I wrote on my calendar, on the June 21 block, “go back to work today.” I figured, first day of summer, refreshed by the newness of life. In this blog, I have written about artists needing to feed their creative wells because, well, ideas get used up. I was feeling used up and took a long stretch of time off, decided to do some reading. I consulted goodreads. But what does reading have to do with quilting? With layers, texture, background, character, plotting (thinking), color, surface design, interior grace, letting go of ego, letting in of Spirit, and it was so beautiful yesterday. Perfect. Sun. Gentle breeze. A trip to the library and Gwendolyn Brooks’ first and only novel titled Maud Martha. “Copyright, 1953, by Gwendolyn Brooks Blakely. Copyright, 1951 by The Curtis Publishing Company.”
BROOKS, GWENDOLYN. MAUD MARTHA.
The story of Maud Martha Brown, a colored woman - daughter,
wife, and mother - who lives in Bronzeville, a neighborhood of
Chicago, told with the intimate understanding of a woman who
has made a life-long study of negroes.
The book is so old, and I think, valuable, that it is housed in the third floor restricted section. Someone has to go back there and get it for you. I look at the book’s old fashioned reddish brown hard back cover, the back in the day check out card stuck on the inside pocket documenting that the last time someone checked out Maud Martha was September 13, 1972, when fines were “One cent a day on juvenile cards and two cents a day on adult cards for each book kept overtime.”
“What she liked was candy buttons, and books, and painted music (deep blue, or delicate silver) and the west sky, so altering, viewed from the steps of the back porch; and dandelions.”
In Maud Martha, Gwendolyn Brooks ends with:
"But the sun was shining, and some of the people in the world had been left alive, and it was doubtful whether the ridiculousness of man would ever completely succeed in destroying the world—or, in fact, the basic equanimity of the least and commonest flower: for would its kind not come up again in the spring? Come up, if necessary, among, between, or out of—beastly inconvenient!—the smashed corpses lying in strict composure, in that hush infallible and sincere."
I go into my sewing room, look at the Redwork in Blue quilt hanging lonely on the design wall.
Next, I am reading Blessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton, BOA Editions, Ltd, 2000. In Blessing the Boats, I am reminded of honesty, the integrity and fearlessness needed to create. You just gotta put it out there. Say, “Here, this is what I made.”
From Blessing the Boats:
to my aunt blanche
who rolled from grass to driveway
into the street one Sunday morning.
i was ten. i had never seen
a human woman hurl her basketball
of a body into the traffic of the world.
Praise to the drivers who stopped in time.
Praise to the faith with which she rose
after some moments then slowly walked
sighing back to her family.
Praise to the arms which understood
little or nothing of what it meant
but welcomed her in without judgment,
accepting it all like children might,
From Blessing the Boats, Gwendolyn Brooks writes in “study the masters,”
like my aunt timmie.
it was her iron,
or one like hers,
that smoothed the sheets
the master poet slept on.
home or hotel, what matters is
he lay himself down on her handiwork
and dreamed. she dreamed too, words:
some cherokee, some masai and some
huge and particular as hope.
if you had heard her
chanting as she ironed
you would understand form and line
and discipline and order and
So maybe I'm misinformed. Maybe this isn’t a blog about quilting, only.
I decided to listen to the masters, Gwendolyn Brooks and Lucille Clifton. This is a blog about us and our internal Maud Marthas and Aunt Timmies. A blog about how to iron, perk up our own dried edges, how to dream, how to remember and decipher, how to think in multiple languages, how to hope and ritual chant so we can better recognize our hot irons need to strike.
This is how we make things.