It wasn't intentional, but I read two memoirs back-to-back last summer. Each was written by a clever youngish white American woman, each describing the choices that set her on an unusual path, each was thoughtful and entertaining –– but how different one from the other!
But books are not like friends –– where I might weigh the quirks in one against the charms of another when planning a night on the town or a weekend road-trip. Nope, books will just wait peaceably until you have time to get together. And they rarely squabble.
Not to be all Steven Wright about it, but it's odd to me that "piecing" is not the process of making pieces, but instead the practice of putting pieces together. Separately from sewing that is. It's about putting specific pieces together in a particular way. As in making quilts.
I've been making quilts lately. Kind of a lot of quilts. Probably more of them than might be strictly called a hobby.
Full disclosure. I admit it: I have been sewing with manic intensity (being "in the seam allowance" as cousin Jean Jones says of that trance-like flow-state of creation) as a way of not thinking about writing.
It makes some sort of sense: like writing, where one pieces together a narrative from scraps of conversation, specific detail, and overarching themes, quilting is a way to make something new.
It's the same impulse: to create something substantial, to create something that will comfort or envelop someone, that will please someone else also. One might spend these hours with imaginary friends and their tribulations, or one might think about color, pattern, texture, and size.
But when I'm done and it's bound, instead of selling it to a reading public (or editor/agent), this finished product can be used or given away on an individual basis. Or maybe –– rather like the stories I haven't sold yet –– they'll wait on a shelf until the time is right for them to move along.
Every spring on the Would-Be Farm, I go on rock safari. Not like it's a real challenge to locate stone –– the hilly landscape was created by glaciers and its only half a joke to say that the Farm's three most reliable crops are porcupines, burdocks, and rocks.
But in the spring, small boulders appear as if by magic in the middle of the fields. It looks as if a bear has come along and pried chunks of granite from the ground. Maybe cranky from the long sleep? Perhaps searching for grubs? What if it's a mysterious ursine ritual feat of strength? And, not for nothing, they've got a problem with you people!
But no, this is "frost heave" at work. A prosaic name for the kind of amazing thing that happens with sub-zero temperatures, wet clay soil, and rocks.
As anyone who has ever left a bottle of beer in the freezer knows, liquids expand on the way to becoming solids.
In clay soil, water tends to pool. A small bit water pooling between a rock and the soil around it will expand and widen the gap between rock and dirt. A cycle of thawing and freezing allows more water in, which widens the gap farther and farther until there is enough volume for ice to pop the rock (this one pictured about 45 pounds of lower-back discomfort) clean out of the ground.
The field doesn't care where the stone lands. Grass grows up –– and the next thing you know, you're clanking into the chunk of granite with some surprisingly delicate part of a large and expensive piece of mowing machinery.
Smart money says to relocate the thing before the grass hides it.
Enter the Bobcat. This summer's unexpectedly large project involved culverts and ditches (that thrilling tale to be told another time) and rental equipment. Because the cost of a week's rental is the same as four days, we ended up with a small diesel Bobcat for a week.
Only a couple of frost-heaved (frost-hove?) rocks appeared over this past winter, but the rockiness of the Farm seems nearly endless. At least four outcroppings of pink granite lurk around Base Camp, just waiting to catch a blade on the weed-whacker or trip a distracted walker.
After attending to the thrilling culvert and ditch issues, we still had a few days custody of the equipment. Rock safari went into a higher gear: we cleared the rocky path to both old orchards, we dug up inconvenient boulders, we nudged large stones into more desirable spots.
We both learned that operating a mini-excavator is as mesmerizing and addicting as any video game. Only when you look up, there's a wall, or a set of stairs, or something that will be scenic in a season or two.
About the Blog
A lot of ground gets covered on this blog -- from sailboat racing to book suggestions to plain old piffle.
Trying to keep track? Follow me on Facebook or Twitter or if you use an aggregator, click the RSS option below.
Old school? Sign up for the newsletter and I'll shoot you a short e-mail when there's something new.