Ordinary / Not Ordinary

The calendar tells me that it’s Ordinary Time.  The green of my garden glimpsed through the blinds of my studio window, and my weaving confirm this.  But the time does not feel ordinary.

The news tells us that these times are anything but ordinary.  It tells us that this week, things were said that should not have been - should never be - said.  This is not normal, we are told.  And that is true. But I am determined not to be discouraged.  

So I go to the loom. I put on some vintage Peter, Paul and Mary to weave to.  “No Easy Walk to Freedom,” they sing. Oh so true!

“Keep on walkin' and we shall be free
That's how we're gonna make history”

But then, beautiful voice of Peter Yarrow sadly sings:

“If we don't stop there'll come a time when women
With barren wombs will bitterly rejoice,
With breasts that dry and never fill with promise,
Gladly they'll not suckle one more life.” *

“If we do these things in the greenwood,
What will happen in the dry?”

By coincidence (if you believe in that sort of thing), this was part of the text of my Bible study last Monday night.  This is Jesus’ last prophecy - spoken literally on the way to his death, to the cross.**

It is not hard to imagine what happens in the dry - not when you live in California.  Nor is it hard for a student of history to remember some of the many times in the last 2000 years or so, when things were so bad that childless women were relieved that they had no children to suffer. Starting with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, right up to, well, some places in the world today.  In this way, perhaps, these times are all too ordinary.  

Ordinary / Part II

The iPod moves seamlessly from one album to another.  And the beautiful, hopeful voice of Noel Paul Stokey sings:

“But for the love of it all
I would go anywhere.
To the ends of the earth,
What is it worth if Love would be there?
Walking the thin line between fear and the call
One learns to bend and finally depend
On the Love of it all”
***

So perhaps the lesson is this: the most ordinary of times are the ones where hope and despair live side by side, moment by moment.  

“For the love of it all
We are gathered by grace.
We have followed our hearts
To take up our parts
In this time and place.
Hands for the harvest,
Hear the centuries call:
It is still not to late to come celebrate
The Love of it all.”

Amen.

* ”Greenwood” Peter Yarrow, 1972
** Luke 23:28-30
*** ”For the Love of It All” Noel Paul Stookey, 1991




Christmas in July

When I was a little girl, in the summer, at Vacation Bible School, we would celebrate “Christmas in July.”  There would be an artificial Christmas tree, and we would make handmade ornaments.  We might even sing some Christmas carols - “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed…”

We would learn about boys and girls in other countries, about orphanages, and schools, and hospitals.  Like the wise men, we would be asked to bring our offerings to help those boys and girls.  A dime a day was the suggested amount - 50 cents for the week.  

Just 169 days until Christmas!

I’ve been thinking about Christmas as I’ve been finishing weaving the fabric for a white and gold stole - just 169 days until Christmas!  Thinking about Christmas in July gives one a chance to separate the real message from the pressure and the hype - the “perfect” gifts, the “perfect” tree, the “Perfect Christmas.”

Thinking about Christmas in July helps me focus on the main thing - that God is revealed to us every day, that Immanuel is with us everyday, that like the wise men we can seek him every day, and like the shepherds we can “go and see” every day.  

White/Gold Star of Bethlehem

White/Gold Star of Bethlehem

Have a blessed Christmas!

Weaving for the Resurrection

I’ve been walking in the wilderness the last couple of weeks.  Like the ancient Israelites, my mood has been alternatively despairing, angry, resolute, back to despairing.  My nights have been sleepless and more than a few tears have been shed.  In the midst of it, I’ve been trying to set a patient, calm, “God will find a way” example for the members of my local United Methodist church.

Amidst it all, I still must weave.  I weave ahead of the season.  So even though my mood has been in lenten purple, my weaving is in Easter white and gold.  I weave, but my heart hasn’t been in it.

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Tonight I read a post from a Christian blogger - one with thousands of followers.  She was explaining her recent silence, saying that she lost her son to mental illness in January.  I can only imagine that kind of heartbreak.

