How many of us complicate our lives with unfinished business? I’m sure at one time or another all of us could admit to having the heavy burden, guilt or pressure of such things as: telling someone something difficult to say, finishing a particularly difficult assignment, paying a bill, exercising or any myriad of things left undone. We have all seen movies, read books and perhaps personally experienced the feeling of leaving unfinished business so long that it gets too late to complete. This is a story of unfinished business on many levels.
Allow me to go back to the beginning of this story, exactly ten years ago. I was raising children and working off and on and had decided to take up the hobby of weaving. I had a loom and had dabbled but my results were inconsistent and somewhat dissatisfying. I belonged to the local weaver’s guild and decided to participate in a one-day course they were offering on dying silk.
Off I went on a Saturday morning with my silk warp that I had prepared ahead of time as instructed. We had an expert come in and instruct the course and I was anxious because first of all, I didn’t really feel like I was a good enough weaver, secondly, I was terrified of the fine silk threads and didn’t think I would ever be able to get them sorted and on my loom and thirdly, I knew nothing about dying fibre. Needless to say I was the perfect student as I had much to learn.
After a day of theory and experimenting and carefully following the procedure the instructor gave us, I came out of the science lab of the local college with a beautifully hand-dyed silk warp for a scarf. As I was creating it and choosing the colours I was doing so with my Mom in mind. I was excited that I would be able to present her this exquisite piece for Christmas that year. That gave me about 6 months to complete the warping and weaving of the project.
Fast forward to now, ten years later and as of two weeks ago that warp was still hanging in my weaving room. I had moved at least 8 times since completing that warp and still I had not woven it. Somewhere in the chaos and complications of my life I grew incredibly fearful of that warp. To me it signified all that I wasn’t; a craftswoman, creator and proficient weaver who was able to handle any fibre. Getting the gorgeous silk warp onto my loom seemed like a hurdle I just could not attempt. I asked friends to help me sort the hundreds of fine threads in order to get them on my warp and they willingly agreed. Somehow, I always seemed to justify putting if off for another time.
In the last few years I have missed my Mom and family greatly, as I lived in a different part of the province than them. Some days I looked at that warp and reminded myself what an unaccomplished, unfocussed, procrastinator I was. When I was feeling especially miserable that warp served to remind me that I had failed on so many levels, as a weaver, a daughter and the list goes on.
This past year has been a difficult but gratifying year for me. I chose to leave my work and move back to the island to be closer to my Mom and the rest of my family and friends. Through many days of self-loathing, copious cups of coffee, miles of wilderness and beach walking, infinite reading, time spent with family and friends and some counselling thrown in for good measure, I arrived at the place in my mind where I could believe that I was a person of some substance. With that came the steps that lead me to realize I must leave again and go to where my work is and be satisfied with the fact that I am an adult who is able to choose to be where I want, when I want, while still being a good daughter, mother and friend. This holds true, even when I do not live in the same location as the people I cherish most.
Having waded through the mental mire and mud I found myself, (two weeks ago) standing in my weaving room beginning the process of once again packing my supplies, readying for my move back to the Interior. As I contemplated what to pack first my gaze cast upon that beautiful silk warp. For many reasons, some unknown to me as of yet, I was able to view that warp through new eyes. What I saw was an incredible opportunity to create something beautiful out of something that had for so long seemed far too daunting to even imagine. I looked at the hundreds of threads and saw my opportunity to create something uniquely beautiful, not because I had suddenly gained far more skill and talent but simply because it would be created and produced by me for someone that I love beyond measure. No matter that it might not turn out perfect, the fact that I would face my fear and do something difficult because I wanted my Mom to know I love her and am willing to tackle hardship, uncertainty and confusion for her, would make it perfect, whatever the weaving quality turned out to be.
As I threaded and untangled the threads and then wove the scarf with patience and more care than I had ever put into a project, I thought of how pleased I was as the fabric slowly appeared and unfurled with each throw of the shuttle. At one point I contemplated giving the scarf to one of my daughters because I wondered if my Mom would actually ever wear the scarf as lately she is less inclined to dress up and go out because she too has lost her belief in herself. I quickly caught myself making excuses to leave the complicated business of my relationship with my Mom unfinished and carried on, determined to present this piece to my Mom, complete with the story behind it and as much love as I could possibly envelop her with. No more excuses about the quality of the weaving not being good enough, which is a direct translation of ‘Im not a good enough daughter, mother, friend, blah, blah, blah.’
As I untied the piece from the loom and laid it out along the hallway floor to inspect I was amazed, stunned even. The piece was exquisite, my best piece ever. I marvelled at how I had untangled and threaded 20 ends per inch of hand-dyed silk and carefully thrown each pass of the shuttle thousands of times to create this ‘piece de resistance’ for my mother, just as I had intended so many years ago. In my eyes, it really was perfect.
