A Patch of Joy

By Christine Renaudin

Slowly the idea grew from seemingly random pickings at the local thrift store a month or two ago, to design a painting along the seams of a small piece of patchwork discovered in the sewing notions section. Bold colors and markings drew me in, sharp contrasts, black acting as prevailing background: yellow on black, and vice versa, bright colors in between, the kind I have dreamed of playing with but never dared throwing first thing together on canvas. Circles and crosses, stars and stripes, straight and curvy, thin and think, flowers, abstracted and not, leaves, pink and red, bees and dragonflies, plain black on white: all patterns placed side by side in surprising, shockingly daring ways that made my mind bubble with joy, and my heart dance with the desire to play along.

I bought the small rectangle of motley fabric and brought it home, where it sat abandoned in my grandmother’s wicker basket for a few weeks, thrown half folded with its price tag hanging over the brim, not so much forgotten as left to gather worth under the dust, each glance adding to the marvel of a whooping four dollars for a treasure— a steal, really— before making it to the empty wall of the study, where it suddenly hung, secured by three wooden push pins, for me to see, absorb its charm, and succumb to the second calling. 

“Yes, beautiful, clever, and curious one,” it said in a soft, almost childlike voice. “Don’t you be so shy,” coaxing me, “there, not so shy. Come closer. Closer still. Linger with me here by the wall under the slanted western light. Let me talk to you silently and sprinkle fairy dust in your brain so it may grow fireworks worth writing home about.”  Instantly, I was a child again, bursting out in protest.

“I don’t believe in fairy dust, and I do not have a home left where to send letters. Nobody sends those anymore anyway.” The patchwork bit seemed to shrivel for a moment under the pinch of the three pins, flat and mute against the wall in the declining light, as a passing cloud shaded the sunset glow. Sadness hung where joy had bubbled before. I felt the urge to leave the room, go cook dinner in the kitchen. 

At dawn, I saw the piece wake up, unfold its colors like wings under the oblique and cooler eastern light flooding through the study, my breath a mist of everyday magic blowing a warmer drift into the frigid room. I wanted to apologize, but felt timid and did not. But the strip of patchwork heard me just the same and said in a voice that felt slightly older: 

“No need. There is no need to apologize, my sweet. Fairy dust is not for everyone, especially when you’ve grown up without a television. I should have guessed by your wrinkles and graying hair, but I was fooled by your curious appreciation, and the exuberance of your heart.” 

“Now this is a phrase I do not often hear.”

“Because you don’t listen properly. What do you think I hang here for, if not for your eyes and yours only. You picked me up out of a dusty crate and absolute oblivion. You gave me a place on your wall, like a mirror, to send you back a new life. You, who are starting to listen at last, and smile a little, I see. Don’t be shy. Don’t hoard the joy inside, or it will choke you. Believe me, you do not want to drown in a few inches of bliss at the edge of the lake. You want to let it move your brain down to your heart and follow the odd bedfellows with pen and brush, or both, and dance with them until you have something to . . .” 

“. . . write home about?” I heard myself interrupt in a voice that didn’t quite sound familiar. “I told you there is no one left there to care about the miracle of my life. No one to . . .” 

 . . .   read and listen?” I swallowed the bitter end of my remark and paid attention. “ You, older younger person, need to listen again, harder. Home is wider, way stranger than you think. Home is here, under your nose and feet. Writing is not overrated, nor is care. You chant and cultivate the miracle of your life, you take it out there, and move forward what you have to give to the world. I see you want to share the joy that I give you. Go do it. I’ll stay and watch from this wall in the empty study. I’ll hold the fort for you. Go send your letter out into the world.”

Christine Renaudin’s writing has been published in various publications from The Sitting Room, as well as in The Write Spot to Jumpstart Your Writing: Discoveries, available on Amazon in print and as an e-reader.

Christine lives, writes, and paints in Petaluma. She is also a dancer and performs occasionally in the Bay Area—last seen on Halloween sweeping the entrance of the De Young Museum with a pride of witches. She likes to mix art forms, see what comes out, and share.

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