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Buttons (Square 062, Sidney Draw)

IMG_2746A journey of a thousand buttons begins with a single button . . . but it’s still 320 buttons. (Eight terrain squares x 40 buttons per square [20 front; 20 back] = 320 buttons).


I have all the tools. “Cheater” needles (self-threading) and Thread Heaven thread lubricant and “finger cots” and a thimble and locking-pliers for when the fabric is painted or heavily stitched and it’s nearly impossible to pull the needle through. I sew five times through the holes, then make a knot, then wrap the thread five times, then make another knot, then knot again.

Current score: 25 buttons done; 295 to go.

I think of MIchael Hannon’s poem, “Ordinary Messengers”:

Between heaven and earth I write one line.
Sometimes another line follows:
ambitious legions singing their way nowhere,
or ordinary messengers carried deeper into human life
by the music and its woman stepping out of her clothes,
to the heartbeat of what comes next, what goes on for its own sake.
The page after the last page, on which we do not appear.

And that is part of the solace of repetitive labor—I sit still but my memory ranges.

Between panic and peace, I sew one button . . . . Sometimes another button follows.

“Are you paying attention? We are paying attention . . . “

In the British Museum in the 80’s, the Rosetta Stone was not (at least in my memory) encased in glass but sat open to the air. As I stood beside it and imagined touching its incisions, another tourist, part of a small group identified by matching bags, began filming the stone with a video camera. At this time, before smart phones and digital cameras, I rarely saw anyone using a video camera in public.

The stone was motionless. It did not vibrate. The stone was silent. It did not hum. The air was still. No dust stirred. The afternoon light was even and unchanging.

rosestta stone detail 2

Rosetta Stone

The rest of the group was talking quietly, their comments echoing what I was thinking but not saying aloud (“Look, it’s the Rosetta Stone! It’s old! It’s the key! It’s It’s smaller—larger—different—just as I imagined.”)

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