Sunday, March 6, 2011


or 4 x 4

The quilting materials my mother inherited from my great-grandmother some 25 years ago were a jumble of tiny jewels—diamonds and triangles of fabric that had been cut but not yet pieced together, or that had been pieced into building-blocks but not joined into larger sections.  Really, the fabrics were just "plain goods"—calicoes, bits of feed and flour sacks, simple cottons—but they were old, some dating to the early 1900's, and so somehow exotic.  In the box, pale yellows jostled lurid pinks and lavenders, softer aquas, true reds; delicate florals and tiny dots hobnobbed with bold checks and pinstripes.  They were fascinating fragments of cloth (of a woman's history, of an era), probably leftovers from other projects; there weren't enough pieces of any of them to make a completely matching quilt.  But they were what great-grandma had, and she made the most of them.

My mom finished several of the quilts.  It's astonishing how the pieces disappear into the larger pattern, all those separate vivid prints and colors, all the mismatches turning into subtle shadings as they take their place in the design.

I was thinking about parts and wholes today while looking at the garden.  Its winter identity has been shorn away, all the seed heads and stems and branch structures that gave it dignity and integrity.  They have been reduced to an awkward, gangling mess of spikes and stalks and lumps that have no apparent relationship to one another, no balanced proportions, no sense of shading into a whole.  The crocuses, while lovely on their own, are too newly planted to be more than random dots of blossom—rather than blooming en masse, each one seems to be following its own rhythm.  Instead of providing charming swaths of color to distract from the spikes and stalks and lumps, they are acting as charming exclamation points drawing attention to every little awkwardness. 

Until the spring growth fills in, it's a scrap-bag of a garden, a jumble of fragments divorced from a design.  But how fascinating those fragments can be... One 4 inch by 4 inch patch of ground, for example, home to a handful of waterlily tulips, kept me occupied for longer than I care to admit.  The tulips' leaves are just beginning to stretch out in earnest, and they are a study in curves, from nautilus spirals to new-moon arcs to flamenco swirls.  They capture light and funnel it along the leaf edges; they radiate warmth in the morning and cool in afternoon shade; they are a good argument for wearing vertical stripes.  They are still so small that they can barely be seen from the patio; once they bloom, the leaves won't be noticeable at all; once the sand cherries leaf out, the tulips will disappear into the larger pattern of green.

In the meantime, they are what we have—let us make the most of them.


  1. You have an absolute gift with words. Please never stop writing.

  2. vertical that gave me a smile
    Your walk through the garden...did you know I was right there with you
    I too look for joy like this in the garden
    the little happenings that one might miss
    We have few stirrings..only winter ugly
    but the birds are here...stirring thoughts of what is just below the frozen earth
    life and another Spring
    beautiful post and photos

  3. Our garden is so harsh and brown, so desperate for rain. You bring me luscious green leaves and flamenco swirling skirts ;~)

  4. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing the little things in your world.

  5. I love how you transport me with your words. You encourage me to look deeper and with more intent.

    I appreciate you and your words.



  6. It's all about perspective, isn't it - the quilt scraps and the tulips, what our hearts and our eyes and our imaginations see.
    Lovely post.

  7. Baffled, thank you - until I started blogging I had almost forgotten what it was like to write for pleasure.

    Suz, such a joy to have your presence in the garden with me. Once the birds start singing, it is only a matter of time before everything else joins in. (But then, the seasons are always just a matter of time.)

    Diana, I am glad to offer them in exchange for the months of roses and melianthus that you brightened our winter with. :)

    Wife, Mother, Gardener - thank you!

  8. Elaine, thank you for saying that - I think there's joy and beauty waiting to be found all around us if we are just willing to notice it.

    Ginny, I couldn't agree with you more - I like the way you phrase that: "what our hearts and our eyes and our imaginations see."

  9. Stacy - I just saw your blog featured on "Jean's Garden - Garden Blogs of Month"; your post was riveting. The words take your readers on a journey and the photos have such incredible detail. I am so glad you were featured!

    (Welcome to Blotanical! I think you will enjoy the networking and talent there.)

  10. Oh Stacy, What a lovely story so beautifully pieced together . . . fragments of cloth, (of herstory), stitches and words that link or layer you, your mother and great grandmother with your garden of today. Lovely! I love your swirling skirts of tulip blades. Beautiful! Your writing . . . moving, inspiring and truly gifted!