Thursday, April 27, 2006

Remembering Sheena

This one is for Angela.
I thought we would knit together, so when the call came that Sheena was dead, it disoriented me as well as saddened me. In this season of a reluctant spring in a cold country, life had been seeming fragile and this one more reminder fell hard on my spirit. And I had to tell my husband just two days after the anniversary of his late wife’s death that his sister in law had died. Remarkably, he asked only had it been sudden and set about making preparations to “pay our respects” to the family.

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.
When I came again I brought some wool bought at the last minute at a charity shop. I couldn’t get needles, but it seemed to make her happy to touch it. After months of inactivity she seemed interested in knitting again. She asked her granddaughters to bring her needles from home. Was she just being a good hostess? Did the yarn get set aside and forgotten? Did she wait for me to come again to knit with her and give up hope of waiting?

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.

4 Comments:

At 2:12 AM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

Cried again, as usual. I feel as Molly does--as if I'm right there with you.

 
At 9:32 PM, Blogger ZACL said...

Keiss is an area of great craftspeople. There is a tradition of it there. There are great pockets of good craftspeople all over this county.

Not so long ago I was visiting Keiss one very dark stormy night. In their village hall was displayed a delightful quilting exhibition. It was hard to keep the main door closed against the elements and when visiting the WC you felt the full force of the gale.

I don't know if Sheena's work would have been here at some time, but in this community, a small close-knit one, she would likely have supported and participated in the range of activities that persist there.

The circumstances make for a bleak colouration upon what can be a bleak and unforgiving landscape at times, yet when you are able to see through the monochrome, you will see that there is much colour in this community and its daily life.

What we initially see can be very superficial, the reality will be varied and is something to be experienced.

 
At 6:17 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

zacl, I like to think that Sheena's work was displayed somewhere. That's a nice thought. I am beginning to find more colour (note the spelling!) and the more private ways people celebrate who and what they are. I have been invited to the Murkle WRI and a sewing/knitting/get together and talk women's group. And music.
Ironically, newcomers to Indiana would feel the same thing. As here, people are very friendly to newcomers but most of what goes on in Indiana (outside the cities) is done within a circle of family and friends.

 
At 11:26 PM, Anonymous Another knitter under the same big sky.. said...

Achingly beautiful. Thankyou, dear friend

 

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