The Door to Discovery

I just pried apart… with great difficulty and determination… a TIMEX watch from the sixties. Waterproof, shockproof, wife proof, it had survived in a box of interesting junk in the back of my husband’s top dresser drawer. I want to use the tiny cogs and springs to embellish a quilted/embroidered wallhanging based on the wood engraving I first encountered on the cover of Daniel Boorstin’s remarkable 1983 book, The Discoverers.

The wallhanging is for the June challenge of my quilt guild in Hamilton. A quilt challenge is a call for entry in a competition based on a defined criteria for size, theme, technique, etcetera. The topic is “doors”, and mine will be called, “Curiosity is the door to discovery, but first you must be willing to stick your neck out!”

A traveller puts his head under the edge of the firmament in the original (1888) printing of the Flammarion engraving.

A traveller puts his head under the edge of the firmament in the original (1888) printing of the Flammarion engraving.
The Flammarion engraving is a wood engraving by an unknown artist, so named because its first documented appearance is in Camille Flammarion’s 1888 book L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire. It has been used to represent a supposedly medieval cosmology, including a flat earth bounded by a solid and opaque sky, or firmament, and also as a metaphorical illustration of either the scientific or the mystical quests for knowledge.

Flammarion was not the artist, but this is what he said in his book about the engraving:

What intelligent being, what being capable of responding emotionally to a beautiful sight, can look at the jagged, silvery lunar crescent trembling in the azure sky, even through the weakest of telescopes, and not be struck by it in an intensely pleasurable way, not feel cut off from everyday life here on earth and transported toward that first stop on the celestial journeys?What thoughtful soul could look at brilliant Jupiter with its four attendant satellites, or splendid Saturn encircled by its mysterious ring, or a double star glowing scarlet and sapphire in the infinity of night, and not be filled with a sense of wonder? Yes, indeed, if humankind — from humble farmers in the fields and toiling workers in the cities to teachers, people of independent means, those who have reached the pinnacle of fame or fortune, even the most frivolous of society women — if they knew what profound inner pleasure await those who gaze at the heavens, then France, nay, the whole of Europe, would be covered with telescopes instead of bayonets, thereby promoting universal happiness and peace. — Camille Flammarion, 1880

By to-day’s standards, Flammarion stuck his neck out about some very strange ideas, and I certainly do not endorse them, but I am grateful that he preserved and circulated this haunting image.

I suppose that both time and doors are very much on my mind these days.  It is now over six months since the old kitchen was torn out.  Since then the kitchen has been completed… it is now the only habitable room upstairs, and as in an old-fashioned farmhouse has become the center of all activity.  The doors to all the rooms have been replaced, but window installations were delayed by bad weather and are only now being finished.

Most quilting and fiber art is impossible and many of my tools are missing in action. Even hand embroidery is difficult to organize as the only floss I can lay hands on is a very limited selection of DMC… colourful, but boring!

All my books are packed away.  No television. Summer clothes are in a very large bin, somewhere at the bottom and the back of a towering pile.   Who knew it would take this long? But, surrounded as we are by cartons packed to overflowing, we are learning to actually live with much less… an interesting, possibly life-altering experience.

I am going to try to get back into routine of blogging more frequently.  Thank you for continuing to check in!

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