Since then I've been spending most of my waking time outside in the sun-struck gardens. Temps have been high enough to make this space largely uninhabitable even in the productive phases of early and middle evening. I've brought painting and stitching supplies downstairs to the dining room and more or less found storage space that's functional.
As I sit here and compartmentalize how I've been using my energy I see that not a lot of active "official" creativity is in evidence. But there's been a lot of gestation time related to both writing and Pearl's log cabin deconstruction.
The day after my last post I followed through on removing the log cabin borders. Cut solidly through all layers and then carefully looked inside. Saw just enough to need to see more. To know Pearl's life in the cloth trail of, well, threadcrumbs.
Stood in front of the studios big front window with a candle burning on the cleared coffee table workspace. The work of literally cutting ties with what the object of quilt used to be was as energizing as it was meditative. I was moved through and through with a sense of my grandmother's spirit urging me forward: Know me. Understand the larger context of what you recall being told of my life's history.
I cut each tie with mindful care. A couple of times I heard myself saying aloud "I believe this belongs to neither of us". There was a lot of sadness being released. I suppose from me but mainly, as the doer, I was conscious of confirmation concerning my original hunch that Pearl made this quilt in large part to stay constructively occupied while she healed more subtle layers from her despair to suffer two miscarriages after moving to the house where I was raised.
I told the floating sense of dissipating sadness that I understood. And me too'd what remained as drifting residue until it too had dissipated. By then all the physical thread ties were cut and I'd gently pulled them free. I peeled aside the cotten sateen then flipped the quilt face-up and did the same for the piecework. What remained as a batting was a layer of brown flannel that Pearl had pieced to size.
Staring at that line of double-threaded running stitches I saw how honestly I come by all the things that I do - and yet. When it came to needlework Pearl hoped to turn me into the second coming of her husband's sister, for whom I'd been named. Thus she stressed methodology and a layer of excellent execution she didn't ask of herself - at least under the duress of what I presume is an accurate interpretation of where her head and heart were at during the time of construction.
The quilt is entirely handpieced. She sat with the comfort of cloth wherever she could find it and moved steadily forward one strip of self-made life at a time. And I came to realize how my ongoing yearning to know more of her as a woman who survived a great deal and never failed to go to bat to me until she was too sick to bat for herself was being fulfilled in an unexpected and entirely tactile way. I smiled and imagined gently washing the pieced layer of living soul's comfort. Became focused on rinsing it after washing and then doing a second ceremonial renewal clearing with rosewater added to the rinse bowl.
As groundcloths for the individually constructed 3.5 inch blocks Pearl used serviceable scraps from old clothes. This was a whole ongoing category maintained by the two sisters. When handmade cloths were too threadbare for other purposes they were still given due respect because parts could still be salvaged for their serviceable scraps bundle(s). In this case the scrap groundcloths (here and there I found some pieced examples) were sometimes oversized and in other instances barely serviceable. All of the backgrounds appear to have been scavenged from old clothes representing her youngest married life. It's as far as I'm going to deconstruct her efforts. Am not going to attempt a cleaning of the top's outer layer but I'm going to continue clearing the entire be-ing of it of sadness and other energies for as long into this calendar year as the windows are consistently open to keep residue moving out and away.
Some portions of the inner quilt are quilt clean, as directly above, and then uncomfortably soiled in others. Am beginning to wonder if at least some of the most corrosive looking damage is actually accidental water spillage (or deliberately spewn florida water) damage from times over the years when I employed this quilt as an Ancestor altar cloth.
I am still immensely surprised by how poorly her joined seam lines are worked. It was another tangible clue that she was keeping her hands moving without a lot of mental and emotional hook-ups firing as they did in my years of knowing her.
Concurrently I'm going to consider making low-loft patches I plan to apply to the surface of piecework. Have decided I do want to have this quilt contain elements of my direct matrilineage but I don't want to use the worn gauze of a garment I took-over from my mother after her death. At which time I inherited unused yardage of the gauze. Sold most of it to my friends and other friends of theirs in three yard lengths. Then had to deal with the unanticipated dissonance of going through a few summer seasons of seeing various people I knew using it for summer wear of their own style.
I have two pieces of roughly the same size. Ripped in half at two in the morning a few nights back because I realized I wanted a curtain in our front kitchen window that wasn't thrown together from an ancient sheet until I came up with something better. And then belatedly realized this cloth was less than useless in filling the need at hand. Sure would have been quicker than what I'm very simply and slowly stitching by hand but this is a lot more satisfying. Every time I start to over-graze the not unrelated territories of civil unrest and bottomless corruption I put it down until my head's in a better place.
obviously enough that's why the time it's taking to complete the straight forward endeavor is way overdue even by super slow standards. Didn't quite put that together until this moment.