"Are you bored?" I asked. She walked around the kitchen and then leaned over the counter and dabbed at the grout of the countertop with a wet rag.
"No," she said. "Do I look bored?"
"I was just wondering. Normally, if you have a choice between quilting and cleaning the grout, you would choose quilting."
"I am quilting," she said.
"You're not at your sewing machine. You're not stitching squares together. You're not humming along with the sewing machine." I had been observing her carefully. It was not hard to tell she was not quilting.
"I'm still quilting. I don't have to be at the sewing machine to be quilting. I'm thinking about the next row of squares."
"How many rows have you finished?" I asked. She had been working on the quilt three weeks now, and every day she had found other things to do around the house rather than quilt.
"Too many," she said softly.
"I mean a lot. A lot of rows."
"It's boring you, isn't it?" I asked again.
"All the rows are the same. One square after another. One rectangle after another. It's worse than the quilting. There's no adventure in this quilt."
"You need adventure," I said. It was not a question but a good guess based on her behavior.
"It's not as challenging as I would like," she said. She rubbed at a coffee stain in the grout then patted at it with a rag dipped in bleach.
"You want a more difficult quilt?" That was a question. Her last quilt had been difficult, a challenge at times. She had griped and yelled a little, but she had not been bored.
"Not more difficult, more exciting. Sometimes I need a quilt to move me."
"The part of the quilt I saw looked exciting," I said. "And you move well enough for me."
"Not that kind of exciting. Variation. Differences. This quilt is now all work. I need the quilt to set my mind on fire so that it's fun, not work."
"Work gets the job done," I said.
"Is that a philosophical statement that makes no sense in this situation?" she asked. She poured clear water onto the grout and the surrounding tiles then wiped up the water with a clean rag.
"Each quilt begins with just one stitch. You're halfway there already. You'll be overwhelmed with joy when the quilt is done," I added.
"How about I overwhelm you with this rag," she said as she snapped it at me. "Now skedaddle so I can finish up here.
You do need some adventure," I said, and I skedaddled out of the kitchen.
"I need a long, long walk," she said the next morning when she came down from her sewing room.
"You just went up to quilt, didn't you?" I asked. I was sure she had.
"I can't quilt right now. I need to see some circles and ovals and hexagons and diamond shapes in the world."
"Squares won't do it?"
"Not now. I have enough squares. Rows and rows of squares. Rows and rows of rectangles. Rows and rows of tedium and ennui."
"Ennui. That means boredom. You are bored, aren't you?"
"I want wavy and tubular and zigzag and round and round and round," she went on. "No doldrums for me next time."
"But you still are going to finish this quilt?" I asked. Of course she was. Of course. Ennui or not. I wasn't sure about doldrums.
"I should have made it half the size, and then I'd be done already," she said.
"But you wanted it big," I said.
"What's that mean?"
"Mean? I'm just saying."
"Are we walking or not?"
"We're walking, I said.
I drove her to the ocean and we walked on the sand, and she became perky again. There were no squares on the beach. No rectangles, either. The sand was uneven and peaked and there was not a straight line in sight. The waves broke and foamed and the seagulls flew in loops and circles, not squares.
"Are you still bored?" I asked.
"I was never bored. I just need a break now and then. No quilter is a machine that goes on and on. I don't have a switch that controls me. Sometimes I quilt and sometimes I don't. I'm walking now," she said.
"Are you planning your next project then?" I asked. I didn't have to ask. She was always planning her next project, especially while walking.
"I'm working on this project now. I have to finish this project. I really like this project."
"But next time." She paused and looked out to sea. "Maybe next time I'll do a seascape. Sky and ocean and waves. And dolphins. Look," she said, and she pointed to where, less than a hundred yards away, four dolphins rose above the water and dipped down again.
"The dolphins should have a quilt," I said.
"Maybe next time. Maybe later. I'm not in a hurry for a new project yet. I finished another row of squares last night," she added. And she smiled.
"So you're almost done?" I asked, I hoped.
"No, just another row. There are a lot of rows. Up and down, side to side, back and forth, row after row."
"It's a nice quilt," I said.
"You haven't seen it for awhile, but it will be nice, she said as she bent to pick up a shell. "It's not finished yet."
"When it's finished, it will be a nice quilt, a fine quilt, a dandy quilt," I said. The few rows I had seen the week before were bright and peppy and cheerful and colorful and happy.
"I think so," she said. "I want a bright and peppy and cheerful and happy quilt," she said as if she had gotten inside my head and grabbed my thoughts. Quilters can do that, I'm sure.
"Me, too," I said.
*ennui (on-we): Listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom; the feeling of being bored by something tedious. Easily overcome by happy quilting.
Copyright 2003 by A.B. Silver
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