View Full Version : Picking Up The Stitches

19-Aug-06, 02:20
Explanation Page
Because of restrictions of message length, this short story has had to be split up. Sorry about that, and Im not sure this will work either as it gets fragmented. Anyhow, 1, 2, 3, etc to read the whole thing.

19-Aug-06, 02:23

(Page 1)

There was nothing remarkable about the old house as you approached it from the river - as people had done for as long as it had stood. It looked run down and shabby, years of neglect and the ravages of time had left their mark. The yard now seemed as though no one had tended it in years. Weeds grew in clumps, no flowers had bloomed there since - well nobody remembered when. Sunlight bathed the scene, giving a golden haze it didn't
seem to deserve. If you listened, you'd hear the crickets and other insects buzzing, flies and the like. You could only hear Nature's sound here, nothing to connect this place on earth with a town or city, except the river, where it came from, where it was going to.
A few lizards rested in the shade, one or two birds circled in the air, almost as if waiting for permission to land. Walking round the twin trees you could see both the front and one side of the house, one side in shadow. As you got closer, you made out what looked like a figure, gently rocking back and forth in a chair, on the porch. closer still and you saw it was an old lady, hair white as silk, and a face tanned a rich golden brown by contrast. Her
eyes are closed, her mouth slightly open, as if in her sleep and snoring. On her lap lies some uncompleted knitting. A ball of yarn lies on the floor, perhaps having fallen as she fell asleep. You try to see what she's been knitting, but it is partly covered by her arms and hands, and the rest, perhaps half is bunched up. There seems to be much colour in the work.
You gaze at the surroundings, turning and moving quietly lest you wake her. Open as the place seems, you feel as though you were intruding on some hallowed land, on her privacy. Yet, as you look back at that peaceful scene, you know that the object of your visit, sitting in her rocker, is in some ways, a legend in her own time.
You try to guess her age from her looks, but this is hopeless. she looks no more than seventy or seventy-five, yet, if your information is right, she is over ninety-five, and some say already one hundred.
A fly hovers over her face, and then shoots away, almost as though it was told not to alight on this important person. Perhaps that noise, or the rustling of leaves in the nearby trees disturbs her. Her eyes open and you gasp with astonishment at how beautiful they are, a sort of translucent blue that seem to mirror everything in sight.
They are warm and comforting, yet have a distant quality about them. They are unlike any you have ever seen on another human being - more in keeping with a porcelain doll.
"Hello" she calls out, "Come closer so I can see you". The voice. soft, musical, belongs to a younger person you think. This voice has warmth, and confidence. It is the voice of one who is at peace with herself, who lives not in regret or remorse, but in love and contentment.
You feel drawn to her by a magnet, you glide or float as if on a cloud, feet off the ground. You stop six feet from her and smile, not intentionally as one would perhaps graciously, but more at some sight, instantly pleasurable, like the grin on a young baby.
"I don't have many visitors these days. Few people live around here anymore and the supply boat only comes four times a year. I know when they are due, but I think I also knew you were coming. Why not come and sit by me, it's warm out there and more comfortable here on the porch".
You respond to her friendliness and charm. As you sit down, you see her looking at you, as though she can read your mind. You wonder though what she sees, as the person you appear to be, or as an inquisitive child. You realise, you could never hide your thoughts from her, she is far too perceptive. Those eyes of hers, though mirrors of her own soul, seem to see right through to your core. This would normally be disarming, yet with her, you feel a kind of sanctity, and a way of relief as she says,
"You mustn't mind me looking at you, you know. I see so few faces now, each one becomes quite special. When I was young, I think I missed so much. you know, faces talk, sometimes so much better than words can convey. I've learnt much more about life from studying faces than reading books, maybe as I didn't learn to read or write till I was about twenty-three - no call for the 3 Rs in my youth you know. So now, let me tell you what I believe you are thinking right now, but first, have a glass of lemonade".

