Things have been a little touch-and-go here lately. I realize on this mid-February Thursday afternoon as I sit in my therapy office that my homefolks are at this very moment huddled in their living rooms watching big fat snowflakes fall in torrents and pile up & up & up on lawns and streets and trees and driveways. This isn’t the first big snowstorm of the winter they’ve had to endure, and I bet some of them are getting pretty tired of it. I know I would be.
Yeah, but so what. Here in Austin we too have had a string of weather-related problems: a sort-of icy day, a genuinely icy day, and one day when everything was canceled the night before but the weather delivered nothing so I guess you could call it a nearly-icy day. That last one was a little embarrassing, frankly, but I am never one to complain about a holiday, even if this one did fall on a Friday and I don’t work on Fridays in any event. It’s been tough going around here, too, I’ll have you know.
Today, as my New England relatives stir up one more mug of hot chocolate and hope with all their hearts that the deluge of beautiful picturebook snowflakes won’t break too many big tree limbs (which knock down power lines and render even the most bucolic winter storm a whole lot less fun), we in Austin are having a lovely, sunny day. The thermometer is trying to remember what 65 degrees looks like, and a splendid weekend has been forecast.
It was a close call. Winter dragged on for days. We are not cut out for a series of colorless days when the temperature ranges between 25 and 45 and persistent drizzle makes outdoor life very unpleasant without even the wherewithal to provide much-needed genuine rain.
The collective mood drops. People huddled in coats and hoods don’t make friendly small-talk at the checkout stand; neighbors hurry by on their dog-walking route without stopping to chat; and it sort of doesn’t matter because I’m not out in the sidewalk garden to keep up my end of things. Weather like that hurts our feelings. I don’t know how people stand living in Seattle, we say to each other. Seasonal Affective Disorder takes hold with alarming speed in places where blue skies and outdoor play are the norm.
Instead I’ve been indoors watching old movies, skimming through Olympics coverage, baking and consuming way too many sweet delicious treats
like Key Lime pie, and sewing like a madwoman. I find terrible weather perfect for indoor hobbies, and predictably enough this stretch of uninterrupted stitchery has produced a bit of an addiction in me. Example: after school yesterday I had a couple of hours to kill before heading to one of the campus sorority houses for a student-professor dinner, and the little Prius somehow managed to navigate itself straight down to Stitch Lab on First Street – my current sewing Nirvana (http://www.stitchlab.biz/).
Set up in a fancifully painted old Craftsman bungalow in a row of totally hip and cool businesses across the street from The Texas School for the Deaf, The Stitch Lab is simply an old house that’s been given over to an array of great fabrics, notions, unique buttons, and a preternaturally happy and contented staff. The women there are enthusiastic about any project you are contemplating; they celebrate your fabric choices as if you were the President of the Great Taste Club; and best of all they understand hobby addictions. I can hardly wait to take one of their classes.
As I stood browsing a woman breezed in and exclaimed joyfully about the bolts of fabric printed with cats and doilies, if that gives you any idea of the aesthetic. This is no big-box fabric store by any means. Jo-Ann’s Fabrics aren’t likely to yield you a skirt like this:
Anyway, I picked out a couple of patterns and enough material for a dress, two shirts, and a purse.
Remember that first purse I made? I love it, but didn’t really know what I was doing; consequently the seam allowance on the purse’s bottom isn’t what it should have been. And every purse needs a sturdy bottom. This time I chose a stronger material in that irresistible Frida Kahlo design. If you can’t get hold of color outside, bring some indoors and spread it all over the house.
Sewing is in some ways like gardening. It’s peaceful; patterns and fabric don’t talk to you, text you, e-mail you, or even want anything from you; if you approach it with an attitude of happy experimentation your sense of self doesn’t rise and fall with your “successes” and “failures.” Just as you can rip out a failed plant, you can rip out a misguided seam. Both habits give you plenty of room to experiment. Both reward a little effort with very enjoyable results. And both involve a few sharp objects that can give you a good slice, jab, or poke.
Last weekend brought us some mild weather. At one point I found myself weeding the front stone patio, where decomposed granite lets lots of tiny green things through (I’m sure you recall the post from last spring that featured all the black-eyed Susans that rise up between the stones and render the chairs pretty much inaccessible).
Given the properly Zen frame of mind, weeding is a wonderful exercise in patient silence. I sat on the cold stones urging weeds up by their roots and accumulating an impressive amount of dirt under my fingernails. Weeding like this always makes me think of my late sister Judy, who was a preternaturally good person without a negative thought toward anyone or anything.
She came to visit for a day or two when I had my first house in Austin, and at some point we were huddled by the side fence weeding. She was barehanded, and I cautioned her about mad hazards like fire ants. Her response was a laughing dismissal: If I wear gloves, I can’t feel what I’m doing.
That’s kind of how Judy went through life: undefended against anything and anyone she ever encountered. I miss her.
I think I’ll walk out of this post through the greenhouse, where a few colors are beginning to stir.