Among the countless delights of my daily existence, one of the latest is my rediscovery of needlepoint.
I was skeptical when the urge first hit me. O.k., I said to myself, I\’ll get back into needlepoint, but I won\’t go whole hog. I know all about my sudden urges, many of which–such as the one to carve wooden spoons–fade as quickly as the morning dew. Others, like the desire to keep goats, come and go through the years. The urge to write, that moaning continuo of my life, is one of the few that have stuck around.
By not going whole hog, I meant not investing major moneys on exquisite needlepoint kits reproducing entire medieval tapestries. Instead, I went to a local shop, bought a harmless flowery pillow design, and went to work. Or rather, play. Or, perhaps, meditation.
But I found that struggling with the stiff canvas in my hands distracted me from my bliss, so I returned to the shop and bought a stretcher frame, and tacked the canvas onto it. That was somewhat better, but not really what I wanted. My heart\’s desire was a needlepoint stand, a contraption that sits on the floor and holds up your work so you can sit and embroider and feel…what? Medieval, that\’s what.
The root of this desire probably lies in children\’s book illustrations of ladies in in wimples and long garments embroidering by Gothic windows, a troubadour at their feet, strumming his lute. The embroidery stand by the broken-arch window, the lady and the troubadour, have been staples of my imagination ever since I can remember.
I went searching on the web, where the usual Aladdin\’s cave awaited me. There are needlepoint stands out there that are works of art in themselves, mostly early-American and Victorian reproductions in walnut and cherry, and selling for thousands of dollars. But as usual, if you look diligently, you find dark corners in the digital cave where even the humblest needs are met. And so was mine, for well under $100.
Yesterday afternoon I set my needlepoint stand by the (non-ogival) porch windows and sat in an old straight-backed walnut chair, the basket of wools by my side. It was raining, a gift in this odd, dry spring. While the dogs napped on the floor around me, I threaded the needle with white for the background that would set off the central bouquet.
I put on Bach\’s Saint Matthew Passion, it being Palm Sunday, and embroidered my way through the whole thing, listening, in my barely-there German, for the words (the kiss, the cock\’s crow, the vinegar-soaked sponge) that elicited the old story. Listening to Bach\’s dissonant chords, which seem to me the very sound of sorrow.
When it was over, I stood up and stretched, put the frame against the wall, and, feeling sorry for the house-bound dogs, took Wolfie and Bisou for a walk. Even in the drizzle, a bird was singing, and I saw that the front field is almost completely green.