Someday this will be cloth


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For now, it is the finest, fluffiest, whitest wool I have had the pleasure to touch. I have been flicking the locks open at each end, creating little puffs of wool that spin up into fine and lofty yarn. That’s not the beginning of the process or even the beginning of the story.

The story begins with Peaches, a Cormo sheep from Ensign Brook Farm, because it’s her fleece. It was the Champion fleece at the 2014 Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival. Since this is the first fleece I’ve processed in over 30 years, I decided to start with something both easy and complicated at the same time. This is easy because the fleece is practically perfect in all aspects, but also difficult because Cormo is a tight fleece, full of lanolin.

I have been washing the fleece a handful at a time, because I want to preserve the perfect lock structure as much as possible.

As I spin the fleece I am being careful to make thin and even yarn that should become a soft and lustrous two-ply weaving yarn. I am surprised how lustrous Cormo can be. I am even more surprised how much easier it is to spin with the Very Fast Flyer on my Lendrum spinning wheel. Wisdom has it that you know when you are ready for this flyer. I think it has something to do with hitting a frustration point with the (not so) Fast Flyer when trying to spin fine yarn.

IMG_5567I am a long way from having yarn to weave, but that’s OK. This is slow cloth, starting with a fleece and eventually creating a soft and warm shawl. This is my personal version of fleece to shawl, not the frenzied competition that creates coarse and heavy cloth, spun by committee and woven under extreme pressure. No, indeed. This is a slow and mindful journey in wool.

a date with your inner self

As you know, I have been weaving my way through Zati: The Art of Weaving a Life for the second time, in a joyous celebration of all the positive things that have come into my life. The work is both a spiritual inquiry and a chance to create a set of seven meaningful artifacts, called keyforms, that represent each step of the journey.

Although I am currently weaving the Belt of Power, the keyform of Choice, I am sharing the journey with a few weavers who are now starting to weave their Masks, the keyform of Identity.

Through my work as a priestess, I know that we have to be very supportive of ourselves and others when we undertake the inner journeys. Identity is fundamental to our existence as conscious and living beings. As a witch, yogini and Buddhist, I have chosen a path that encourages me to dig deeply and ask hard questions of my inner self. Why am I like this? How can I transform some of the murky and unpleasant aspects of my Self into something more shining and loving? What can I do to ease the suffering in the world? As I find my bliss, how can I help others find theirs? Can I do this from my solitary mountaintop? It’s hard but beautiful work, and it takes determination and it also requires being very grounded. Most of all, it takes love.

Putting a ritual structure around an inner journey provides a safe container, and makes it easier to stay grounded. If I have a broad outline of a script, I have a path to follow as I go inwards and return back to everyday consciousness. I know I will be weaving my Mask soon, and when it is done and I am ready to put on the mask, this is the ritual of exploration I will use to create a safe and productive exploration of my true self.

I chose the theme of a date because I was thinking of the focus and fascination that you bring to spending time in the company of your potential beloved. Each word is precious. The silences, eyes meeting eyes, speak volumes.

So, I will prepare for this masked date much like I would for a real-world date.

I’ll prepare a special place for the ritual. I want a view of the stars, a comfortable space to sit, flowers, the all-important mirror, and candles for light. I plan to spend around 20 minutes softly gazing in the mirror and journeying deeply into my identity through the portals of my gaze. I will use music to time the journey, but I give myself permission to return sooner if I need to.

I will have a pitcher of lemon lavender water available to drink, and a warm shawl and a piece of chocolate to help me come back into focus after the journey. My journal and pen will be at hand.

Before the ritual, I promise to be well rested and to have eaten lightly but healthfully throughout the day.

I will prepare myself by having a ritual bath in herb scented water. I don’t know yet what I’m going to wear on my ‘date’ but I can be as fanciful and beautiful as I desire.

Before I put on the mask, I’ll take some time to get really grounded, feeling my roots go deep within the earth. I’ll ask the Lady’s protection and blessing.

I will go wherever the journey takes me, down the 13 steps to the place that is deep within my heart. No one can do me harm in this space. Guides may accompany me on the journey, but if this makes me uncomfortable, they will leave if I ask them to.