19-Aug-06, 02:25

Page 2
When first I sat down, I had seen on the table between us, a tray with a large pitcher full to the brim and two empty glasses. As I looked now at the tray, both glasses were full - I hadn't noticed her move, so intent was I on gazing into her eyes. I reached for a glass as she did. We touched glasses - an unspoken salute to the other. I was about to say thanks, and launch into the accepted formalities, when something seemed to still my tongue. I began to think she had control over my ability to speak.
"Refreshing, isn't it?" she asked, and before I could reply, carried on, "You know, I do really prefer pictures to words. Pictures, like faces, tell me so much more. A painter can do more with his picture than a writer using words. Yet, how can I talk to you without those same words? I think I should tell you a story, but first I must get you to look at something", she said as she rose. I, not knowing whether to remain seated or rise, hesitated until she touched me on the shoulder and asked me to follow her into the house. That touch was then, and is now, indescribable. Not cold or hot, soft nor hard, a kind of gentle firmness enough to make you imagine the hand of an Angel, helping you on your way to Heaven.
My reaction to the outside of the house had been somewhat apathetic - the house seemed what I felt it might have been, or even should have been. Inside, I blinked in utter amazement. From the position I found myself, I could see into each room. All the doors were open, as though the house had no secrets, but what impressed me first, was the sheer beauty. Each and every wall was covered with what I took at first to be a tapestry. Her chairs, settees, beds were likewise covered. The place was a splash of colour, contrasting yet blending, with all the skills of a painter. There was order in the arrangement of rooms, furniture old yet clean, polished and well kept. The shelves were covered, again like the walls, and held glass and chinaware. The floor in each room had the most delightful patterned rugs. Standing back, you think - anywhere but here it would be too much, it would look overdone and suffocate you, yet here, well it looks perfect.
We walked noiselessly across one large rug towards the wall behind the door. I suppose it measured some ten feet, with a good size window halfway along. She pointed to the wall, and I saw that it was not a tapestry in the old sense of the word, but knitted with yarn, it seemed to convey the same kind of impression. I knew little of knitting then so could see less of the technical ability shown in the work. I lacked also the artist's eye for balance and detail. Yet as I stood and stared at this sight, I knew this was not the hand of some mere mortal, but someone with a very special gift. I started to walk round the room, clock-wise, silently viewing the exhibit, rather like touring an Art Gallery. Yet these weren't a series of separate views, but one continuous stream of talent.
I was perhaps too overawed by it's splendour to notice at first the story woven into it, nor that we had gone right round to the door, until I heard her tell me I could go round again, which I did, seeing much more than I had the first time. Back at the door, she pointed to the other rooms, and smiled. I went into every room and a similar sight met my eyes each time.
I sensed rather than knew that the main work in the sitting room was a complete story, that each other room gave another story, yet somehow connected to the first, perhaps like parables to explain the point.
Walking round at a leisurely pace did not exert me, yet at the door again, I felt breathless, the kind of feeling accompanying shock or disbelief, for that is just exactly what was registering on me at that time.
She opened the door and beckoned me through, following me with what appeared to be a large sheet of paper, rolled up. As we sat down, I reached for my glass of lemonade, which again was full, seemingly by magic.
On the verge of saying how utterly splendid her home, her work and she was, I felt once again my tongue clamped. I so wanted to express my appreciation, yet, as I looked at that face, a smile as radiant as the sun, eyes twinkling as though with amusement, I suddenly felt calm. Those who have experienced a real storm, will know the period of calm before it hits. The atmosphere is electrifying, everything seems deathly still, for moments or even minutes. In my case I felt that calm. Yet it was not dread or sinister, more like one would imagine the Garden of Eden to be.

