Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Weaving a Song of the Mothers

This is the time of year when the earth beneath us is sleeping and just beginning to think about waking up. We make plans for our gardens and outdoor projects, trusting that spring will come in the shadow of our dreaming and nature itself begins to hint at the wheel’s turning. The sun is shining earlier in the morning and we remember that, for those of us living in seasonal states, the grey slushy gloom of pre-spring is a cycle that also ends. I use this time of year for reflection as I sit in my heated home beneath warm blankets and surrounded by living beings that I love.

We’ve been snowed in a few times this winter and the child in me enjoys the days of forced hibernation. They give me a chance to catch up on my crafts and projects, when other responsibilities are put on pause. I have a lot of hobbies, not the least of which is crocheting. When I was a young girl, my Great-Grandmother Elsie taught me how to crochet and gave me her aluminum hooks, which I kept as sacred to me after she died, even though they went mostly unused. I wasn’t able to retain enough of what she had taught me during her summer stays to continue on my own when she returned to Florida. But I kept those hooks with me, most of them dainty tiny hooks for doing fine work. I had them with me until they went missing in one of my last moves during college.

The loss of those sacred objects acted as a catalyst for me to pick the art back up, and I struggled through some bad projects before I remembered enough of what she had shown me to begin creating some of my own stitches in lieu of a tutor. I enjoy crafting gifts for my friends and family and I feel accomplished making blankets that keep us warm in our home. I enjoy dearly the gifts I’ve been given that were handcrafted for me by loved ones: an afghan from my Grandma Donna, a blanket from Grandma Doris, a childhood blanket from my mother, a scarf made by a good friend.

 Hand-crafted by my Grandma Donna who passed away Mother's Day 2001.

I have been going through old census reports and have discovered that the men among my ancestors were Knights and Kings and Stonecutters and Carpenters, as well as Prison Guards, Civil Engineers, Shoemakers, Chauffeurs, but mostly Farmers on both the maternal and paternal sides. At the turn of the last century, many of my forebears were farming unpopulated land in Western New York.

The women are mostly labeled as “Keeping House” and all that it entails, with the few exceptions of Schoolteachers and Dressmakers. These women cooked, cleaned, sewed, nursed, darned and raised their families with more skill than I find myself capable of today. I am blessed to be able to go into a store and pick out any color of yarn my heart desires. As my hands do the dance of weaving over and around and under, like braiding, I lose myself in the rhythm of it. My heart opens to the line of women who came before me, some of them wives of farmers and others dutiful daughters sitting in parlors, refining their skill as they practice. I see their hands over mine, so many hands performing the same dance though separated by generations.

What of my ancestors, the wives of those early farmers, Frances, Jane, Sarah, Abigail, Katherine, Ruth, Hannah, Sophia, Cynthia, Elizabeth, and those unknown? Women who also cared for their families with the skill of shearing sheep, carding the wool, learning the art of the drop spindle to make yarn and thread. Women who wove textiles and knit blankets and sweaters. I think of these women as I make stuffed animals and crocheted toys for my nieces and nephew, imparting to them the joy that comes of creating with your hands.

It’s a legacy, handcrafting objects with love and intention. And then hands release them, sending them out into the world. Who knows where they will end their journeys or how many people they will touch. I love making scarves, thick and warm, to donate to charities before winter starts. My love, my wish for warmth, touching someone unknown to me.

A hodge-podge of my current projects.

Gratitude for a Blanket
I often have moments of gratitude for things, beginning with the object itself and tracing its origins backwards until I cannot go any further, as I have done here. The first one is for my ancestors. The second one is for today’s generation, and both assume the use of natural fibers.

Bless the hands that knit this blanket.
Bless the hands that dyed the wool.
Bless the hands that harvested the plants and prepared the dye.
Bless the hands that spun the wool.
Bless the hands that mastered the drop spindle.
Bless the hands that washed the fiber.
Bless the hands that carded the sheep wool.
Bless the hands that sheared the sheep.
Bless the hands that fed the animals.
Bless the hands that raised the young lambs.
Bless the hands that harvested the grain to feed the animals so they could flourish.
Bless the hands who planted the seed.

Bless the hands of the cashier who rang up my purchase.
Bless the hands that stocked the blanket on the shelves.
Bless the hands that unpacked the box in the storeroom.
Bless the hands that drove the truck of supplies to the store.
Bless the hands that loaded the box onto the truck.
Bless the hands that packaged the blankets in boxes.
Bless the machine that wove the blanket.
Bless the hands that managed the machine that wove the blanket.
Bless the hands that maintain the machine.
Bless the machine that dyed the yarn.
Bless the hands that poured the dye into the vat.
Bless the machine that spun the yarn.
Bless the hands that put the fiber in the machine.
Bless the truck that brought the fiber to the factory.
Bless the farm that harvested the fiber.
Bless the hands that sheared the sheep.
Bless the hands that fed the animals.
Bless the hands that raised the young lambs.
Bless the hands that harvested the grain to feed the animals so they could flourish.
Bless the hands who planted the seed.

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