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A Quilt, A House and A Life

December 4, 2010

It was 39 years ago in the dead winter’s season of 1971 that I was riding along, singing a song, and searching for the perfect landscape to paint.
I had crossed over to our sister county, Clay, and my car kept going, and I kept singing a song, ...when I looked up, and I was now in Monroe County, just outside the tiny and historical town filled with antebellum homes especially Victorian Homes.
Aberdeen is always on the Spring Pilgrimage Tour each year. I have never been to this pilgrimage, but maybe this year in 2011 I shall go!
They have a street there called Silk Stocking, so maybe I was coming close by to “God’s Country!”
To the right side of the road was a old house with such character, and said to me, “I’m a blast from the past, stop and paint me today!” The one thing that really made me turn and pull over to a dead stop was the clothes line stretching from the end of the old leaning front porch wooden stick column and the end of the clothes line was tied to a tree near by. The neatest old quilt was hanging for its dear life drinking in all the sunshine for the day. Let’s say, I fell “head over heals” in love with this one quilt filled with many colors, and I had discovered my perfect landscape!”
It was this one quilt that became my inspiration for the entire painting. For an artist, inspiration is something that hits you, and drives you to stop, get out of your little car, unpack all of your art supplies, pop up a colorful umbrella, squirt out over 90 different paints on your palette, climb up in your tall red director’s chair, plop on a big old straw hat, and spend hours and hours sketching and then painting until exhaustion sets in, and the painting is complete. The artist then signs her name, dates it, packs up all those art supplies, cranks up her car, so tired that she wonders, “will she ever make it home again?” Heads down the hill, and begins her journey back down the road towards Starkville... on her journey back home...thinking... “now this was so much fun...I’ll be out again tomorrow on down the road searching for another landscape, face, or thing to capture forever on my canvas!”
To an artist discovering this particular landscape, feeling the driving inspiration that comes over your very body, heart and soul...and then taking the time, energy, and talent to paint it...is without a doubt the most fun thing in my entire life! Why? Because I get lost in my own world blocking out all the sounds and people passing right by me... and go into my own special world!
This patchwork quilt was so old, tattered, and torn, and yet so beautiful. A quilt can become a master piece of fine art itself because the patchwork is made up by joining pieces together which have diversity or variegated contrasting patches just like a kaleidoscope. This quilt I had just found was to me a visual kaleidoscope right in front of my eyes that cold winter’s early morning as the sunshine beaming down on the heirloom quilt and hitting the very top of the still bright piece of the quilt that touched the very tip top of the clothes line itself. Oh what a painting lay ahead of me to first sketch with my pencil and then paint this perfectly wonderful landscape right in front of my eyes without having to turn and peep deep into a kaleidoscope. I had discovered my painting of an old quilt, an old house, and my own life itself for that day.
The entire scene was a vanishing scene of Mississippi. Today, 2010, how often do you even see a clothes line and clothes or even a quilt dangling out to dry in the warm beams of sunlight? Can you not still just smell the clothes that have sun-dried outside all day long when you use to go out and get the clothes off the line? I can still sniff that certain clothes’ smell... line dried clothes “picked” or gathered off the clothes line now, can’t you smell them too?
Come tag along with me now, and let’s look at and enjoy three things, a quilt, a house, and a life itself all patched and pieced together in a patchwork quilt! We’ll look at this painting right to left. The heirloom quilt is the most colorful part of the entire painting. The bright red pieces stitched together at the top draws your eyes into the very painting itself. Look at the greens and the patterns of the quilt pieces, squares and oblong pieces make up the pattern of this quilt. A couple of pieces make you wonder if they came from a worn out old dress or two that belonged to the lady who made the quilt so many years ago, or maybe a shirt of two from her husband or son? Who was the lady who created this quilt or could it have been a gentleman too? We will never know. Did the lady belong to a “Quilting Bee Ladies Group?” Did she quietly quilt it alone without the fellowship of other quilters chit-chatting and catching up on all the news around town...along with each stitch she made by hand? We’ll never know who she was will we? It is so much fun to wonder which gives us the mystery of life itself and what our the past, and her past life must have been like.
Let closely look at this quilt drying on the clothes line, and take your eyes into the vanishing old house. Let’s go up on the front porch, but first we’ll walk on the wide piece of a plank that is propped up at the side of the front porch.
We pass by an old log for the fireplace that the owner has left on the porch so he or she does not have to go out to that wood pile stacked up to the left side of the canvas. See the wood pile?
Look at the old wash tub leaning next to the side of the house by a faint white door that looks almost like it is half opened. I think this is the very wash tub that the lady of the house used to wash the quilt out by hand before she hung it up or she could have just hung the patchwork quilt out to sun dry and get some air instead. I love the old tin wash tub, its getting older by the day too.
There is some kind of tall bucket which has been there for a while cause it looks like it is rusting along with the tin tip roof above.
