Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Stitching in the Snow

You might assume my long absence from my weblog reflects holiday activities, but such is not the case. I've been here, at home, with electricity despite the early winter weather. For the last two weeks, I have been making quilts for my windows. It has been a strangely non-verbal activity. Instead of words, I've been absorbed with shape, color, texture and dimension. I've gone at these quilts with the same single-mindedness that I inevitably give to computer programming and jigsaw puzzles. I don't seem to be able to work on projects like these and think about anything else. This is one reason I've avoided work as a computer professional. After a few weeks of a project hijacking my mind, it becomes quite uncomfortable.

I've finished the quilts for one set of windows. They are quite satisfactory and delightfully different from what I had planned. I have one more set of windows to go, and I have been forced to come up for air because I need more sashing fabric to finish assembling my blocks.

Bookcover: The Milkweed Ladies

The main news from Pocahontas County, to the extent I've noticed anything beyond my sewing table, seems to be the early snows and their persistence here at the higher elevations. We've had two heavy rains, but here on Droop there's still plenty of deep snow on the ground. I'm inclined to quote Louise McNeill's wonderful recollections of Pocahontas County snows from The Milkweed Ladies (1988, University of Pittsburgh Press).

In winter I sometimes went out early and walked the fields of our farm alone. I liked to go on mornings of fresh snowfall, when all the meadows were trackless and hushed with white. I would walk up through Captain Jim's old orchard and when I got near the moss-gray trees along the rail fence, I would begin to see the little animal tracks and would follow them up and down along the edge of the woods.

There were the triangular prints of the rabbits, or the little field mice tracks like delicate lace woven across the snow. Sometimes there might be fox tracks, on track in front of the other in a straight line. After a warm night, there might be skunk tracks, like little human footprints but with a soft white dab where the tail had brushed the snow; and up in the bushes the bird tracks made dark little stitches mending the hill. There were also the round cat tracks, no claws showing, retracted feline tread; and one morning I saw blood on the snow.

Sometimes I could feel the others close around me, down in their little burrows in the earth: the gray, sleeping wood mice; the little striped ground squirrels; and the soft curled-up rabbits, the snoring old groundhogs, and the ring-tailed raccoons. Then the silence would come down, as though it fell on our meadows from the high whiteness of Pinnacle Rock. (pp 63-64)

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