The patient seamstress

Detail of "Seamstress" by Manuel Gómez-Moreno González. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Detail of “Seamstress” by Manuel Gómez-Moreno González
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“Faith is the patient seamstress
  who mends our torn belief,
  who sews the hem of childhood trust
  and clips the threads of grief.”
               — Joan Walsh Anglund

I think this poem captures the essence of how faith operates in most lives. Some claim to have had dramatic revelations or sudden moments of truth, but for most of us, faith is a less flashy force.  All of us have times when our beliefs are torn, our childhood dreams unravel and our thoughts seem a messy tangle of confusion. Faith works to hold things together, patiently reinforcing what remains of the thinning fabric of our existence.

And speaking of childhood, I wrote a post awhile back in which I quoted a different poem by Anglund from memory, having first read it in my youth. Since I wrote that post, there have been a few postscripts to add. As it turns out, I quoted it fairly accurately, although the volume in which I remembered seeing the poem, A Cup of Sun, (copyright 1967) was not the actual source.

JWA poem posted July 30 2015

Instead, I found that it came from a companion book published three years afterward, A Slice of Snow, (copyright 1970) which– this is the funniest part– I actually had sitting on my own bookshelf in York County, all along. I didn’t need to quote it from memory after all, but as this photo shows, I did get pretty close to remembering the text without knowing where to look for it. I had looked online, unsuccessfully, for quite a long time, hoping to verify what I was writing. I had totally forgotten that A Slice of Snow, which I knew I had, was the book from which the poem I remembered had come.

The most fun part was how I discovered this mistake. A blog reader in a distant state, who read the original post linked above, was kind enough to locate a copy of A Cup of Sun and send it to me. What a joy! I re-discovered many other poems that will probably end up being posted here eventually, along the one quoted above. I don’t know whether the person who sent me the book noticed that it was NOT the source of the poem I quoted; if so, it was tactfully not mentioned.

Now both books sit side-by-side on one of my bookshelves in Alexandria, since this is where I write most of the posts.

My Joan Walsh Anglund books

So here is a case of old meeting new. On a blog that appears in a format I could scarcely have dreamed of when I first read the poem, I shared it and then received back another forgotten bit of my own past.  It came from someone many miles away, with whom I am in touch through the present wonders of technology, shining brightly on a past interwoven tightly with the present to create a unique gift for me here and now.

I think that’s magical. It makes me believe that the increasingly tattered, faded cloth of my life, mended slowly and patiently by faith again and again, still has a place in the vast gallery of the shiny new turbo-charged world where almost everyone is younger and stronger than I am, and much of what I value is deemed useless by the cold-blooded calculation of modernity.

If you have needed a good bit of mending in your own life from time to time, you probably will understand. And if you have yet to reach that stage, know that when you do, the patient seamstress will be awaiting you.

 

20 Comments

  1. Good morning, Julia! And a skilled seamstress she is – the mending blends with the original work to create a stonger and more beautiful piece while preserving, indeed enhancing, the value of the original.
    Thank you for this insight.
    Love to you and your family!

    • Thank you, Susan! I’m so glad you like the post. 🙂

  2. Janet Sawyer

    Lovely

    • Thank you!

  3. LOL! I’m glad you liked the book and were able to find many new treasures. I did NOT in fact make sure your original quote was in the book. I just knew you didn’t have the book and thought I would surprise you with it. 😉

    • And what a PERFECT surprise it was, too! I even got a post out of it. 😀

  4. Rene

    Change “…tattered, faded…” to “…warm, vibrant…” and you have the perfect post. Your life may need mending on occasion but you add so much color to all of our lives.

    On a Joan Walsh Anglund note: I knew about her art but didn’t realize she was a poet as well. I will be checking out both those books. My 5th grade teacher loved her & she once projected a drawing of three little ballerinas on a wall for me. I traced the picture on tag board & worked on coloring & filling it in with material, not sure if I ever finished but I remember the teacher having us do creative things like that.

