I’m thinking of the Barred Owl I saw in the woods last fall just before hunting season.
There was something mystical about how he noiselessly flew through the trees and landed on a branch. If I hadn’t been looking in his direction and seen a flash of movement, I wouldn’t have known he was there.
So I turn off my music and sew in silence. But it’s still not quiet in my studio.
There’s the sound of the snowplow going by on Route 22 and the slow drag of wheels on salted snow from the line of cars following it. There’s the clicking of metal from the baseboard heater and the hum in my ears that never stops just like when I close my eyes, there is still so much to see in the dark.
Out of the corner of my eye, the snow is coming down in a fury out my window.
I see a flurry of birds landing on the feeder then flying to the lilac bush and back again. The snow and birds look noisy but are quieter than Fate taking a deep breath in her sleep.
I’m sewing the backing on my Owl Woman fabric painting by hand because that’s the only I can imagine doing it so it will look right.
I think of the woman who made the quilt that I used as the backing and inspiration for the piece. I think of how I pulled the stitches out of the appliques she sewed by hand.
The quilt she made was old and worn when it was given to me. I gave it new purpose. Rearranging what she did in her time to speak of women in my time.
As I sew, the back of the needle pricking the finger I pushed it with, I listen for the sound of horse’s hooves clomping on Route 22. For the gravely grip of wagon wheels on pavement. In the past complete of months, the black wagons pulled by one or two black horses driven by people dressed in black have been passing our farm.
And Amish community has come to our neighborhood.
When they drive by I stop, watch and listen.
It takes me back in time to when our house was first built. When women sewed quilts by hand. When our barn held horses and a wagon of its own. I feel the pull and as much as I wouldn’t want to live in an Amish community, I want to be on that wagon, holding the reins that connect horse to human.
When it gets dark and the wagons still haven’t come, I’m glad to know they’re not out in this weather.
And with each stitch I sew, I think of how time must have moved slower without machines to help us do our work. I think of the sounds I know so well, that I wouldn’t have heard a hundred and fifty years ago and wonder about the ones I would have heard and will never know.
I look at the impressions that the stitches I pulled from the old quilt have left, like a memory. The past and the present accommodating each other to survive in this moment.