Naslund, Sena Jeter, “Ahab’s Wife or, The Star Gazer” (Harper Perennial 1999)

When my hands were little, and my mother was teaching me to sew, she placed her hands over mine. She put her middle finger, encased in a pitted silver thimble, at the end of the needles and pushed for me. This finger, with the thimble, is a little engine, she said. It makes the needle go through.
I thought of the miles and miles of thread that her thimble had pulled through cloth. What song had the needle sung to the fibers of the fabric? When she quilted, the needle passed through three layers, the pieced top, the inner batting, and the sturdy muslin underlayer. If all the thread from all her quilts were measured, would it stretch a thousand miles? Had her needle trudged, as man’s foot might trudge over a journey of a thousand miles?
She sat still, I thought, and yet she traveled. And when one stitches, the mind travels, not the way men do, with an ax and oxen through the wilderness, but surely traveling counted too, as motion. And I thought of the patience of the stitches. Writing a book, I thought, which men often do, but women only rarely, has the posture of sewing. One hand leads, and the other hand helps. And books, like quilts, are made one word at a time, one stitch at a time (70).

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