Life’s Rich Tapestry

I’ve always wondered about that saying: “Life’s rich tapestry.”

Who started that one off, then? The allusion to life as a tidy set of parallel threads neatly arranged in warp and weft, intricately ordered, woven by the peaceful hands of womenfolk in towers and castles?

Doesn’t sound much like life to me.

I think someone must have looked at a tapestry, having never even wielded a needle. “Oooh, that looks rich, ” some clever local merchant would have thought to himself grandly over a goblet of something warming; “gorgeous colours, varied, sumptuous. Much,” he would reflect in a happy red-wine haze, “like life itself.”

And lo, the phrase would be inserted into one of those tedious after dinner speeches in eleven-something, to be jotted down by other officious lesser-noblemen. Life’s rich tapestry, oh, yes, what a witty metaphor, you should write a book, old boy.

I have had a day full of life today and it had none of the louche order of one of those lavish wall hangings. I would love to see a tapestry of today. It would be labelled Modern Art and Β put next to Tracey Emin’s unmade bed for people to tut at.

The cat is old and grey and full of sleep and has given notice that she will no longer be observing the niceties of going outside to perform her toilet. Thus the cat litter is strategically placed to prevent feline faux pas. I had had enough, yesterday evening. I swept up the tray and its contents and placed it in the garden where, for 20 years, the cat has been quite happy to vent.

Whereupon, all night, it rained torrentiallyΒ into the litter tray.

The cat was unamused, and admonished us at 6:30am in the most effective manner possible, a strategy which required most of the contents of the cleaning cupboard to remedy.

My nephew, Big Al, arrived at 7:45am: could I decorate a box with him at his nursery? It would be full of things he loved to talk about.

Ingenious. But where was I to find half an hour to join him?

At 8am Maddie called. She had forgotten her lemonade bottle for art. She didn’t think her teacher would be very forgiving. Please would I drive it out to her school?

I was going to have to make some space in my morning. I picked the phone up and called my mother in law: I wouldn’t be able to make our regular appointment for coffee and chat – was that ok?

Alas, the carpet men were coming and a tall chest of drawers must be moved out of their way.

I said: I’ll call in on the way to the nursery. I picked up my skirts and flew out of the door, slamming my finger soundly in its locking system.

I am not a patient woman.

I shouted at the top of my voice with the lungs of a professional singer and musician. It was fortunate my nephew was already strapped into the car and out of hearing. Any incidental neighbours stared fixedly at the floor.

Pointlessly, in petulant retribution, I kicked the door. Big-toe-first.

And found, as well as the toe being a very strange colour, that I was unable to walk on it.

Each of the fine threads of the morning had converged and become an almighty unteasable knot. But there were gold threads to this piece of crazy textile extemporisation.

The Chatterbox was a triumph. Al made bold design decisions, covering the box in an inspired sweetie covered wrapping paper and adding smiley faces and glitter-cars for that bespoke effect.

I arrived at Maddie’s school with some excuse framed for why I had couriered a plastic bottle ten miles.

The receptionist was wearing a broad grin. She stopped me. And she gestured to a neat row of identical bottles, each one dropped off by some parent who just couldn’t quite let her child worry.

At dinner Al put his head on one side and looked at an imaginary thought bubble which- though clearly not there – hovered above him with discernible content.

“What am I dreaming?” he asked, looking up at the space. Perhaps I might look at the bubble and tell him?

If life is a tapestry it’s a strange and symbolic thing, a Klimt without the discernible forms, a work with all the passion of a Picasso, and tactile Β like the small cuddly owl in Al’s chatterbox.

If they ever invent time travel, I shall find the person who first said “Life’s Rich Tapestry”. I shall show him a day in my life, and give him everything he needs and lock him in a room, like the maid who sewed straw into gold in Rumpelstiltskin.

My last words before I clang the door shut will be: “Go on then, Silvertongue. Sew That.”

Photo is Grayson Perry’s Walthamstow Tapestry: info here


54 thoughts on “Life’s Rich Tapestry

  1. Ouch! Hope a good night’s sleep has improved the toe and finger situation.

    I always thought the phrase meant that you can’t see the complete picture until it’s finished, bearing in mind that a true tapestry took many years to complete. As for me, I’m leaving any minute to travel north and teach my version of a tapestry for the next several days – as shown on yesterday’s blog post. No internet, so I’ll miss tomorrow’s gem, and tomorrow…. and tomorrow…

    Back soon

    1. I hoped you’d be around to comment today! It does indeed have the ‘incomplete’ connotations, Myfanwy, thank you: my grouch is that life is not incomplete and ordered, but quite the reverse πŸ™‚ But that, I have to admit, may be just my life: others may well have a discernible warp and weft in theirs!

      Good luck with the tapestry teaching! Loved that beautiful little post of yours with the new stitching the other day!

  2. You did in a finger, so then you had to go and match it with a toe? Oh, woe!
    Methinks life’s rich tapestry has become, these days, a garish poster advertising a pop festival.

  3. That is why your life is a Rich Tapestry, there is so much going on – the good and the bad. However, hope things go a bit more gently for you today Kate. Thanks for showing the Grayson Perry.

    1. It is, Tilly..although I remember my mother – whose speciality in her day was embroidery – saying that the mark of an excellent embroiderer was that the back was almost as orderly as the front. Erk.

