Guest post: Wider Than an Ocean

Map: New Mexico, setting of “Wider than an Ocean” by Lauren Ayer

This is a guest post from Lauren Ayer who contributed in response to the American Vignette call for submissions. The setting is New Mexico. Enjoy.

It’s hot outside. Uncharacteristically humid. As the sun beats down on the front adobe wall of my casita, a small fan stirs in air from the cooler back yard.

I never thought I’d leave the ocean, the waves lulling me to sleep every night through windows shut tight against the cold, damp fog. It was the New Mexico sky that convinced me — wider than those oceans and much more than twice as deep. I wanted to drown in it. Instead I watched the birds dip and dive like dark fishes.

In this warm air I tear fabric into strips the way my mother taught me. It is quicker than cutting and keeps the edge true to the grain. I made my first quilt when I was ten years old from fabric left over from other projects—a dress, a napkin, another quilt. Nothing goes to waste.

It is August and too hot for quilting, but here I sit letting my hands work and my mind run free. The tiny green birds that peck at unripe apples wouldn’t know from looking, but it isn’t just fabric I am stitching together. I have built myself broad white wings and shimmering leaves to shade my head. Today, I’m mending a broken heart. Helping someone remember someone else loved but lost.

The word “brown” was unexpectedly insufficient for the spectrum of earth and stem and rock that this land is built from, while most greens are only hinted at indirectly. When I came here my brother told me to look for the purple in the desert. For a long time all I could see were the periwinkle flowers of Russian sage. Now I see it everywhere—in the sunrise, in the distant mountains, in the dark flesh that surrounds the base of a cholla thorn.

I have never made a quilt without pricking my finger like some sort of sleeping beauty and bleeding on the fabric. It isn’t art until I’ve stitched myself into its very threads. Just like this place has woven itself into me.

At this altitude, under this scorching sun all but the most essential is burned away. To see. To live. To make. I fold the unused fabric and save the scraps for another day. I tip the last swallows of water from my glass onto the rosemary plant. Thunder rolls in the distance. I look up at the cobalt sky with hope, yet knowing thunder doesn’t always mean rain.

Lauren McLean Ayer is a San Fransico-grown poet who moved to Santa Fe to find peace in the desert. Her poems have appeared in Gargoyle Magazine, Santa Fe oneheart, Adobe Walls, and online. You can find more of her work on her blog, Lauren McLean Ayer.