Wednesday, March 28, 2007


I'm not a religious person, but I am somewhat spiritual. Lately I've noticed both big and little events in my life that convince me there is such a thing as "grace."

Big: A couple of months ago my car, a little bitty 11-year-old Toyota, was starting to act up. I noticed that occasionally as I steered toward the left, the power would seem to go out and the battery light would come on for no longer than one second; then it would come back on as though nothing had happened. During that second, the steering would be impossibly stiff. This occurred twice over a long period.

One afternoon we went into the garage to leave for G's dance lesson. I started the car and began to back out. Immediately I felt the steering was not right. In fact, I had no power steering at all.

I called my little fat triple A guy, who has been here before on two occasions. He rescued me when my starter was beginning to die and taught me some tricks for how to get it going until I could afford to have the starter replaced. Little Guy said, "Your power steering belt came off. In fact, it's cut right in half the long way. The pulley must have gotten loose and the belt went on the sharp edge, and that's what cut it. Finally the pulley just came off, along with the belt." He then told me what to tell the repair shop, and he towed my car to the service place. For free!

Anyway, I digress. The point is that we were incredibly, astoundingly lucky! How had it managed to happen that the final destruction took place when I drove into the garage the night before? It seems so, so improbable. The alternative was unthinkable: I could have been driving on the expressway with the two boys when the belt disengaged and I would have been entirely unable to control the car and steer. Too horrid to contemplate. But instead, I had the excellent fortune to have my car die in the safe garage. Not only that, but the repair shop got it fixed in a single day, and provided shuttle service for me to pick it up. And it wasn't very expensive. Awesome. That is grace slapping me right in the face! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Small: Ten years ago when we briefly lived in England, we were broke. I didn't buy much of anything there to commemorate our visit except for some necessities, like a low-quality china tea set. However, one weekend I was reading the Times and ran across an ad for some beautiful needlepoint kits that were on sale for a pretty good price. Of course, needlepoint typically costs an arm and a leg, but these were almost reasonable. I decided that if nothing else, I would order two of these kits, work them, and they would forever remind me of my English life.

After many weeks, the kits arrived by snail mail. (And this is another souvenir I brought back with me: the memory of how very inefficient and inconvenient so many simple errands, chores and transactions were during the year we were there. Much has changed by now, but that's how it was then.) I somehow acquired a lap-style scroll frame and started the first kit, a lovely grapevine and leaf design. Then I went into labor and promptly put it away until we returned to the states.

Time went by and we moved several times. Sometime after we got to our current location I was looking at things I had in the storage room and uncovered one of the complete needlepoint kits and only the wool for the one I had started. That immediately set me to wondering where the tapestry frame and partially finished canvas were. I nearly went into a panic. I had already put substantial time into working the canvas and I was absolutely certain that I hadn't accidentally thrown it out (even though I remembered having many very frustrating times with it, I didn't hate it enough to actually murder it). So here it has been nearly five years since I had seen the canvas. Every now and then I would rediscover the wool and start the search all over again, all for nought.

I just found the wool again. This was during a couple of good weeks when I inexplicably did not have asthma bad enough to keep me sedentary. For me, a good week is an opportunity to do a lot of strenuous cleaning that I can't do otherwise. So I went into a cleaning rampage. While doing the master bedroom, I cleaned out the closets and hauled things to the attic and discarded four garbage bags worth of junk and cleaned out drawers and the blanket chest. And there, rolled up tightly in the back bottom corner of the blanket chest under all the blankets and cushions, was the canvas! I was so thrilled I actually shed tears. Grace again! Proving to me that I was not insane, had not just imagined owning the kit, and had not pitched the beautiful [expensive] canvas.

Oddly, half of the frame was missing; the canvas was stitched to the scroll dowels but there were no sides. Now I had to look for the spreader rails for the frame! I went into the storage room among all my craft things and found two spreader rails. But they were the wrong ones; they went to different frame that I had had in college. And of course for that set, it was the dowels that were missing. Sigh. After a short search I took the short way out and simply went to Michael's Crafts and got a whole new frame, one with a stand because I had always hated the lap style. I assembled the stand and transferred the canvas to the scroll.

Grace can have a bittersweet side, too. For it wasn't until after I had done all this assembly that memories came flooding back--memories of why I had cursed and been baffled by this kit while still in England. It was one of those, "Ohhhh, yeahhhhh!" moments. Get this: There was no picture of the finished product ever shipped with the kit, so I can't use that as a guide; I can only look at the paint and swatches. One of the most important colors, a dark bright green, was completely missing--it had never been shipped with the kit in the first place. I remember sending numerous letters and making many unanswered phone calls to the company complaining about the inadequate wool and non-existent picture, and over a period of six months they had never once acknowledged or addressed my complaint. Then I had to leave the country. So much for impulse-buying items on sale! Another two things I re-discovered: Many of the colors stamped onto the canvas are so subtle and so close to each other that I can't see them, even using my beloved Ott Lite. When I gaze at the canvas my eyes and brain just go to jello and I feel like a blind imbecile. Also, the background appears to my eyes to be white, but only a tiny amount of white yarn was supplied, so I can't believe the background is really intended to be white. An inordinately large amount of a very pale pink was supplied, which made me think that maybe that is supposed to be the background color but I just can't discern it on the canvas with the naked eye. I don't really see that pink anywhere. And I'm certain by looking that the golds and purples are in short supply. And the gray is completely missing, and doesn't appear on the swatch at all. To make a short story long, I believe I was hoodwinked. In any case I am determined to salvage this disaster, even if I have to stop the little work I've done now and start over by re-buying equivalent and missing colors from a supplier.

This may seem like one of those things that makes you say, "No good deed goes unpunished," but despite all the setbacks I am still very appreciative of having found the canvas again.

Perhaps by the time I am 85 I will complete it.



At 4/09/2007 5:40 PM, Blogger ClosingSpeed said...

I feel compelled to give the non-religious person's response. Incredibly unlikely occurrences happen.

At 5/01/2007 8:36 PM, Blogger sputnik said...

ClosingSpeed: 1) Do not post a comment on my blog if you have not carefully read it. Clearly you missed the first sentence. My post IS a non-religious view. I do believe in serendipity in life. It doesn't have to come from any spiritual source.
2) Who elected you spokesperson for THE ("one-and-only") non-religious person's response?
3) You do not have a blog in this forum. You created a false persona for no reason, except, perhaps, to make snarky comments. Commenting on others' blogs without having a legitimate place for them to respond to you is not only classless, but also cowardice.


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