some days, when your heart feels unraveled and your seams all feel bursting, it helps to go thread a needle. it helps to pull thread through a cloth, to watch what’s left in your wake.
some days, despite what’s tugging inside, a wobbly row of x’s, all in a line, all in a rainbow of colors, is precisely the stitching you need. you are sewing your self back together.
so it was last night, as i climbed down into a basement. a hot concrete stairway, where the walls and the temperature pressed in, where my skin and the air grew more sticky and sweaty with each step down that i took. where just as i wondered what in the world i was walking into, i pushed back a curtain onto a cool breezy chamber aswirl in color and pattern.
i was, by grace of my dayjob, in a den of delight called the needle shop. i was there for embroidery 101, a class that had tickled my fancy.
oh, goodness, it had been a long, long while since i pressed hoop to cloth, and followed the little blue x’s, traced with my cable of threads (properly known as the floss when the subject is stitching for beauty not function) whatever the blue lines demanded.
like a 6-year-old new to a party, there before me lay a whole pile of presents: my own hoop, my own needles, a hayloft of flosses. even my own tiny scissors.
there were wonderful, whimsical books to flip through, books with all sorts of simple line drawings. you picked what you wanted, cut it out with your scissors and ironed it onto your tea towel.
but first, there were stitches to learn. and that’s where i first felt my calm come together.
it had been a bad monday. the kind of monday that makes you want to run from your life, or at least hide under the bed. the kind of monday where you lose things that cannot be lost. where friction seems to seep from the phone lines. where all of your best good intentions seem to swirl down the drain. which, by the way, is so clogged you had better call you a plumber.
so when caitlin the teacher called for a knot at the end of the floss, it was, i think, the first thing all day that i managed to do without fumbling.
we started easy. we started with something called running stitch. nothing so much as hyphens all in a row. i could do it. not pretty, not perfect. but that wasn’t the point. the point was pulling thread through the cloth. accomplishing something. starting at one end, inch-worming toward the other.
sometimes my world is too seamless. without beginning or end. without a trace of my efforts.
sometimes i could run or worry all day. and if you walked in the door you wouldn’t know it. i leave no stitches behind. i leave no bright colors dotting the white of my tea towel.
only, last night, i did. i walked into embroidery 101 to learn a french knot, which i did. i threaded a needle with dreams of making a pillow case, which i might.
but for three hours in the cool of the fan, in the company of women drawn by the needles and thread, i learned i could, if i needed, stitch my frayed threads back together.
and i walked out with the start of my tea towel.
balms are many. balms come with needles and brushes, or even a hammer. balms come, for some, with turning of pages. cutting with scissors. what soothes your frayed threads? and what is it with mondays as the end of summer presses in, as school starts within the shadow of the week? if stitching–or whatever usually soothes in our personal apothecary of balms–lets us down, let’s all hide under the beds together. not come out ’til next april. or maybe october. when the leaves turn, and my best season is upon us, the one that’s up next. if i can manage to get there….