My sister-in-law Nancy is a weaver. Her creations appeal to everything symmetrical and logical within me. They are simply magic. In tribute to spinners and weavers like her, I included the following passage in The Book of Rhino. It is a conversation between Franna and her daughter Amalia as they are working on a quilt. Franna is speaking.
“See this block of pieces? It is carefully put together piece by piece until the whole block forms a pattern. One could say that the Covenant is like a master pattern maker that fits all of us into a useful and beautiful whole that is greater than each individual.
“In our quilt, we join the pieces together with stitches; but, however fine we make our stitches, they are still the weakest part of the quilt. The strongest part of the fabric is where the single strands are woven together. Albion is strong, yes, and prosperous, but it is a structure imposed on us from without, like someone else’s stitches. Our true strength comes from each heart interweaving itself with another heart, in a great dance of weft and warp.”
I have sat at Nancy’s spinning wheel and her loom to see what it is like. After years of sewing, knitting, and doing crochet, needlepoint, and cross-stitch, my fingers know the feel of fabric. But at the spinning wheel, my hands felt like two shovels wearing oven mitts. However, Nancy didn’t mind my clumsiness. She guided my hands as the wool traveled through my fingers. A loving touch, a sister’s touch.
Mary Wollstonecraft wrote: “Complicated rules to adjust behavior are a weak substitute for simple principles.”
A marriage certificate makes Nancy and I sisters–it is the complicated rule, the stitches. But it is the principle of love that connects our hearts. Our time at the spinning wheel did not produce a strand of useful yarn, but it did strengthen our relationship.
Nancy and I dance well together.