by Maria Kane
The Underside of Quilts
by Cecily Jones
Two ceilings roofed the front room of my grandmother’s house most of the year:
a pink calcimined one almost matching the roses in the wallpaper
and a ceiling under which I sat to watch creation.
Visitors exclaimed over my grandmother`s quilts
stretched between two wooden slats
which could be deftly hoisted to the calcimined ceiling
and then lowered for quilting time.
Visitors admired the Pinwheel
and the Double Wedding Ring
and the Log Cabin
and the Dresden Plate
pieced together winter nights
and now arranged in bright-blocked rows like a landscaped garden.
But the underside of quilts offered a magic roof
beneath which I waited for the tracery of squares and diamonds touching points in every other block.
Sometimes a border Grandmother stitched a patterned vine:
A tendril, then a leaf, a tendril, then a leaf.
And though the repetition of the leaves was constant,
I`d wait for one more tendril to link its slender stem to one more leaf in one more twisting vine
as two borders joined.
Sometimes, these years, I dream:
Let the stitchers piece a million quilts
for all the children of the earth,
who can watch the patterned magic from beneath a wooden frame.
Sweeps of simple muslin
would become golden canopies
where a child from any land could see
a galaxy of buttercups
or a cobblestone of sky,
where a filigree of stitches would create
small parades of lambs and lions,
and circles of never ending circles
with a pansy in each one.
A whole world could be created on the underside of quilts.
From Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, Vol. 29, no. 3 (pp. 10-11)
The first time I read Cecily Jones’ poem a few years ago I alternated between awe and envy. “I wish my grandmothers had made quilts…I wish I had stuck with sewing lessons as a kid…I wish I could finally afford a quilt so beautiful…I wish, I wish, I wish.”
When I read the poem again days later it finally sunk in that Jones’ reflection is not about sewing; it is about the stories and dreams of her life. Even still, aren’t there times in our lives when it is easier to look to our right and marvel at the “good life” we imagine everyone but us is leading? Even in the face of someone else’s sorrow or suffering, we sometimes catch ourselves shamefully wondering why our faith does not hold up as strong as our neighbor’s faith when storms ravage our lives. It often leads us to think our past lacks significance; our present is missing something; our future is not as promising.
And God weeps.
God’s tears fall because we do not see what our Creator gazes upon each day. Regardless of how we sometimes feel, the patchwork pieces that make up our lives are just as beautiful as the next one. There are joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, and memories and dreams in all of our stories. We can get in the habit of looking only at the underside of our quilt and what we think are unfinished seams while gazing longingly at the seemingly connected pieces of our friends, colleagues, and neighbors. We forget that our undersides also create breathtaking images and figures. There are millions of quilting combinations and innumerable manifestations of God’s glory in each of us—all of us. It’s not a competition; it’s a community. We are created to dream, to imagine, to create, to behold, and to receive the precious goodness that is each of our lives—no matter whether we know how to thread a needle or not.
Write down at least 5 unique characteristics about yourself or experiences you have had. Let your memories and list become an offering of gratitude or hope to God.