The woman stops and looks around. Where did the voice come from? Who is speaking to her? She stands still in the aisle, listening. The Holiday Bazaar is busy and when she stops, other shoppers move around her as though she is a boulder in the bed of a stream. It takes her one complete turn before she realizes that no one is close enough, or stationary enough to be speaking to her. Perhaps the voice she’d heard had been a soundbite drifting away from the random conversation of strangers? Shoppers and vendors are laughing, chatting, explaining. And behind it all are the sounds of the harpist caressing Christmas music. Yes, it must have been an escaped phrase from another’s conversation and not meant for her ears.
The words are quiet, barely more than a whisper. Personal. Urgent. Again, the woman turns, searching for the human vocal cords speaking to her and finds none. Instead, what she finds is a styrofoam head displaying a hat of a certain shade of blue. Stepping in closer she can see the blue is not solid, and is instead comprised of various shades of blue along with sprinkles of plum. She recognizes this blue as that of a sky, that is both far and near. She attempts to orient herself—no, colors do not have voices. Colors do not speak to people.
The styrofoam head sits atop a ten foot long vendor's table. A walking spinning wheel also sits on the table. More broken than not, there is enough left of the wheel to show its original form. How many miles of cotton and linen might this old wheel have spun, she wonders. From its spokes various skeins of hand-dyed yarns are draped, creating a wall of color and texture.
“That hat is a sample, showing how my Sunflower Hat Kit works up.” From the other side of the table, a head appears above the yarn wall and maneuvers between the walking wheel’s spokes until a clear line of vision is established. The artist is wearing a white mask against infection. Not an ornamental or symbolic mask, but the kind that pushes her cheeks up against her eyes. The paper-cloth balloons out, and sucks in with her every breath. Long grey hair has been loosened from its bun by the mask’s elastic bands.
“Feel free to pick up the hat,” the artist continues. “Try it on if you wish. Here is a mirror.” A hand reaches under the wheel and sets a hand-mirror on the table beside the mannequin head. The woman lays her hand flat on the blue of the hat, sensing the fiber, the way knitters do.
“I can see that you are a knitter” the artist says. “The yarn is talking to your hand. You will appreciate the yarns I have used for this kit. First, merino super wash is the main color. I call it ‘Tolstoy Blue.’”
“Tolstoy blue?” The woman asks as she removes the hat from the mannequin.
“Yes, the blue of everlasting sky.”
The woman turns the hat. Looking. Searching.
“Don’t be afraid." The gold of the sunflower seems to be pulsating.
“But I am afraid of you,” the woman responds.
The artist interrupts, apparently not hearing the private dialog. “The gold of the sunflower is mostly alpaca, which accounts for its soft and airy texture.”
The woman gently strokes the petals with the tips of her fingers. “Yes,” she says. “Yes, I can feel the alpaca.” She removes the stocking cap she is wearing, revealing dark brown, close cropped hair. She slips the sunflower hat on and uses the hand mirror to study herself wearing the hat.
"That color of blue is fantastic on you," the artist says. "I love the contrast with your white-white skin. And that bright-red lipstick. I approve. Good for you."
The woman takes off the hat and holds it up and away from her. Her brown eyes study the hat. “The petals do not have symmetry,” she says.
“No this sunflower is not standing in a quiet field of sunshine. The air around this sunflower is unquiet. It moves. It blows. You see I was thinking ‘Ukraine’ when I designed the hat.”
“You know you love me. You cannot turn away from me.”
The woman has tears in her eyes as she weaves and bobs her head until she can connect and make eye contact with the artist behind the curtain of yarn. “But the wind,” the woman says. “But the wind is coming from the wrong direction. It should be blowing from the East.”
“Some might say that the winds of Ukraine blow West to East. In this case, I take your point. Putin's winds blow Ukraine from the East. My dear, if you would like your sunflower blowing westward—turn the graph upside down when you work it."
The woman carefully replaced the sunflower hat on the styrofoam head.
“I am you. You cannot leave me.”