I continued to finish the piece by carefully twisting the loose warp threads on either end of the scarf into many finely twisted fringes and then I submerged the piece in water to allow the threads to relax from the tension of the loom and glide into a more natural weaving of threads laying over and under each other. With growing confidence, I carefully pressed the wrinkles in the scarf with a warm iron to assist the intricate weaving of threads to be presented in the best light possible. As I tentatively draped the scarf around my neck and looked at my reflection in the mirror I could not help being pleased with myself. I did it and it was worthy.
On so many levels this process is a metaphor for the journey I have travelled over the last ten years. The journey marked with self-doubt, hardship, resentment and the process of me coming to terms and recognizing that I am worthy, not because what I do or say is perfect but simply because I am who I am. This process is mirrored in the story of this silk scarf. Today I am proud to present myself to the world; uniquely coloured by my spirit, carefully threaded through the experiences of life and finely woven with just the right tension from the relationships I have known. I can release myself of the tension created by expectations of myself and others and just be me, exactly as I released the scarf from the tension of the loom and bathed it in water to allow the threads to slide comfortably into position.
I have relieved myself of unfinished business with my Mom and myself and I am exactly where I need to be at this moment, physically, mentally and spiritually…….. and I am ok.
Each spring I look forward to a good rhubarb harvest. I planted rhubarb from the island in our last place in the interior of BC but have since moved back to the island and so this spring I was without a rhubarb patch, or so I thought.
When we arrived at our newly purchased ‘Portuguese Palace,’ I was so pleased to see that hidden down on the flat part of the property was a huge rhubarb patch, bigger than any I had ever grown. On the day before we were to depart for our return trip to the island I harvested a large amount of rhubarb.
Once home, I was able to prepare 2 rhubarb custard pies. I shared these with my children, parents and extended family. I even splurged and had a piece myself. (definitely not Primal)
After that I still had a lot of rhubarb remaining. I remembered that a friend had given me a jar of Rhubarb Ketchup that her father had made last spring. I got on the internet and found a recipe I liked and tried it out. The results were fantastic and so last night I sealed up 6 jars of Rhubarb Ketchup and I have already given one away to our landlord. I think this is a fantastic way to use this unusual vegetable in a way that can be preserved for the long winter months. As with other ketchups, this sauce is a great condiment for meats and veggies and I look forward to making more with my next harvest of rhubarb.
Since returning from my two week ‘renovation vacation,’ I have been completely enamoured with a sense of place. In the Okanagan, there were amazing skies, dry clean air and the wafting scent of fruit blossoms and lilacs.
Back on the island now, the contrast is profound.The damp earth smell permeates through the blooming Scotch Broom aroma. The hidden Lily of the Valley gently scents the early morning, while lilacs perfume the air throughout the day. Conifers spray bright, dusty, yellow pollen and burst with vibrant, green, spring growth. At times my senses seem overwhelmed as I walk through the woods, down a rural road or just step outside my back door. In addition to this, my brain struggles to interpret what I see; layer upon layer of green interrupted by sprays of yellow, white, purple, red and blue. I find the beauty of Spring on the island intoxicating. It leaves me with a sense of euphoria.
In addition to the beauty of the earth on the island, I am blessed with the ocean just a few minutes from my door. Most days I make my way through a forest path to the ocean and walk or sit and take it all in. The skies are amazing and the beach and sea life astounding. Yesterday I picked up my tidal water fishing lisence and headed to gather our dinner. We headed to the beach and within 1/2 hour we were able to dig 75 Mahogoney Clams and harvest a bunch of Pickleweed. After soaking the salt and sand out of them we prepared a delicious meal.
We sat at the table and felt in awe of the feast nature provided. This caused us to pause and realize that this is what eating used to be; the hunting, foraging and gathering of whatever nature provided at a particular time of year. How far we have removed ourselves from the ‘source’ of sustanance called nature. Walmart, Costco and the like just don’t cut it for me anymore. I am hooked on ‘finding’ food in places other than stores.
I have always wondered how difficult it would be to create a photo essay. The last two weeks of renovation adventures in the Okanagan seemed like a fitting subject for me to attempt such a project. So, after a little research and a desire to capture the experience thus far without writing a book, here is my first attempt at a photo essay depicting the beginning of the renovations of our ‘Portuguese Palace.’
If you are wondering why it has been about one month since my last post I can explain. We have purchased a house 600km from where we are currently living and May 1st we took possession of the 1970’s mausoleum, complete with rust shag carpet and sky blue jetted bathtub.
We have spent the last few weeks preparing to camp out in the house with just the bare necessities while the contractors, myself and my partner prepare and carry out the renovations. We are one week in and things are moving along but not without incident. We have removed a forest of Junipers that revealed a killer view of the lake and a front lawn we did not know existed.
After days of removing wall paper and patching and sanding I am ready to begin painting. Unfortunately, there is not time for blogging right now but stay tuned for the full description and pictures late next week.