    • Thank you, Rene. I always loved JWA’s illustrations. That picture of three ballerinas was one of her most popular, I think. I’m surprised we don’t see or hear of her picture books more often nowadays; I would have thought her work would be among the classics, like Dr. Seuss and Arnold Lobel and Maurice Sendak, or at least have a revival now and then. I guess the literary critics thought the text of some of the picture books was too simple. Or maybe she just needed a better PR firm. But I do love her little poems, and they seem as fresh and relevant now as when she wrote them.

  5. HarryS

    “I think that’s magical.”
    .
    I think it’s Mystical!
    .
    Your friend
    .
    Harry

    • Harry, I think you are right! Thanks for that insight. 🙂

  6. Julia, you echo my experiences so well. You are able to put words yet again to something about which I have been pondering. Yes, I have needed a good bit of mending many times in different ways, including recently. Sometimes the mending hurts, but afterwards, one can see how something better in a deeper way has been fashioned. If it weren’t for my faith, and the faith of others, I don’t know what I would do or how I would make sense out of so much that has happened. Thank you for using your gifts of eloquence, intuition, appreciation of life, love of books and poetry, combined with your faith and shaped by your wisdom and experience, to craft another post that is like a lamp post along my path. I am so very grateful for you and for what you share. You truly do help me to defeat despair.

    • Wow Nancy, this is one of the loveliest comments anyone has ever given me. I’m so happy you find something of value in what I write, and I so appreciate your letting me know in such a kind and gracious way. I agree, I don’t think I could endure this world without faith.

  7. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕️ I find myself in need of mending more often, seems daily, instead of occasionally. So many of our “parts” heal over time, maybe never quite like before, but still strong by many standards. I’m thinking of life and faith…. An extra SPRINKLE couldn’t hurt! Please say “Hello” to your Momma for me! 💛 Sheila

    • Thanks Sheila, will do. She has a hard time hearing me over the phone, so I don’t call her as often as I would like to. I know it’s not because I’m not speaking loudly enough…nobody has ever accused me of THAT! 😀 Today my joints are in need of mending. I can’t figure out whether walking is helping or hurting them, but I’m going to get outside and walk in a few minutes anyway, because my mood will be out of joint if I don’t. Then when I come in I’ll indulge in a glass of iced tea. Join me on the Verandah and we’ll put our feet up and “set a spell!” 🙂 ❤

  8. Nancy Blevins

    How ironic, Julia! You gave me this book, Slice of Snow, in 1976. I guess you loved it then and still do. 💕

    • Wow, Nance, I had totally forgotten about that. I really did love it. I know I used to love to give books to people, and I remember that I gave The Little Prince to so many friends, but I didn’t realize I had given A Slice of Snow to people too, although it doesn’t surprise me. 1976…that was when your lovely little upstairs apartment in Green Hills was becoming my home-away-from-home and the perfect refuge from the dorm! What fun memories.

      • Nancy Blevins

        Yes…Mrs. Upchurch house. You wrote lovely letter too. Computer in shop or I’d scan/email to you. Give my best to Jeff.

        • Jeff and I have such happy memories of that place!

  9. Amy

    I have of late been humming a bit of a song by Dolly Parton about a coat her mother made. I don’t remember all the words but I know her mother tells her the story of Joseph and the kids at school are mean about the coat. But Dolly doesn’t care because the coat was made with love. I pray all of like is like that. Small pieces sewn together by someone who loves it and blesses it with kisses. God bless you. Lovely story. I too love Anglund.

    • Amy, I totally loved Dolly in Nine to Five and also in Steel Magnolias, but I know very little about her music since I never listen to Country. However, I do know of the tune you mention, because I read the words to it and fell in love with the song many years ago. I couldn’t hum it to save my life, but I seem to remember that the words ended up with something like this: “We didn’t have much money, but I was rich as I could be, in my coat of many colors that my Mama made for me.” When I first read about it I read those words to my own Mama who sewed all of my clothes too. Dolly is a true American treasure. She does a lot of good with her success, too, including her Imagination Library which gives books to children.

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