it is the sixth day of sun and blue skies we’ve seen since thanksgiving, so we do the only thing that makes sense: we leave. we trek to a nearby town in search of an air purifier – that was our official excuse – and after spending, oh i don’t know, maybe two minutes on that search, we walk up and down main street, ducking in the human society thrift shop – where i found two national geographic magazines i can’t live another day without – then on down to one of the many antique shops on the square.

we see christening dresses, white gloves, a colonial war metal warming plate. we see a small perfume bottle in a sterling silver case that snaps closed with a definitive click. we see an entire cabinet full of keys . . . alas, but no roller skate key. if the woman who talks to herself is to be believed, we see a bible box and an ice cream plate. she begins to talk to me, generously sharing with me news of the best deal around: a mining spot in cherokee, n.c. where you buy a bucket for $13 and set to mining. she went there not long ago, and having decided to hold onto the smaller stones in their natural state, she is heading back over tomorrow to pick up her 3 carat emerald that’s being cut. the man doing the cutting reckons that one stone alone is worth $3,000.00 to $4,000.00, and she wonders how on earth they can make money with buckets costing only $13 each, but soon enough she answers her own question: they own the mining rights AND they get paid to cut and set the stones. she doesn’t think she’s tall enough to pull off wearing a four carat emerald, so she’s fine with the smaller three carat stone.

when she picks up her cut stone, she’ll pay for two or three more of those $13 buckets, hoping to raise enough money to purchase the ten acres on the market for $10,000. it’s uncleared land, but she figures she will sell the stones to pay for the clearing of five acres which she’ll then sell and use the proceeds from that sale to clear the other five acres and have clarence come put her a trailer there where she’ll live happily ever after.


spying the glass-front filled with jars and bags of marbles, the young mesmerized boy says pointedly, “dad, do you realize i don’t have any marbles?”

“oh you have some marbles,” his dad says, distracted with the boxes filled with hinges and door knobs and such he’s rifling through “you’ve just lost them.”


we see a naked baby doll that’s much the worse for wear, her skin all cracked and peeling, one eye permanently closed in a wink, her smile faded but still radiant. i want to bring her home and love her.

a smaller doll lies in the box with her, a doll so small you can hold her in the palm of one hand. her tag says “porcelain doll missing,” and sure enough both feet, one hand, and one arm up to the elbow have been amputated. i don’t know how to fix her, so i hug her, lay her back down, and wish her well.


as i stitch the evening away and as the scraps of fabric find their way together into a new cloth, these lines by nikki giovanni comes to dance in the eye of my needle:

When I am frayed and strained and drizzle at the end
Please someone cut a square and put me in a quilt
That I might keep some child warm
And some old person with no one else to talk to
Will hear my whispers.


More about 365 Altars


  1. ☆little light☆

    The memories sewn into your tapestry are filled with some of the best things…

    • whollyjeanne

      it was a good day. and i like to think of it as woven and sewn. xo

  2. Meredith

    These little stories are so much fun. I loved the happily ever after on ten acres. And the porcelain doll thing? Well, I shivered — but it’s complicated…

    When I was about 5 or 6, we had a porcelain doll that played music when you wound it up. One day while eating breakfast, it began playing the music by itself. To this day, porcelain dolls terrify me. It’s silly because I know that fear is highly irrational, but that doll playing music on its own… eek! 😉

    I can’t wait to see what stories you’ll be sharing next!

    • whollyjeanne

      well, sugar, that would eek me out, too, a porcelain doll playing music uninvited. yikes! don’t try to rationalize it, don’t try to make it logical, don’t try to excuse it or apologize for it or change it. just know that porcelain dolls eek you out. period. (and hey, that’s a pretty good story you shared, too.)

  3. Julie Daley

    for a few moments I was transported to NC, there by your side, as you and Andy walk hand in hand. beautiful story-weaving, my friend.

    • whollyjeanne

      thank you, jewels. story weaving. you know i love that phrase. love it and you, too.

  4. Angela

    This is a beautiful story quilt.  I wonder why abandoned dolls are so poignant to me. Thank you for hugging them.

    • whollyjeanne

      there was something about those babies – how could i not hug them (and actually, i hummed a wee little bit to them as i laid them back down.) your comment touches me in a deep spot. xo

  5. Anonymous

    This made me cry a little, in the good way. Here’s hoping everything, no matter how old or worn or tired, finds its way safely onto whatever the next purpose is.

    (For the record, I want to be in a quilt too. A blue square, like they sky, sprinkled with sunflowers.)

    • whollyjeanne

      you are that quilt, sugar. you definitely are that quilt. xo

      p.s. and if ever you wanted to stitch it by way of self-portrait or anything else, wouldn’t be so hard to do, you know. i’ll help from here.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks lady! 🙂

  6. Merry ME

    Not sure who Nikki Giovanni is but this quotemakes me yearn to cover myself up in the quilt my grandmother made and listen to it whisper. 

    • whollyjeanne

      “and listen to it whisper”. i love that. quilts do whisper, don’t they? the photo is a wee bit (one of the bits that hasn’t been loved slap through) of the quilt my grandmother made me. the children and i, we love to sleep under that quilt cause when we do, it’s as though grandmother has wrapped us in love. as though she is protecting us, whispering stories that look like dreams.

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