needle (beth)


The record’s already on the turntable, and I place the needle carefully on Pretty in Pink, I figure the title of that song is innocuous and makes the band seem most appropriate for someone my age.

from We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida

Reasons for needles this morning:

sewing a button on to my shirt

sewing the missing top button on my sweater

darning my favorite typewriter socks

knitting a few rows on my shawl

knitting more ribbing on my hat

checking to make sure I have enough gas for my next trip into work

I woke up this morning feeling like the whole day was stretching out in front of me. And maybe given that we’ve been home now for almost a year that should feel boring, this day didn’t feel like the others. Maybe it’s the impending snow or maybe it’s the thought of working on presents for people or maybe it’s the thought of doing whatever that doesn’t involve library work.

I had hopes for my embroidery, but first I went to the closet. I pulled out a shirt, decided I liked the sweater hanging with it, and felt pleased that it wasn’t even much of a decision. Till I realized that this was the oxford missing a button and oh look this sweater was missing one as well. But then I remembered that this was my day and I could maybe find the right thread and actually sew one on. So I did. Five minutes and look: fixed. So on to the sweater. Snipped off the bottom one because who will really miss it and now it’s wearable again. Years of a problem, fixed in 10 minutes.

Going upstairs to get dressed, I find the cat has been tossing off items from the dresser again. But as I am straightening the jewelry, I notice a needle still threaded with teal thread. Who knows how long that has been there? I feel like I am on a roll, so I find the socks from the basket of holey ones and proceed to fix the small tear in the toe of my beloved socks. The very same socks I had been fervently missing and for awhile was convinced had gotten left at the laundromat, but no they had just fallen into the abyss of the mending basket.

Now I’m feeling equal parts superhero and pioneer, a small rush running through me that I have assessed a situation and fixed a problem. This is such a rare feeling these days, but a welcome one. So this is what it’s like, I think. I had honestly forgotten. My brain has careening these past months, ping ponging between: You got this! and You’ve gotta be kidding me!

I am finding that the rhythm of needle pulling thread through fabric to be a calming sensation. There’s a moment when the fabric resists, but then the needle pokes through and my hand must bring the long thread along. There’s a choreography the hand follows and what it creates is lovely. Okay, also a little wonky, but also handmade.

I wish I could say that I can sit and watch TV while I am embroidering, but no. Honestly I often have to take off my glasses to be able to see it better up close. Oh aging– what fun! But I have been listening to audiobooks and I’ve fallen under the spell of many a narrator. Right now it’s Marin Ireland’s voice in my ear for We Run the Tides. She’s doing a fabulous job as Eulabee, and the rest of the characters in this story. It takes place in San Francisco in the 80’s, a decade filled with reminders that turn into unexpected gut punches. Like Robin Williams laughing in a comic store and certain brands of clothes. And I just reached the scene with these lines:

“I scream, because now I know what it’s like when the music stops and I desperately don’t want it to end”

She and Keith are at a Psychedelic Furs concert. It’s her first and she finds joy in spinning around with Keith as they are singing and joining in the communal experience. The silence at the end stuns her, but the rush of the encore lifts her up again. I am thinking about what it’s like to live in that pause between the stopping and the restarting. Is that where we are now, waiting for the band to take the stage again and fill the air with sound?

I will confess to loving encores. The stamping and stomping, the hope in your heart that if you prove your love, the band will come out again. Now that I think back, I don’t know if there was ever a time the band didn’t come back to take the stage. Among the myriad of things that I am missing, I may long for concerts and plays the most. I love sitting in an audience waiting for the lights to dim and then spending the next few hours in an alternate reality with a couple hundred fans loving the experience just as much as I do. There’s always a moment during the concert when I recognize the experience for what it is. That was the instant when I felt lucky and blessed to be there with those people. Moving in time to the music, singing out loud, dancing in my seat, letting the sound fill us up and transport us.

Not much of that these days. I have watched a few Matt Nathanson concerts online, and I discovered there was a charm there that caught me off guard. I’ve never seem him in person, but the chat was full of people who had. We all rushed to type when he started a song we loved. There was shorthand among us, and I felt part of a community I’d been missing. We laughed and poked fun, joking about charging ourselves exorbitant amounts for the drinks we were drinking. Some of us had dressed up, some wearing concert t-shirts—just as it would be in person. There was room for all of us, super fans and newbies alike, all of us wanting to be a part of a community. To move in time to the murmuration and realize how beautiful we were together.

If someone had asked me 2 years ago if I would attend an online concert, I would have probably been pretty skeptical. How could it compare with in-person? And yet, here we are searching for those experiences that will remind us of our time in the real world. We’re getting by, we’re making do, and I don’t know that I mind that part. I actually like reusing things and repurposing things. There has been this slowing down, this inward turn of gaze for all of us. To be honest, there are parts of it I like. Yesterday M and T and I sat on the couch and watched The Dig. There was a scene set in a crowded restaurant and after the initial shock of seeing it, I could tell we missed some of the way with which these people moved through the world. It was followed by a scene with two characters at the movies and I almost lost it, my body filled with longing to be sitting there watching the big screen filled with colorful images. Yet underneath it all, these people could feel that the war was looming and that their lives were to be irrevocably changed. After reading about war all of these years, I never imagined my life would have a similar undercurrent of fear and anxiety. Certainly never imagined that I would be home, missing my friends but without the energy to reach out and check in with them. Finding it a struggle to write even this without dismissing it as unreadable. The days have a nameless, faceless, sameness to them. But unlike my stitching or knitting, there doesn’t seem to be anything created from the culmination. It’s one day next to another, but it’s hard to see how it all adds up to something more. There isn’t anything on the horizon waving to us, no carrot dangling in front—or at least not one we can actually see. Or maybe: not yet.

I was comforted by watching the movie on our TV last night. In fact, the nights when the three of us sit on the couch together and laughter just pours out of our throats because the characters are acting in such a way that we are completely and utterly delighted, those are some of my most cherished memories of the past year. I know I will think back on these evenings in the years to come as T moves out and moves on with his life. Again, if you had asked me if I could imagine a life where I found such joy in watching TV regularly, I don’t think I would have believed you. Yet now it offers more an escape from the worries of the world, another way in which my life has changed.

Still I think back to the impetus for writing today, Eulabee’s turning in circles at her first concert, that undescribable feeling of lightness and simultaneously feeling connected to everyone else in the room. That’s what it feels like here, alone in my office, wondering who’s out there listening. Wishing we were all together, stamping and stomping for an encore, hoping the music starts again soon.

Dearest a, my concert going companion, wish we were making plans to see our beloved Dar again. Your word for next time is stomach.

Also, here’s the full image from above. The program cropped out the scissors and I think everyone needs to see how lovely they are. Maybe you too need some special scissors in your life.


3 thoughts on “needle (beth)

  1. Beautiful prose, as always…and so proud of you for your mending prowess…yes, there is satisfaction in this small task!

  2. Oh Beth, the creator of the perfect image-the space between the concert and the encore. I feel so buoyed by your words as I often feel that I have bided time without honoring it. With all this time at home, I often feel like I do the necessary but don’t go further. Yes, who would have thought television would play such a positive role? Thank you for the feeling of belonging. That makes this more than bearable-sharable? Pam

  3. The psychedelic furs! There’s any and I haven’t heard since college :-). I hear you on the online concerts. But you’ve now reminded me that Beyoncé released some thing within the past year that everyone said was a really cool experience. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the nudge.

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