Letter from Paris: Slow Stitching
I’m typing from a sheltered corner of a favorite café, listening to the traffic rolling by. Not automobiles–suitcases. This place is on the way to one of our main train stations, and as it’s high season the stream of travelers dragging their bags over the cobblestones never dries up.
The difference between Parisians leaving town for the three-to-four week grandes vacances and tourists leaving town is written on their faces. The Parisians have the dreamy, preoccupied air of people who are already trying to decide between an ice cream on the beach or an aperol spritz by the pool. The tourists, meanwhile, mournfully contemplate the life choices that have led to their not being Parisians.
I salute them, raising my glass of breakfast champagne.
Me, I will not be taking grandes vacances this year, only a few little ones. There are some appointments keeping my body tethered to the city, but my brain might as well be in an Hermès tote on the way to Deauville.
Not to say I haven’t been productive. The wool (a nice Romney from Foster Sheep Farm) that was hanging around my spinning wheel for almost a year is now a finished skein of yarn. That the yarn oscillates drunkenly between lace weight and worsted is neither here nor there. It’s yarn, and it’s finished.
Yet I feel like I have barely moved.
Assembly of the squares in my knitted crazy quilt is begun, using neat little whip stitches that will disappear behind what I intend to be entirely too much embroidery.
It’s in working on this project especially that I feel myself slipping into a delicious lassitude, a stupor entirely devoid of alarm or melancholy. There are thirty blocks to sew together. Then the seams between the blocks will be embroidered. Then the borders between the patches in each block will be embroidered. And then there will be further embellishments: mottoes, emblems, souvenirs.
How long will it take? Who knows? Who cares? There is no hurry. I will not be rushed.
I might as well be Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott, weaving away in her tower and only giving the world an occasional oblique glance in the mirror. She was lonely, though. I’m not.
We have had a few hot days, but for the most part Paris has been blessed with reasonable temperatures and my windows have been wide open to catch the breeze.
In the morning and afternoon, the bees visit the geraniums. All day long, sounds drift in from the acting school, from the bar where the old men play cards, and from the neighbor’s courtyard where the youngest grandchild chases her friend the spaniel around and around until they both topple into a happy, squirmy, giggling heap.
I keep stitching, stitching. It’s enough. It’s plenty.
I don’t know what has brought on this weird dreaminess. Possibly the breakfast champagne has helped.
Who knows? Why ask? If I poke too hard, the bubble of peacefulness might pop. And it’s nice, for once, to linger instead of always racing. To be full of breath, instead of out of breath.
I wish you the same. It’s the very best thing I can wish for you.