My first acquaintance is in their home at this sad time, but they have heard about me. I am collecting epithets here. I may be “Morris’s new wife, the American”; I may be “the one who visited Sheena in hospital and brought her the wool”. Both are apt, but I ache every day for the familiarity of people who know me by so much more than a single instance.
I hate hospitals and sickness and sadness, but my life here is full of things that I might rather not do. When I left my job and house and country far behind, I made an implicit agreement to embrace this newness and find my way in it, so I am resolved to be a good visitor to this person to whom I am a stranger. Remembering that Sheena had been a knitter, I took the handknitted cowl from a friend back home off my neck and she touched it with the fondness of someone who missed the feel of yarn slipping through her fingers, bending it to her will, her design.
Married to a fisherman and then a widow of 31 years, Sheena must have known well the art of waiting. And now she lies within a simple wooden box. Two stark white flower arrangements atop the coffin and a few daffodils in a moss-covered basket behind the byre are the only adornments in the Keiss Free Church of Scotland. The sky outside is gray, the stones of the church are gray, and the many mourners are all dressed in black. I wonder if she knitted for the joy of color in her life. As I fumble through the unfamiliar hymns it comes unbidden to mind that Sheena is much like the storm-broken branch in the overgrown garden that I have adopted as part of my new life. Twice I have tried to clear the broken branch from the embrace of the surrounding branches. It has resisted my efforts as well as those of two gales greater even than the one that broke it in the first place. In its own time, the wind will move it back to earth.