19-Aug-06, 02:28

Then the silence was broken, but not the feeling of peace and tranquillity glowing inside me. She started to talk, yet, and I remember the feeling so well, even many years later, as I too grow old, I heard words only as if in the distance - my mind was seeing things in pictures, not in words in black and white. It was a moving experience, one so rich in tone, in harmony and balance, as to be scarcely believable, more as a dream than a reality during which, time seemed to stand still as though it too was spellbound and immovable. She began,
"My name is Elizabeth May Sands and I was born on 1st May, 1850, the first of ten children. My father was a farmer, the son of a farmer, and my mother came from farming stock as well. We used to live about five hundred miles up river, near a place called Turner's Landing. I was twelve when they built a church and the school, and by then, too busy helping out, what with housework, tending kids and livestock - chickens, pigs, milking cows, I had no time for education. I went to church when I could, but more because I saw a boy there who interested me. I didn't really understand about religion the, yet enough of it had sunk in so I could draw on it later.
When I reached twenty, my friend from church proposed to me, and we were married in August. George moved in with me in a Cabin the family built, he working with my father sometimes and his father at others. I began to take more notice of Church, but was limited without reading and writing. I made myself a vow that any of my children would learn.
The 1st June next year I had my first baby, a boy. We named him Matthew from the Bible. The following year I had a girl we called Ruth. By this time, George and I were both thinking about school, so one Sunday, after Church, I spoke to the teacher and asked her how George and I could learn. Mary Morrison was her name.
She had been born and grown up back East and then married. She and her husband had set out for the west, she as a teacher, he a minister, but he died on the way. She arrived in town one stormy day, tired, sick with hunger and grief. My mother was the first to reach her, took her to a boarding house that would care for her.
Mary was surprised at my request, but agreed to try and help. She suggested that we both came to her home once a week, say Sunday afternoon. This we did, and through her patience and ability, we both learned so that when our children were old enough to learn, we were able to help.
Over the next few years, we had four more children, and moved into a larger house that had belonged to George's uncle who had died. From the moment our kids could attend school, they went. In the evenings, George and I would go over their homework with them, learning as we went. Time passed, and we were overtaken by our children's knowledge, so that our help was no longer needed. We in turn sought to find some outlet for our education, but it was difficult. Then one day, George came home with a parcel and handing it to me said 'We should find something in these'.
I opened the parcel and saw two books. One was a book of art, showing all kinds of different scenes, and the other, some kind of instruction book. I said to George that unless one of our kids was good at drawing, then I couldn't see the point of those books. He replied that as a child, he had drawn quite well, and although he hadn't drawn or painted since we met, he thought he would try to get back to it. I wondered where he thought I came into the picture, until he showed me a picture in the book of some kind of story concerning a battle. What stood out in that to me was how alive it was. I didn't then read the print underneath. I was too engrossed in the story the picture seemed to tell me.
We both said at the same time, 'I wonder if one could knit something like that? That night, George tried to copy some of the picture, drawing and then colouring with the kids' crayons. I, having learnt to knit years ago, had a basket of yarn I was picking through, trying to match colours and sizes.
Over the next few days, I started knitting and, little by little, managed to make some sort of copy. A month later, it was finished and I wondered what I could do next. George had found his work less appealing, so had turned to other scenes, the first being the Garden of Eden. We talked about what we were looking for, and realised, both of us sought story in picture form, not words. That, my dear, was where I first started what you saw in the house. Oh! I've done other things too, for presents mostly, but what I showed you is, well, my life story in a way. Yet it seems to tell me about the History of Mankind and so much more than I could ever follow from words".
She paused for a while, as though gathering her strength. Sipping her lemonade, she closed her eyes. I sat quietly studying this grand old lady, feeling how glad I was to have met her.
She continued, "The years went by, the children grew up and married, then moved away. They couldn't see enough to keep them near home. They visited less and less, as they were raising their own families. George and I became used to the quiet and our own company. He was still working out on the land, tending a small-holding we had bought a few years back, and keeping up his art. I suppose without his art and my knitting, life would have been empty. These hobbies sustained us many a long Winter, and me after George died. One Winter, back in 1902, he had gone out one morning, to bring our supplies from town, some ten miles away.
Then a blizzard came up. It blew for two days solid before stopping. I couldn't get out of the house until it stopped. George hadn't returned. He never did, nor did he get to town, no one had seen him. That he perished in the cold seemed the only possibility. So I was alone for the first time in my life.
For a while I couldn't knit. Life seemed empty. Then one day, a stranger came by, heading for town. He stopped and I offered him refreshment, while we talked. I was so glad of company. He looked at my knitting and then George's pictures. I told him how we had started, George and I, and how George had disappeared. He explained he lived back East somewhere and was a writer. He offered to buy George's pictures, but at first I refused him, didn't think it was proper to sell my husband's work, but later, I changed my mind and he gave me a handsome price, more than I had expected. I was suspicious at first but, well, I figured George would have worked to support me, so why not let his hobby do the same. He packed the pictures up and loaded them on to his wagon. Waving goodbye to me, he said it was important I returned to my knitting. I saw him leave in the direction of town. Yet he never reached there for no one remembered seeing him. I never saw him again, but thank him all the same. With the money he gave me, I was able to buy this house and moved in the Spring of 1903. I have been here ever since. Now dear, let me take you back inside and you can read the story yourself".

