WEAVING IT TOGETHER — Stories & Masks

Last week I posted my poem “Learning to Read,” about having seen a hawk with the pigeon he’s just killed & imagining what I would have (mis)read into the loose feathers on the grass if I’d arrived a moment later. I loved the 2 comments that were sent.

Grace ( https://windthread.typepad.com/ ) observed: “so much….this is how it is. only for the pigeon, a single truth, for sure.”  

Warren Peace imagined: “The hawk took one look at the world of humans from her place in the humans’ yard & took off to feast in peace!” [And if I follow that thread — knowing, as I do, where this happened — I’d “see” the hawk flying across Rivermont Avenue to the large wooded park on the other side.]

So here we have at least 5 or 6 different stories about one event: the story as told by the Pigeon, that told by the Hawk, that of Warren Peace’s conjecture (and that of my follow-up/extension), the story of my actual experiencing, and the story of my imagining. Then, of course, there’s the story told by the Cat that I might have blamed — a story which might or might not include any of the above. Not to mention the stories told by the Grass, the Lost Feathers, the Air…… and on and on…..

So many Stories …. So many perspectives… So many ways for us to process the stories of others….

Just something to ponder, especially in these days when we are seeing so clearly — throughout the U.S. and the World — just how the ways Stories are told impact individuals (human & others), cultures, nations, and Earth.

I ask myself — and you:

To what Stories do we choose to listen?
What Stories do we choose to tell?
How and to whom do we choose to tell them?
How do we interact with the Stories told by others?

And speaking of Stories — I just finished reading an enthralling new novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr, that has as a major theme the importance of Story and of Written Books. The novel is too big & complex to summarize (many themes & insights) — but, to use a weaving metaphor, the warp of the book (the taut threads through which one weaves, the steady structure that holds the piece together) is an ancient Greek manuscript of a Story. Back & forth through this structure, the author weaves wefts of myriad colors in the form of multiple stories of characters from medieval Constantinople, from the present, and from the near future — wefts/stories that intersect & intertwingle in a thousand different ways to create a rich tapestry.

Many people (anthropologists, linguists, philosophers) have written about the deep (usually portrayed as negative) differences between Oral & Written Stories/ traditions/ communications. And yet here — in Doerr’s novel (written, of course) — is this ancient Written Story whose very physical form is a part of its being. Again, much to ponder. Definitely the best novel I’ve read in a while. I hope you get a chance to read it!

And on the fiber front — It is not strange that a Weaving metaphor leapt to mind when I tried to describe Doerr’s novel. I am enchanted by wet felting, with its process of easy spontaneous changes in the early stages, the intimacy of touching and energy of rubbing the fibers, & the inherent chaos of forming and form. However, this past week, I have found healing in the simple weaving on a frame loom — not unlike the kind of loom on which I learned to weave in 2nd grade when we were introduced to the Diné (Navajo) arts & culture and I feel in love with it all.

Once tied on the frame, the warp threads provide a stable structure. Of course, I can rebel against the structure & work around in various ways if I wish, but still the structure/the warp is stable & holds the other yarns as One. I weave the weft yarns through the warp with my fingers in intimate contact and interaction. Thread by thread, over/under/over/under/over/under…. My mind slows down to my fingers’ rhythm…. I am centered.

I’ve been looking over my past work with woven masks — a skill taught to me by the wonderful fiber artist Susan Merrill (http://www.weavingalife.com/) who was gifted the woven mask structure in a dream. When I first began, I placed the masks on woven backgrounds, but recently — without thinking about why — I have shifted to placing the woven masks on felted backgrounds. Perhaps my spirit has felt during this time the need to encompass both order & chaos.

In any case, I have now begun to weave the next mask. I am finding the process of weaving soothing, a very quiet conversation with the materials. And, of course, even in this more structured work there is — as in felting — the sense of surprise & wonder as I see how the colors work together & even more to look forward to at the end when I begin to turn the flat weaving into a real three-dimensional face. ….I wonder who this next face I am forming will become…..

P.S. Speaking of points of view…. I just came across my poem —

            THE RUG'S STORY

Part I:  Fate

There was a rug who hated shoes.
Crushed by thick soles, smeared by grimy boots, bruised 
    by high heels,
he tried slipping out of the way or curling his corners
    across his face.
No matter how much they dragged him back and shook and
   straightened him
his brow stayed furrowed with misery.

Throw the old thing out! shouted the voice with boots
    who had just stumbled yet again over the rug's
        deep frown.
No, said the stiletto voice.  Put it in the basement
    for the cat's bed.
The rug relaxed and grinned from fringe to fringe.
He knew for a fact that the cat never wore shoes. 

That night the rug felt one tentative paw testing his soft folds.
    Then another.
The cat began to purr.  The paws began to stamp and knead.
Alas, cried the rug.  From hammers to knives!
A rug is a rug is a rug...

Unless.....

Part II: Flying Carpet
                      ......

3 thoughts on “WEAVING IT TOGETHER — Stories & Masks

  1. Regarding the Hawk-Pigeon story, there is also the impact story of the neighbor who was leaving food out for birds, including or not the pigeons. She abruptly stopped feeding the birds after seeing the feathers in her backyard. She was horrified.

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  2. Hi, I found your blog through SpiritCloth. Nice to meet you 🙂
    I have met Susan Barrett Merrill up here in Maine and have woven some of her masks as well as a few other of her “key forms.” So interesting. Maybe it is time to start another! I have scaled down her design to fit on my small Saffron loom. They are so fascinating.

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    • Hi, Cednie. Thanks for writing. I’ve done some very small masks too. Always magical how they emerge, whether large or small. Susan (weavingalife.com) is a fabulous teacher & fiber artist and I encourage everyone to check out her amazing masks on her website!

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