The village bell sounds, signaling the close of quiet hour. Napping after meditation, I waken to Cheyenne’s sweet head against my chest. I marvel anew at the softness of her hair, like the finest silk–a tactile delight– so unlike my coarse, wavy mane.
She opens her eyes and smiles. We snuggle a moment longer, then she is up and on her way to the kitchen to help with supper prep. She’ll save me a seat at Cook’s Table so we can dine together tonight.
Yawning as shamelessly as Murgatroid, I stretch luxuriously on the cushions, warming my muscles before rousing to prepare for Janine’s visit. A thrill of pleasure runs through me as I imagine the rich textures of her weaving.
Janine uses natural textiles from the village and surrounds. Perhaps she will have added some found objects, bits of twig, odd buttons, ribbons from gift wrappings.
Now which of my paintings will she want in exchange? I uncover my latest works, and one or two older ones I have seen Janine admire, then make a pitcher of fresh lemonade.
Mmmm. The sharp citrus scent wakens me fully. Easy on the sugar, I use just enough to cut the tartness, and drop in a tray of ice cubes.
Across the way, Merilee’s daughter Tracey plays her harp. A natural musician like Cheyenne, twelve-year-old Tracey has dabbled in guitar, violin, piano, and flute. I suspect the harp will become her passion. She strokes the strings with an understanding of the instrument beyond her years. Her solo during the noon concert today arrested the entire room. People listened with forks frozen mid-air, and I nearly overflowed my water glass.
“She’s amazing, isn’t she?” I turn to find Janine wheeling herself up the path. Preferring to propel her chair herself, Janine eschews using the power chair unless she needs speed. “I love watching the children grow their talents.”
“And not just kids like Tracey who have some innate talent for music or art, but what about Jacob, with his amazing rapport with the animals, his ability to call even insects to help with the crops!”
“Do you ever wonder, Rose, why it took the human race so long to get to this point?”
I laugh. “Yes, of course! What were we thinking? Why didn’t people give each other room just to be?”
Wordlessly, without hesitation, Janine and I bow our heads, each saying prayer in her way for the gladness to live in this time, to enjoy the beauty of this world.
I know she is practicing, as I am, letting tension flow from her body into the ground, feeling the warm light of the sun, the beauty of Tracey’s music, flow over her, from head to toe, washing away any distress we may carry.
I give away all pain
I give away all sadness
I take this moment, this light, this day, this sun, this music filling my ears and my heart with delight
I take this friend into my home to share, each, our gifts
Opening my eyes, I touch Janine’s hand. “What have you got there,” I ask, gesturing toward the tapestry on her lap, folded inward so the design is not yet apparent. “Come on in and show me!”
She laughs, tossing her head. Her black curls glisten in the late afternoon sun as she wheels herself through the double doorway into our small kitchen, then through the wide door and into our living room.
Janine reaches round for the backpack attached to her chair. There she has stowed three sections of a long, thick dowel, hand oiled and polished, for hanging the tapestry. She pulls out the sections and screws them together.
On her instruction last week, I mounted brackets on the living room wall above the long, low cabinet that houses our music system.
“Your task, Rose, should you choose to accept it,” she says to me, winking, as she carefully inserts the dowel into the tapestry without opening the finished side to my view, “is to hang the tapestry without actually seeing it. I want you to see it fully for the first time after it’s up. Can you avert your eyes while you’re hanging it?”
“I’ll try,” I laugh, struggling not to see what I can’t wait to see. Earlier, I’d gathered a step-stool for this job. I concentrate on keeping my balance as I climb. Careful not to let the tapestry unroll, I set the dowel firmly in its brackets, then obediently turn my gaze toward the window before releasing the heavy fabric. Stepping down, I collapse the stool, and turn from the wall.
“Tell me when it’s safe to look!”
“Silly. Turn around now!” Janine says.
“Oh my gosh, Janine! It’s perfect! Absolutely beautiful! Are those real gold threads? But so subtly inserted that it’s not flashy, just rich in texture! Oh my gosh!”
Janine smiles at my pleasure. She has woven the greens, browns, and yellows of the hills, the muted colors of the woods on one side, and the brilliant splotches of the flowering meadows in front. I have the entire western vista on my living room wall! I don’t know how she’s done it, but I can smell the rich moldy soil of the woods underfoot and the crisp drying grasses in the summer heat. I kneel beside her chair, hug her long.
“I’m so grateful for this, Janine. How can I ever repay you?”
“Oh, you’ll pay me all right, she says,” laughing again.
I love the sound of her laugh, full, bubbling almost uncontrollable.
“I already know what I want, and it is none of these,” she gestures toward the array of paintings I set out earlier.
“But I don’t have anything else,” I tell her, puzzled at the smile dancing around her mouth and in her eyes. “Janine, I wouldn’t even attempt to outdo you with something new!”
“Rose,” Janine says, raising her eyes and not her head. “Rose, what I have coveted since I first saw them, what I have so deviously coveted as I watched you watching the hills, as I chose the threads, as I drew the preliminary design, as I wrapped the warp and wove the weft,” she pauses, twinkling with unconcealed joy, “is the triptych above your bed.”
She laughs out loud then and I with her. The three paintings she requests are of the same scene as the tapestry, each of us having rendered it in our unique perspective and medium.
“Done! And happily so! With this in my living room, I won’t even miss them. Come on, I’ll take them down and carry them back to your place on the way to dinner.”
The first bell announcing dinner sounds on cue. We laugh out loud again, chatting amiably while I wrap the pictures carefully and secure them with the carrying harness young Jacob made for me after I helped him nurse a wounded bobcat back to health last winter.