19-Aug-06, 02:31

Page 4

Inside, I saw the story as clear as could be. I started with the left-hand edge, looking up and down, it measured perhaps six or seven feet in depth. I saw at the top corner, a forest climbing down a mountain, down which and through the trees, ran a river flowing to the right, and as it flowed, crops of corn and wheat either side, then a meadow with cows and a bit further on, a farm-house. In the yards were people, adults and children, chickens, goats and pigs. The sun was shining brightness everywhere, the colours and detail stood out magnificently. Then came a vertical band of black, about six inches wide from top to bottom. I looked past that and saw the farmhouse again, but the figures looked different, the children were larger. A little further to the right was a small town, the river flowing past. Another black strip and then the farmhouse again only with another smaller building nearby, and two figures beside it. Yet another break and there once again was the farm-house, looking older, the town a little larger and the little house now had two large and one small figure beside it. I looked back at the town, seeing the school and the Church. I realized that each black line was like a punctuation mark, or more still, the passing of time. As I moved around the room, I followed the story I had so recently heard; yet I saw so much more in the pictures she had depicted. Light and shade, colour, depth, harmony. It seemed to come alive before my eyes.
A mounting curiosity led me to check the other rooms. The scenes there were perhaps similar to the main room yet, by different colours, were made to represent different people. I couldn't yet relate these to the rest. Then I came to the last room. I saw a house I'd seen before, but where? A figure seemed to be waving at another in the distance. The ground looked white. A black band, as before, separated each view. The next scene was the same house, some green amongst the white ground, and two figures beside a wagon. I realized what that scene was. A black strip again and then a totally different view. The wagon was there and one of the figures, a man, but the background was a big town or city. Another figure, a woman, stood nearby with her hand on the arm of a child, a girl. I began to connect this scene with another, years ago, almost forgotten. A child with her mother, greeting father on his return from a long trip. The wagon has lots of packages, some quite big. He is unloading. I see another black line, and then in the next view the child is a woman, waving farewell to her parents.
The scene stopped there: there was a piece missing. of course, she had some knitting on the porch. I looked at her, then at the bare wall, and back to her. She signaled me to go back to the porch. I picked up the knitting, taking care not to drop the needles. There, in my hands, was the last piece remaining. It showed the house I was at, with a little old lady and a younger person.
"So now my dear, I need one or two bits of information. Are your Mom and Dad alive, and what is your name?"
I paused, and then in a clear voice replied "No, I'm afraid they died five years ago. My father had a heart attack and my mother died of pneumonia a little later. I'm Elizabeth May Anderson. I guess I was named after you. After my Mom died, I sold the house and traveled. My Dad wrote in his diary about you, where you lived and about your life. He spoke to Mom about bringing us out to meet you one day. He was pretty grateful to you for those paintings inspired him to write well. I have every one of those paintings in storage. I'm a writer myself you know, and I came here to gather material for a book about you and your special gift. Yet now, I don't believe I could do justice with words".
She nodded her head and said "Do me a favour, please Elizabeth. please don't write until my part is ended, and, when I die, I want you to have the whole story, every last bit of the yarn. Promise me you will come back and see me, and look after things when I die. I don't know where my own kids are anymore. They don't seem to bother with me now".
"I promise, but I'm not going far away from here. I bought a little cabin down river about forty miles, so I'll be able to come back and visit".
"Mind you do, for I'll be expecting you. Now dear, I'm tired, so I'm going to lie down. Come again soon".
"I will, and here's my address if you need to contact me. Bye for now, and thank you".
I left and returned to my cabin, to writing and wondering. Then, almost six months later, I received a letter from a Lawyer, saying that I should come and see him regarding the estate of Mrs. Elizabeth May Sands. I hadn't been back to see her. The letter, I saw was a month old. I felt the loss with guilt, and made plans to travel.
On arrival at the Lawyer, he read out a statement, which read as
"I, Elizabeth May Sands, being of right mind, with God as my Witness, bequeath my estate and possessions to my friend Elizabeth May Anderson, believed to be living at (and here my cabin's address was given). I make one condition, namely that she not be permitted to enter my home until she has written the book we discussed. I leave nothing but memories to my own family, as they left me only theirs. But for Elizabeth's father, I would not have the house. Rightfully it now should go to her, but she must do something herself first, her book".
The lawyer passed me the document to read. I noticed it was signed and dated just one month after I had visited her. I sat there, tears in my eyes, seeing pictures, not words. I made up my mind then I would do a book, and dedicate it to her. It seemed she had left me some money, which I didn't deserve.
I decided to spend it on her house when I could, after my book. Meanwhile, I asked the Lawyer, if, as the house was empty, anyone could keep watch over it. He assured me he would attend to it. I left him to return home. I had now some real purpose in my life. I had to write that book. In a while, I did. It was published three months later, and the Lawyer, a copy in his hand, urged me to move into Elizabeth's home.
As I write now, I'm there, and have been for ten years. I'm married with two children, Elizabeth May and George Matthew. My husband, the Lawyer, has taken up drawing and painting, and, when I can, between writing and being wife, mother and decorator, knit. The most delightful thing I notice is that our children seem to have an eye for pictures, not only words. Perhaps they are also Picking Up The Stitches.

21-Aug-06, 09:12
What a lovely story. I just kicked back with a cold drink and a hot bubble bath and read. It is fantastic. Really great descriptions, I could see the pictures. Loved it.:)