  4. OUCH, what a rough start to a day, especially the finger and toe mangling. I always think of Carol King’s “Tapestry” album whenever I see the word, so to me it is a wondrous weaving of life’s daily adventures.

    May your day be much better today.

  5. Life IS indeed a rich tapestry, they are certainly not all pretty flowers and ladies in sweeping dresses , some tapestry scenes are quite brutal ( see the Bayeaux , bet I mispelled that lol)
    Tapestries are full of layers, mysteries and stories to tell, each time you look at a really intricate one you’ll spot something different, much like our lives most of the time!
    I hope your big toe and finger feel better soon!
    My life tapestry includes a bout of BabyMibs style chicken pox at present, so me off to play nursey yet again!

    1. Oh, Mibs, hope BabyMibs is better soon!
      You defend tapestries beautifully. Did you pick up the one on the mock-Bayeux here a week or so ago? It revealed how very revealing the nuns who are thought to have sewn it were; and how a Victorian reproduction was altered to protect ladies’ sensibilities.

  6. After a day like you describe there’s nothing left to do but go to sleep, get up and start again! Your thoughts on tapestries is interesting. I’ve been taught “tapestry” illustrations my whole life, so yes, they do go back a long way πŸ™‚ But the accompanying lesson has always been about looking at the backside of the tapestry, seeing the uneven stitches and twisted threads from that side, then turning it over and viewing a beautiful artwork. I presume the notion is that all twisted days and life events combine to make a “beautiful tapestry,” and it wasn’t until reading your post that I recalled this teaching and now think, “What a crock!” Ha! Some things are just a mess and remain a mess. I think I’ll beware of passing on any tapestry life lessons! (Glad to hear from Big Al πŸ™‚ and his thought bubbles!) Debra

    1. It’s a nice thought, Debra: that tapestries are messy one side, and beautiful the other. But I know how much intricate order goes into them, and as events hurtled past apparently without any pattern whatsoever on Thursday, the LIfe’s Rich Tapestry thing floated into my consciousness and all I wanted to do was paint the phrase on a punchball πŸ˜€

  7. Your cat is 20 years old?

    I ‘think’, the cat and you are on the same page. It’s crap, deal with it, because of getting tired of it. Unfortunately, the cat is on a higher rung on the ladder,

  8. Have you read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s letter about trying to write while waiting for the plumber to come unstop the sink? Your post reminds me of it, but her day can’t hold a candle to yours. The fingers and toe–pain radiates clear across the Atlantic.

    I eagerly await the day when Big Al has his own TV show.

  9. Ouch! OucH! OuCH!

    Sounds like you may find a few drops of blood (or a present from the cat) on the stitches woven yesterday.

    I think ThreeWellBeings and Tilly B are right . . . the analogy has to do with the juxtaposition between the back and front of the tapestry. On a moment by moment basis, we’re making a bit of a mess, but the end result of a fully lived life is resplendant.

  10. Your day would be the basis for a rich tapestry in the sense that it would be full and eventful – possibly not restful to the eye – but maybe – eventually – good for a chuckle, after maybe a wince or two.

  11. Owww! If you slam any digit in a door, Kate, make it the lazy, hang-around, low-purpose left thumb that never has to hit any key on the keyboard. We’d miss your writing otherwise. πŸ˜€

    I marvel at people who live with chaos and manage to accomplish anything. I need a clean kitchen to cook a meal. All those threads demanding a poke through the warp or the weft…I want to pick them up when I’m ready.

    Can you tell I’ve never raised children?!

    1. You have equally important threads to tease out, Amy πŸ™‚ Some astounding writing on your blog at the moment! Occupy Blogosphere seems to be going from strength to strength!

  12. Oh, Kate I’m sorry for your ‘eventful’ day, but I couldn’t help chuckling as I read about each successive knot in your day. I hope your weekend is much better.

  13. Your post mirrors my thoughts on (whoever came up with) that idiotic phrase; and how aptly you demonstrate your premise… I’ve had more than a few of those days lately, and if that’s ‘rich’ I’ll kick it right down the avenue – ‘course I’d be missing those golden threads… I wonder if there’s a way to pick ’em out first, before the kicking ceremony?

  14. Ouch! Double ouch!! Γ… finger and a toe, Kate. I’ve done that sort of thing and have that sort of day (though, thankfully, not today). I hope that tomorrow is better – it will be, you know.

  15. life is a lot like tapestry, we present the desired front to the world, meanwhile the skeins lie tangled behind it, knots hidden or holding otherwise separate bits together, loose strands needing tidying, new silk and wool to be obtained for the fluffy or shiny parts, and then we need to keep weaving it all together so we don’t stand naked out there

  16. A possible cat litter tray solution is this:

    lay up the litter tray inside a cat carrier, (a ‘two part’ type….like this )
    with the door left open – thus this can be put outside in a sheltered spot and the rain water won’t reach the tray….and the cat can perform in the dry, outside. Much less whiffy.

    I still have a purple nail from about three weeks ago, so you have many empathies from this quarter πŸ™‚ )

    1. (when I say ‘lay up’ I usually line the tray with a bin liner, then with newspaper, then the litter, so one the littler has been fully used it can be bundle up easily)

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