And then I thought about the parents who live in fear of that heartbreak.  Parents of gay, lesbian and transgender children - children who live in confusion and despair, because they’ve been told that somehow God does not love them the way they’re made, and if they seek out loving relationships in their lives, then God will condemn them for it. I thought of the parents who have experienced that heartbreak because their children have chosen to live out their lives in fullness and truth - and who have lost their lives to violence because of that.  And I realize I have no time to despair.  I must be about the Father’s business.

Because however the pharisees choose to live according to their interpretation of God’s law and force it on others, Jesus calls us to just two.  Both grounded in love, he lived and died by that example.  And whatever happens to the United Methodist Church, or even in my local church, resurrection is not just possible, it’s inevitable.  Because of all of the infinite things that God is, infinitely persistent is one of them.

So I weave - in hope and certainty of the resurrection.

“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”

One Foot in Front of the Other

So I’d just finished photographing the tallitot that I've been working on, when Bruce comes in with his iPad in hand to tell me that there's been a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.  I am imagining my beautiful tallitot splattered with blood - an involuntary sacrifice.  As if we needed any more proof that thoughts and prayers don't stop bullets!  People are killed in their various houses of prayer all too often, all around the world.  

My thoughts turn, as they often do, to the words of the prophet Micah, when Jerusalem and Judea were facing certain destruction - I think it was at the hands of the Assyrians that time. 

The people wonder what they can do do avoid their violent fate.  These are the days of temple sacrifices.  They ask: 

With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

The prophet’s answer - the one I think about nearly every day:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

This then is the answer - the eternal answer - no more bloodshed this time, more sacrifices are not required.  Just our lives, practicing justice, mercy and putting one foot in front of another.  

I never saw a purple star...

Sometimes I pray when I weave.  Sometimes I sing.  Sometimes I hold weird, random conversations with myself.  Like this:

Is it weird to be weaving a star pattern in purple?  What about green?  I mean there are red stars, and yellow stars, a even blue stars.  But are there purple stars?  

“I never saw a purple star, I never hope to see one,  but I can tell you anyhow…” No, stop that’s just silly.

So I call to my husband, who is doing dishes in the kitchen.  “Bruce, are there such a thing as purple stars?”  Bruce is an optical physicist by training, I figure it’s the next best thing to having an astrophysicist in the house.  You’d be surprised how useful it is.

Well, he explained, all stars have some purple light in them, and there are some stars called blue hypergiants.  Some of those stars have a lot of light in the violet end of the spectrum, but our eyes see blue better than purple, so that’s what we see.  

Those blue hypergiant stars are very rare and very, very big. For example if you put a blue hypergiant star in the center of our solar system, the surface of the star would be somewhere in the neighborhood of Jupiter.  Hypergiants are the savants of the stellar world - they burn hot and bright, but burn out after just a few million years. 

This is a picture of Eta Carina, the largest known star in the universe.  It used to be the brightest object in the southern sky, but not any more.  Eta Carina gives off so much gas it has it’s own nebula fan club.  

They can call it “blue” if they want to.  I say it’s purple.

Eta Carina Nebula" by Clem Brazil is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?      Psalm 8:3-4

Weaving in prayer and penitence

Today I started weaving the purple Star of Bethlehem stole.  It seems appropriate on this day to weave in the color of prayer and penitence.   

As I weave, I am listening to Taizé chants, and I pray.  

  • I pray for my enemies - as we are commanded to do.  May they experience God’s mercy and compassion, who have shown neither.  I pray for the grace to forgive them, for as we forgive, so shall we be forgiven.
  • I pray for forgiveness - for myself and our nation.  In the madness of grief and anger we repaid death for death, and a hundred times over.  We rained down vengeance on the guilty and the innocent.  May the words “Never again” reflect not only our resolve to protect lives and our shores, but our resolve to behave justly and with mercy to all people and all nations.  
  • I pray for everyone everywhere who has suffered loss, and pain and injury as a result of that terrible day.  May God grant them new life, and that abundantly.

