We have survived the longest night of the year! And now the days will begin to lengthen again. Although honestly, it never seems like the light comes back until it's a little closer to the equinox... but still and regardless -- it's the season of hibernation and the tiny seeds of light will grow, but first they need to nestle in the heart and incubate. But they will grow!
What I've been thinking about a lot lately... fiber work and tradition. Sometimes intertwined, sometimes not.
It is the case for me that often spinning, knitting, and weaving are wonderful escapes for me. There's something about them that anchors me to the women who came before me. It was not all that long ago that these skills were in demand because you couldn't just go somewhere and buy pre-made clothes. And not only in demand, but matter of factly practiced because you had to get socks from *somewhere*. I don't envy the grueling life of days gone by. I often reflect on my fortune and privilege, and yet, there is a part of my bones, a muscle memory of working with fiber that feels right. A connection through time to the spinners of thread, of warp and weft, of yarns fiber and tales, of labyryths, lives, and time itself.
I'm knitting the last of the fingerless gloves that go with the red and grey plaid scarf I wove, and a Santa-ish hat that I knit. For a skill that was once so utterly necessary, it seems so... decadent now. And sometimes, not always, it makes me sad. Sometimes I'm *really* glad that I don't have to knit unless I feel like it because what I really like to do is spin. Knitting (and now weaving) is what I do in order to justify buying more stuff to spin - although, I do find the process of weaving satisfying as well with the rhythm of the changing of the shed and the passing through of the shuttle. And I have the advantage that I can treat all my creations pretty much as experiments - 'what happens if I...' I'm terrible at following patterns and recipes. Not that I don't try, but sometimes... sometimes the yarn tells me what to try just like sometimes the food tells me it needs more of something than the recipe calls for... I have patterns that I'm fond of none-the-less. The red and grey Santa-ish hat is part of one pattern I like and part pretty much made up. I had to frog it back once or twice when I figured out I needed to make adjustments so it would work, but work it does. And thus it goes in my world.
When I think I wish there were a way to make a living at it, I am reminded of the weaver I saw at Folk Life every year we went for the last seven or so years. He's retiring from weaving so much - the toll fiberwork takes on bodies is a very real thing. More than once I've seen our local weaving and fiber supply store offer 'self care for [knitters, weavers, fiber workers] classes. And again, I'm glad that I can do this as a joyful luxury.
And yet and still - sometimes when I look, I can see the world knit and woven together, held together of strands of DNA, mycelium weaving the mat of the earth we walk on, trees appearing as more tightly woven together atoms than the air that swirls around them. For me, fiber work is an apt metaphor for the connectivity not only back to those who came before me, but the connectivity that connects us and the planet across the world, across the solar system, galaxy, universe. Computers and their punchcards were born of weaving technology. Text - comes from the same roots as textiles. My (paying) job itself is interwoven with text and computers and so perhaps I am carrying on the connecting tradition of the decadent work that warms my heart, in a grand connective evolving tradition, and perhaps too, this is why fiber work resonates with me and vice versa.
That wasn't the tradition, entirely I've been thinking of, but often once you start picking at a thread, many things will come out in the unraveling of the tale... :)
The other tradition I was thinking of was that the ubiquitous "they" used to tell ghost stories and scary stories this time of year. Andy Williams even sings of it, "There'll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for roasting, and caroling out in the snow. There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago..." It doesn't take long pondering why scary ghost stories might have been popular this time of year "long ago." Christmas as we know and celebrate it today is not a very old tradition. One year we asked my Great-Aunt Bess what Christmas was like when she was little, "Ohhh, well... if it was a Very Good Year, I might get a very much treasured doll..." Just the doll. And thinking of how winters would be much darker then than now with our fancy incandescent lighting, and more dangerous with the cold, and medicine being in the states of learning we were at with it, it doesn't take long to get from that to more souls shedding this mortal coil in the winter, and thus more ghost stories, and the remembrances of those gone on. After all, those who are remembered, live on...
And so, my solstice wish for you - may the returning light shed itself on ever increasing joys in your life and when tales are told around a dinner table long after you have joined what comes next, may you be remembered with fondness.
This is my last newsletter of this year - I'm taking next week off to weave in all my loose ends of this year and maybe, possibly, hopefully, plan some goodies for next year!
With love, best wishes for a delightful New Year, Happy Holidays whatever you choose to celebrate, and always always always curiosity,
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.
So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
― Neil Gaiman