Weaving & Unraveling

This week I have been musing about a lovely essay included in Vol.5 (Practice) of Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations, published this year by The Center for Humans and Nature. Written by Maya Ward (https://www.mayaward.com.au/), the essay is entitled “Getting In On The Making”:

Weaving is an old way of knowing. Losing our fur was quite an incentive for getting in on the making: to find a way to dress our delicate skin, to shelter this sensitivity. The weave is a knowing like life: a pattern, not yet conscious, emerges in the creative act. Weaving in many cultures is a sacred art, a type of magic, a spidery kind of skill.

We can all see, now, the holes, perhaps irreparable, in the web of life. In this age of ecological unraveling the subtle, gentle magic of the weaver seems too humble a thing to help. And yet without it, I fear we will become totally frayed.

Some say this time, exactly as it is, is an initiation into something entirely new. Can we trust enough to be entrusted with the true, strange, terrible way things are? I think every person is called upon to stitch together their samples, to quilt themselves into this new home. I doubt there is a soul alive for whom this will be easy work. The needle must be carved from one’s own bone. The thread will be nothing less than our sinew.

We care for ourselves through tending our connections. Our love for this world, our kindness with it all, and the actions that arise from love–these must weave a vessel that could nest a new culture. Through everyday acts of attentiveness, from aligning with the other as kin, change will come. Practices of kinship involve a conscious restorying of our irrevocable entanglements. All things are born from this system of earth and sun, a system entangled among endless stars, the dying of which gave birth to elements of our bodies. The root of the word ‘kin’ means ‘to give birth.’ [All things]…are emerging as and from the eros force…. It’s a wild and sexy thing we’ve arisen from. All things are woven into it; threaded knotted, bound. And within the weave we dance.”

I was immediately caught by this opening — these metaphors of Interwoven Being are exactly what I love. I was a bit taken aback when — after the three central sections in which she brings to life the power of improvisational contact dance, the stories behind place names, and the intimacy of a night walk in the forest — Ward shifted the metaphor slightly, concluding:

“We wove to shelter our extraordinary sensitivity. We wove cloth and we wove narrative. We wove ever-greater patterns of protection; shelters, walls, nations, wars. To shed false skins seems an immense risk, yet there may be no other way. At its wildest, eros is the will to trust all things, to be kin with all things, even in this terrible time. It is its own strange truth. It is love and naked fury. To say yes to the fray, to let go of the woven, to be an act of unmaking. From this we will be made.”

To weave/connect/make or to un-weave/unravel/unmake…..?

In workshops I’ve given, people of various ages have enjoyed both creating their own new weaving and unraveling parts of an old one so it can be re-woven in a new way. [This is easily done with burlap: After cutting some of the burlap’s weft threads somewhere in the center, you can easily pull out those short bits of weft and then, using a needle and new yarn, weave over the existing warp structure to create something new. Or, of course, you just pull out some of the burlap’s weft and relax into the empty spaces. Or you can unravel the edges and play with the fringe.]

One thing I’ve loved about working with yarn it that it can be undone. This is very different from the finality of taking chisel to marble. (Working with yarn is certainly more suitable for anyone as indecisive as I am!)

While weaving, I find myself un-weaving surprisingly often. Sometimes it’s because I am unhappy about way the color or pattern I’d planned actually looks as I make it. Sometimes it’s because I have a “brilliant” idea about how to do things “better” — which may, in the end, lead to more un-weaving. Sometimes it’s because I’ve let my attention falter and just plain made a mistake — which I may not notice until I’ve woven a good ways further. Occasionally the “mistake” is something I’m content to ignore or it might turn out to be an opportunity for a new way of continuing, but often it is something that just throws all that follows out of kilter and simply has to be undone and remade for the sake of the whole. I guess the latter is where we in the dominant/dominating Western culture are now with respect to many of our errant weavings.

[The old Persian belief that you must always leave a flaw in the carpet you weave — to show humility, to acknowledge that your creation is less than what has been made by the Great Creator — is an altogether different thing.]

Humans have at last become aware that we have — perhaps unintentionally — been unraveling the all-inclusive tapestry woven by Earth. And it is our own weavings of certain stories, technologies, politics, religions, etc. that have caused this damage, this unraveling. We need to re-weave, to re-story ourselves and our ways of being so that all of the Earth community can be actively included as participants rather than being seen as either “obstacles” we must overcome or mere “resources” under our control. It is, I believe, time for us to consciously keep the human weavings that support or enhance Earth’s greater weaving and to un-weave the ones that are damaging the larger whole. Then we can pick up the threads and — with the help of the inclusive stories that will continue — weave something we may not yet have imagined, weave “a new vessel that can nest a new culture.” Within that new vessel, not only we but all of our Earth kin will be able to dance!

On 11/9, Grace posted — on https://windthread.typepad.com/ — this beautiful photograph by Bertrand Kulik. It has been an amazing image to contemplate as I think about weaving, unraveling, re-weaving…. I hope you, too, enjoy it.

Bertrand Kulik, photographer

"O our mother the earth, O our father the sky,
Your children are we, and with tired backs
We bring you gifts that you love.
Then weave for us a garment of brightness:
May the warp be the white light of morning,
May the weft be the red light of evening,
May the fringes be the falling rain,
May the border be the standing rainbow.
Thus weave for us a garment of brightness
That we may walk fittingly where grass is green,
O our mother the earth, O our father the sky! 

                         -- Tewa Pueblo prayer

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