One of the things I actually like about the cold Saskatchewan weather is the excuse to stay home. Knowing that the temperature wasn't going to get above minus 30 today permitted me to scale down my list to a few important things: continuing to read Lisa Moore's wonderful novel, February, working on Nikka's quilt, and writing this blog post. Unfortunately, I almost got side-tracked by a sudden impulse to clean drawers and closets--I have no idea whether this is a nesting thing or a new year's thing or a cold weather thing. Two small drawers in my workroom now glow with order, and the linen closet is a little more functional.
My first stop was Veronica's quilt, which I think I've been working on for over a year. I have promised myself that it will be ready for the outer borders by Friday, so this weekend I've made the last couple of blocks. You need to be short a few blocks as you finish a quilt like this, because until you've put them all out and figured out how they go together, you don't know what colours or values you need for balance. The last two rows have been sewn together and now need to be "married" onto the rows that are already there.
It was while I was waiting for lunch and cleaning out drawers that I nearly got sidetracked, until a startling discovery brought me back to my senses.
I have eight
yes, eight quilt tops that need to be hand quilted. The one above also needs an appliqued border. The discovery brought me back from that zoneless place where you tidy to the reality of things that need to be done.
After lunch, I turned to February, which is not one of the novels I've come to call "unsmiling." There's lots of joy and whimsy and error in Lisa Moore's novel. Sitting down to read for an uninterrupted couple of hours prompted me to pay more attention to the way Moore structures the novel. There are two main narratives: that which follows Helen's grief after her husband dies in the sinking of the Ocean Ranger oil rig i 1982, and a second narrative taking place in 2008 involving Helen's relationships with her grandchildren and her son John's discovery that he is going to be a father. What I could see, however, through an afternoon's reading, was that these narratives touched one another so gently, echoed one another so quietly and so hopefully. They are tied together by a query about risk--whether Helen and Cal risked too much in their love, leaving Helen vulnerable when he died in his risky job; how much risk companies are willing to take for profit; whether Cal feels like risking fatherhood. And what the hopefulness of babies does to our sense of risk.
These are still random thoughts: I will be much more attuned to what Lisa Moore is doing here when I teach the novel this spring. But the other thing I noticed is how the simplicity of cold weather keeping you indoors makes you open to complexity. Which, in an odd way, brought me back to the quilts. Complexity takes time to cultivate, to order, to understand, to intuit and then articulate. You need to make order out of it, but not too much order, because then it's not complexity any more. It's a system. Too much order takes away the casual beauty that being human has.