Susie Boardman

Stitches in time

by: Carrie Leland

After doing laps through the town I have lived in since I was 7 years old, I finally found it, Ash Lane, a tiny ventricle of a street hidden in the heart of Nantucket. The wind and rain walloped our little island that day, even sandwiching me in the car door in her driveway, but she was there waiting for me, welcoming me out of the cold with a cup of peppermint tea. I followed her up a set of stairs to a room nestled with books on all sides and in the center was a long wooden artisan’s table where Susie Boardman makes history one stitch at a time.

My eye wandered across the table to pieces of muslin with drawings of intricate design, to a pile of miniscule leaves in varying hues of green, to an embroiderer’s stand across the room where Boardman’s newest creation was still being crafted. Glancing behind me, I noticed a line of framed pictures just above eye level. “Perhaps you’d like to see my work,” she offered. When she pulled down one of her finished pieces, I knew I was in the presence of not only an artist but a storyteller.

A whale hunt jumped off the cloth canvas. Even the spray from the whales as they crashed against the sea’s surface bubbled with energy. A whaling ship pitched in the background. Yet this dynamic scene edged in gold leaf drew attention to four lines of verse stitched next to an ivory whale and a subtle bouquet of wildflowers. They read, “Lovely mercy we do love thee/ you were the first discovered by me/ now your voige of life is over/ I shall never behold you more.” These words were written on March 8, 1854 in the journal of Elizabeth Morey, a Nantucket woman who sailed the seas with her whaling captain husband on the ship Phoenix, and wrote poetry about the whales that imbued her life with meaning.