the last week of the year may be my favorite. the magical delight that follows the excitement and rush and exhaustion that is christmas. a relaxed and dreamy week. the days when you gradually bring your home and your thoughts back to the humdrum of daily life. the air is snapping cold outside, but you bundle up to trudge through fields of snow or city streets or house filled neighborhoods just to do it. there are video games to play and new dvds to watch and books to read. and lots of football and hockey on tv. the kitchen is full of all sorts of food just waiting to be snacked on. and occasionally dragging out the vaccuum doesn't even feel like a chore. there is a fire smoldering in the fireplace most of the time and everyday feels like the weekend. this is how i bid farewell to the past year and welcome the new, with a week of sundays.
my mind is foggy. it has been letting the most commonplace sensations take me traveling, taking me for the briefest moment to another place in my memory. and i simply find myself there, standing in it and letting it rush around me. i've been going to paris lately. maybe it's the mild winter weather we've been having. damp and not too cold. the other day, my deodorant, a crisp, fresh, sporty sort of scent flung me to paris. and the diesel exhaust of a bus passing has been filling my lungs with paris the last few weeks. it isn't unpleasant. it carries youth into me, briefly, and a little tremble in my heart. i love carrying those years with me, so close to my skin. the joy of walking streets with camera and pen, of wandering with little purpose and loving everything i find. all the dreams without the disappointment.
marriage is a really powerful thing. the youthful version of myself didn't think marriage really mattered, felt that it was a needless convention. but a true marriage that weathers sorrows and anger and indifference and comes over each crest stronger and with deeper respect and commitment.....it is a lovely thing to see. this afternoon i was at a celebration of our neighbor's 60th wedding anniversary....a lovely event for a magnificent couple. the snow was swirling off the lake as we shared a luncheon in their honor. tom wasn't able to come and i was seated with 6 strangers who were delightful and welcoming. i had a lovely afternoon. the love in a marriage seems to take on a life of it's own. even when you forget it's there. it's forceful and powerful and beautiful. and fills in the voids if you allow it to. it really is worth the hard work.
my studio sits on the sidewalk. it's a closeness to the street that i love. the window openings are where people walk by with such closeness that it makes me feel i could momentarily drift into their lives. and there are seasonal differences to how they pass the windows. in the winter people are hunched, often with their heads down, pushing themselves forcibly towards a destination. their shape is different. the pace is quick with a determined and hurried intent. but in the spring, summer and fall, people have a more open stance. they meet the day. there is an upright carriage and less desperate pace. some may walk with the same speed, but people look in to the day, face it, let it brush against their skin. the winter stance seems to be hiding, protecting, folding oneself away. and that isn't needed in the warmer months. so i'll watch the neighbors pass my windows with a tightened gait and discern the coming of warmer days as i sense the loosening of the steps that breeze past.
it seems that my studio is my own grown up playroom that is stocked with enough potential activities to keep me busy for an unlimited amount of time. i have walls of fabric and a room of paper and scissors and glue and sewing machines. and floating above all the busy-ness, i have 'the waltons'. they are as much a part of the process that sends quilts and journals and napkins and pillowslips out into the world as the sewing machine or the paper room. the soundtrack of my little workshop that pulses through the work is the story of a depression-era family living in rural virginia. i love the waltons. i remember watching its first season as a child. and it's hold on me is the same now, almost 40 years later. i love loving certain members of the family, especially grandpa. and i love despising john-boy.....complete with rolling my eyes and sometimes yelling at the screen. i defend myself laughingly with everyone who walks in and chuckles as i'm forced to pause my constant loop of waltons dvds. well yesterday i discovered a soulmate in 7 year old naomi. she and her mom were heading out shopping and dropped in to say hi. but naomi got sucked into a season 7 episode.....when maryellen's husband curt is killed in pearl harbor. naomi ended up staying with me while her mom went shopping. we watched 3 episodes while i continued to sew. she didn't get bored and only asked me to explain the characters. it was a lovely rainy afternoon.
now that winter is fully and completely here, the nights are cozy and snuggly and sleepy. we have fires and quilts and slippers. a cup of tea sits naturally beside my book. and my winter reading is a completely different sport from it's summer cousin. winter books are slow and thick and dense, always face down on a sofa or chair waiting to be picked up for a few minutes or an hour. and a cat usually curls on my leg. tom watches hockey and nostalgic 1960s christmas specials on tv. and we go to bed early. this is how we get used to winter.
this weekend it became winter. snow fell and stayed on the ground. boots and hats and mittens became a necessity. and the air doesn't harbor a trace of gentleness any longer.....it's sharp and cold, while the night sky is pink with it's snowy wintry glow. when i slipped into bed last night at 11 the sky was the same hue as when edgar forced me out of bed and down the stairs this morning at 5. like a red silk scarf has been flung over the moon.
houses visit me long after i visit them. i remember little areas and details that i hope will never change. when a house shows me her old iron heating grates and thick plank floors and high chipped baseboards and tall gracious ceilings and porcelain bathroom fixtures, my heart is captured. i re-enter these houses in my mind and i walk through them. i smell the odd old smells and hear the echoey creaks. chipped paint and ugly wallpaper. cracked linoleum and crumbling plaster. i want it all. i do want to see the restored beauty. i do want to see the rooms bulge with pride and a personal raison d'etre. but the aged tale it weaves around me in it's cracked and crumbling state is the rarer story i prefer. but i realize the miss haversham in me is peeking up as it always does, waiting just barely under my skin, testing me and taunting me. i know that to save a house is to hide the toughest parts of it's story. but if i can edit and re-work and coax the telling so the story stays in tact and is able to add chapter after chapter as it continues to warm and feed and bed it's families, it's story is a truer one.
i feel like quilts are alive. they reflect all the little joys that make life special. they emanate love and warmth. the quilts i make blend a grandmother's ideals with a fresh youthful flair. there is a nostalgia for seasons past combined with hopefulness for a bright full future. you can find me online at www.chasinglightningbugs.com