We see two windows as the sunlight hits the front of the house very brightly that early morning. The entire house has what we call siding on it. It resembles brick, but it is cheap grey/white siding which is all over the outside of this old house.
Look at the two chimneys. Are they not to die for! The bottom of the main chimney nearer to is patched and looks just like a patchwork quilt too. I love this chimney, and look at the shadow that it cast onto the side of the old house.
I think the little room on the back has probably been added on as an extra bedroom or even a kitchen. It is the tin roof that is so wonderful. Look how it almost “dances” across the entire painting as if it is doing the “Jitterbug Dance!” The old tin has felt the wind, rain, snow and sleet for years and years, and has aged with great character!
Look at all the colors. The browns, oranges, pinks, and corals. It is great! See these colors next to the blue Cereleun sky above. The blue sky cools down these warmer colors and adds such a lovely contrast to the colors found in nature. There is a white cloud floating by in the sky...see it!
It is cold winter time, but I remember the day was bright with the sun shining overhead, and it seemed warmer because of the sunny day.
The entire front yard had mud holes and it was filled with brown mud. I just bet the lady who lived here sweep her entire yard with a broom. It looked like she swept it in the autumn of this year before winter had set in, she had given this entire front yard a good sweeping before the bad cold weather had begun.
Look for the one long wooden plank of wood right in the front of the painting to the far right hand side. See it? If you think about it and follow this trail from this one wide plank...let your feet go from it to the end, step off of the plank, and make your way on to the other wider plank that leads you on and up to the front porch to the front white almost hidden front door. See if you do this with your two feet they won’t get muddy at all.
Look at the back of the painting to the bare trees which have no color at all. The leaves are gone for winter until spring time and the tall sage grass has taken over as the only foliage we can see in this painting.
I’ve heard all of my life, “when you see sage grass in Mississippi, there is not much that will grow in a “heap of sage!”
The very house itself is also a patchwork quilt. Before we leave this old house which “she ain’t what she use to be”...leaning and wearing out, but still hanging on...spot the old butane tank next to the front of the house near the right side of the leaning chimney. This butane tank was neat, I thought.
Look with me at the sky above, and find the tall TV antenna. In 1971, I just bet the TV in this household was the best thing since “sliced bread,” and this family would gather around the TV every night to watch the national news and on Saturday they watched “The Hit Parade” to see what the top song was for this week.
Monday night they watched without missing one show, “Gunsmoke” and later in the week, “The Andy Griffith Show.” What about, “I Love Lucy!” See the new shiny TV antenna.
It is the only straight thing about this old vanishing falling down wonderful old house found in our great state of Mississippi!
Our life and every day living is also a patchwork quilt. Together let’s make our own patchwork quilt out of our own experiences, we have had in our life, experiences we are having in our life today, and experiences we shall have in our life tomorrow. The past, present, and the future of your life and of my life can be a patchwork quilt. Let’s get out bits and pieces of old material and find a sliver or two of cloth to make us a patchwork quilt of our life.
What is your favorite color? Mine is red. Red to me is a very happy, fun, carefree, “free-spirited” and “whimsical” color. I love red!
Let’s chose the bright colors, red, yellow, orange, and throw in lime green, too. Part of our quilt will be happy, bright and optimistic. We’ll sew happiness into our quilt for sure.
I see pieces of blue, dark and bright cobalt blue. I see pieces of purple, lavender, and light pink too. These could represent maybe a day that seems like a melancholy sadder day in our lives.
We’ll stitch with our needle now, a sad or not as happy a day, as the brighter colored pieces of cloth that we use.
I suppose we have to have a dull, sad day or two to make our happy days brighter and more fun to appreciate and enjoy. The colors of black and grey might be days of sadness when we lost a parent or best friend. We have to experience death along with life. We’ll add a couple of black and grey squares of material to represent those sad days of our lives.
Let’s select a couple of light blue for maybe two sons who were born and a bright hot pink square for a daughter who was born. Maybe these squares came from their old baby blankets. Here is piece that came from a going-away bridal dress I wore when I got married.
What memories are we sewing onto our quilts? I see a piece of pure white cloth that could become a square that looks very much like what an angel wore? This piece of cloth looks angelic.
What will your patchwork quilt look like? We each have a very extra special and extra ordinary patchwork quilt to make every second, minute, and hour that we live on this earth. Each breath we take is precious, and we are stitching, one by one, a square of our patchwork quilt by merely living, breathing, and enjoying life to its fullest, and in the end of our life we’ll look back at our patches and wonder... and know that we have lived a good life here in this world filled with joy, sadness, hope, and love, but we have lived it as the answer to this question. What is the chief end of man? The answer is, “To enjoy God forever!”
That cold winter’s early morning I pulled over to the side of the hill, and spent the rest of that day lost in my own artistic world, a canvas inspired by a sagging clothes line with an heirloom... PATCHWORK QUILT, A PATCHWORK HOUSE, AND A PATCHWORK LIFE!!!

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