Attitude Adjustment

More clouds.  Cold.  Breezy.  Woke up with dog lying on my bad hip.  Worse, he refused to move.  I am less authoritative than my dog.

 Result: I got up today jangled, irritable, and weary of my own brain.  My first email of the morning was from an advisee who demanded to see me today in my office.  The second one wanted me in someone else’s office ASAP.  I crafted a careful out-of-office reply message and stomped off.

 I’ve known people who have made whole careers of irritable.  They are comfortable with it, enjoy spreading it around, positively delight in irritating as they are irritated.  I am not one of them.  I feel faintly guilty when I tell the peremptory student that I’ll be on campus again in August.  I don’t even like shoving the dog into the floor; he was just trying to stay warm.

 Fortunately, I’m in the middle of a quilt.  It’s not wrapped around me; it’s cut out and lying in pieces, partly assembled, all over my sewing room.  I stomped in there today, and after thirty minutes could feel my breath again.  After an hour, I was no longer ranting internally.  By lunchtime, my brain was occupied with my great-grandmother.

 Her name was Sarah Gray Williams.  I am named for her (the Gray part), and our oldest daughter is named for her (the Sarah part).  Sarah Gray was a quilter, and like me, she used a sewing machine, with none of this mystical, healy-feely stuff that people sometimes romanticize quilting into.  She quilted to stay alive, both brain and body.

 It worked, too.  She was piecing a quilt two days before she died, at age 98.  I once watched her – and she had to be well into her 90’s by then – leap up from her machine, run full tilt down the stairs, and bludgeon a mouse under the dining room table.  With her shoe.  Sarah Gray was not a woman to be trifled with.  She wasn’t a particularly artistic quilter; she was a single parent before that was fashionable, and her hard life gave her work a utilitarian aspect.  But she was happy, creative, and knew a quarter-inch seam when she saw one.

I suspect she wouldn’t have a lot of patience with my quilting – too fiddly, she’d say, too many little pieces.  She definitely wouldn’t have patience with the fabric in my stash; she cut up dresses for aprons, and then cut up the aprons for quilts.  It galled her when her grandchildren (my mother’s siblings) would send her yard goods for quilts to match their décor.  That was a waste of fine fabric.

 But she totally got the quilting to stay alive thing.  A lot of thoughts can run under your fingers when you’re piecing a quilt.  Some of them are, “Why does this look like a banana?” but some of them are things you need to get out, let go, and snip away, like the little prayer flags of chain-pieced triangles.  At the end of a morning’s piecing, you can touch bottom again.


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