I do not know what I will discover, but I know that I am fully prepared for the experience and I know that my beloved self cannot harm me. I am ready to put on the mask and gaze into the mirror and greet myself as I truly am. Who is this person here? How do I differ from the self I generally perceive? From the self that I project to others? How am I the legacy of all my ancestors? What legacy do I give to the future? How does it feel when I give myself a hug? When I accept myself with humility and love? I can ask any question and if the answer is ready, it will come.

I know that I can return at any time simply by taking off the mask, walking back up the steps, clapping my hands three times and saying my name aloud. This brings me back to the present moment.

When I return, I will touch the earth to release the energy that is swirling inside me. I may wrap up in the shawl, nibble chocolate, and drink water to help myself come back into focus. If I have not yet written in my journal, I will take time to do it now. Finally, I will thank the Lady for standing as a sentry and witness to my journey, and for the insight which She gave me.

There are many ways to go deep within on a journey. I have recorded a pair of guided meditations, The Journey In and The Journey Home, that you may use to start and end your journey. Select at least 10 minutes of instrumental music to play between these two tracks. This will be the background to your personal journey with your mask and mirror. You can download the meditations as MP3 files below

 

Download from SoundCloud

Don’t be afraid to go deep, because you know how to find your way home. If your journey leaves you feeling unsettled, spend more time touching the earth. Eat more chocolate. Hug someone. Hug yourself. Do what you do when you have trouble shaking of a dream.  Most of all, be gentle with yourself and know that one journey will not answer all the questions you have. Plan another ‘date’ with your beloved self.

weaver about town

The spring textile gatherings have begun. This morning was the student show at Hill Institute in Florence, and two Master Weavers had their body of works on display, in addition to galleries of all the other student handcrafts.

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Someday, I would like to begin the Master Weaver program at Hill Institute. It’s a major time commitment, and I just don’t think I can balance it with all the demands of life right now. I want to enjoy it, and learn the most possible from it, rather than rush through it and just squeak by.

There was a benefit raffle for the school, and I was pleased to have won a crocheted shawl. Since I don’t crochet very well, this is a rare treat, indeed.

 

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After visiting Hill Institute, I continued on to WEBS for their tent sale and fiber marketplace. It was a mob scene. I had really gone to WEBS to get a flick carder, but there were none to be had. I looked around the tent sale, but the one table of weaving yarn was rather sad and tired looking. The knitters seemed to have many attractive bargains to choose from. I probably could have found some knitting yarn that was suitable for weaving, but that would have sent a very wrong message to the store. I don’t want to be counted as a knitter and reaffirm their current product mix; I want them to stock more yarn for weavers.
IMG_5545 (1)The fiber marketplace was fun. I didn’t need another fleece or any more dyed fiber. Goodness knows, I have more than enough.

Malea’s Pottery has so many beautiful and useful items. I thought about getting some small bowls, but decided on this collection of handmade porcelain buttons. Won’t they be wonderful on an indigo dyed garment?

Next weekend is the Massachusetts Sheep & Wool Festival in Cummington. I can’t believe it is finally here. I didn’t attend any of the pre-season festivals this year.  My wish list is woefully short: a flick carder, hand turned tapestry bobbins, and more bobbins for my Lendrum Very Fast Flyer. I hope it can be satisfied close to home.

No mud, no lotus

Thay’s words came spontaneously to me last evening, as I gently prodded the idea that power comes from choice. The idea didn’t sit well with me; I was very tired from a day working with people who would rather complicate the simplest situation than admire the innate simplicity of it.  Stirring up the mud, clouding the waters. That’s what brought Thay’s words to mind.

When he reminds us that below the still pool, the lotus blossom is anchored in the rich and humble mud, he is telling us that beauty and practicality are one. Dark is the twin of light. All things are one. We are interconnected. It is a beautiful image with very fluid boundaries. We have both good and bad within our nature. We do choose which to nurture, and that shapes the balance of who we are.

In making choices, we don’t cut away the bad, leaving great holes. We nurture the good, and the bad either withers away as the good grows into its space, or it is transformed into good. The mud, after all, contains the nutrients from which the lotus grows stronger.

The question remains. How do I weave a sheath for the tool that symbolizes choice? What is the tool?

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Thay means teacher in Vietnamese. Students of Thich Nhat Hanh use this title to show our love and respect for him.