regularly find myself making paths between the spirals on my quilts and maybe that’s my own innovation on the tradition. Here’s a little section of the back of a quilt in progress:

spirals on the back

The whorl of our fingerprints, the base of a pinecone, the pattern of petals in an unfolding rose. Winter, spring, summer, fall, the return of light, the darkness descending. Thinking leading to writing. An idea stitched into cloth. I think of Herakleitos, so beautifully translated by Guy Davenport:

This world, which is always the same for all men, neither god nor man made: it has always been, it is, always shall be: an everlasting fire rhythmically dying and flaring up again.

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