Time is but the stream I go fishing in,

I drink at it, but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. It’s thin current slides away, but eternity remains. Henry David Thoreau.

My mother moved from a 21 room farmhouse to a four room apartment in 1985. It was in her mother’s house, and she was happy enough to leave her historic, but drafty, house behind but it did mean there was a table, chair, shelf and footstool crammed into every corner. There were corner shelves with little shelves on top of them and piles of candlesticks and tablecloths on every horizontal surface. She managed to disperse some of the treasure and eventually moved to Florida, then to Connecticut and then to Maine. Her home now is a one-bedroom condo. There is no cellar, no attic, no roomy pantry for the thick-walled canning jars that now belong to me. Mine too are the ceramic jugs plugged with rolls of cork and ancient tool-steel knives with antler handles, but surprisingly few table linens. Maybe she thought I had too many of those of my own.

Yesterday she gifted me with two antique fabric bags, made by her father’s stepmother, also Harriet, but with two “t”s. They are quite beautiful. One is a mourning bag, with an elegant polished cotton finish, very plain except for her initial. The other is a sewing bag with a covered needle case that still contains two steel and one bone needle.

antique bags 1

A close-up of the morning bag, and the initial done in outline stitch and French knots. I can never make mine that regular. I took the picture on what my family calls “the red hutch”, between the fruit salver and the green milk-glass candlestick. No wonder I paint still life.

antique bag 2

And here is a close up of the sewing pouch. The wool has been damaged by insects – it is very soft and fine and probably delicious, but the blanket stitch has held up well.

antique bags 3

So my question is, where does she keep this stuff? Are there bags of weird and beautiful women’s-work hidden under the sink? Ancient poetry books under the sofa? (Actually I know there are some of those.) I can’t wait to visit again. Maybe that’s the point.

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