These are the prayers that are woven into this stole on this day.

As I weave the Taizé choir sings:

Wait for the Lord, Whose day is near.
Wait for the Lord. Keep watch, take heart.

In Praise of Ordinary Time

“There is a very fine line between a groove and a rut”
--Christine Lavin

Ordinary time is underrated. You know the time I mean, the days that are routine - work, house-work, school-work – whatever your routine happens to be. A block of days where one day melds predictably into the next, busy, yes – these days who’s not? – but busy in a predictable way.

I haven’t had very much ordinary time lately. In the twenty years that I’ve been weaving, weaving these stoles has been the most intense project I’ve undertaken. I had a very tight time frame – just five weeks from start to finish. Five weeks to plan, order, then dye the yarn, warp the loom three times and weave four stoles. In the middle of this, I had a clase to prepare for and teach at the Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Retreat.

Under normal circumstances, I greatly enjoy the Fiber Retreat, held annually at Camp Verdugo Oaks just north of Castaic in the Tehachapi mountains. That would have been true this year, too, but I arrived and promptly started developing the symptoms of a cold that promised to be serious (I still have congestion and a nagging cough). So, unfortunately, I had to come home from the retreat a day early. There are some great blogs about the retreat - here's one at Mixed-Up Melange.

With all this going on, it’s small wonder that my days were anything but ordinary. My house has descended into chaos, my vegetable garden is over grown (I think there might be a zucchini out there that is large enough to qualify as small planet), and my family hasn’t had a home cooked meal in six weeks. I’m anxious for some ordinary time.

ordinary+time.jpg

The green stole (for ordinary time) wove up faster than all the others – the shadow weave design, a gothic cross pattern from A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns, did not require a tabby thread, so there was less treadling.

So all the stoles were finished in time, with a couple of days to spare. Pastor Walt was thrilled with the gift, and it was a joy to see him wearing the red stole last Sunday (the red one is my personal favorite).

stoles+in+a+box.jpg

Too Busy Weaving to Write

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been too busy weaving to write about weaving. The red stole and the purple stole are now completed. I’m taking a break from threading the heddles for the green stole. Here’s a picture of the red and purple stoles:

red+%26+purple+stoles.JPG

And a close-up of the diamond pattern in the purple stole:

purple+close+up.jpg

Purple is for advent and lent – the days of penitence and preparation (which are two sides of the same coin).

To prepare for the weaving of these stoles, I used several resources. For my patterns, I used A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns.  I put the designs I chose into Fiberworks PCW. This gave me working copies of the threading, tie-up and treadling, and figured the number of heddles needed for each shaft. I used my own Excel spreadsheet to figure the warp and weft yardage requirements for the 20-2 silk and 120/2 from Treenway. I consulted the notebook created in the SOAR workshop with Sarah Lamb to pick the colors I would create with Sabracron F dyes.

Before I undertook any of these technical aspects, however, I turned to everyone’s favorite new research tool for inspiration – the internet. There are lots of fiber artists making unique and beautiful liturgical stoles out there. Not only hand woven, but quilted, appliquéd, painted and embroidered. I found some that I’d like to share with you:

Heavenly Threads is owned by a fashion designer and pastor - now there’s a combination I can get behind!

The In Stitches Center for Liturgical Art uses dye, quilting and appliqué in their contemporary stoles. They also conduct workshops.

Sandra Briney makes elegant handwoven stoles using the Theo Moorman inlay technique.

Prayerful Creations is the work of a hermit who lives in silence and solitude and supports herself by weaving. Wow – weaving without the distractions of dogs, cats, phones and garage bands! I wonder what that would be like?

Weaver Andrea Williamsof North Carolina uses a variety of weave structures in her colorful stoles.

And finally, The Shower of Stoles Project is a collection of liturgical stoles from GLBT clergy. Some are simple, some elaborate, but all represent the faith and service of these disciples.

Days of Wind and Fire

Eastertide is coming to a close, and Pentecost is next Sunday. I’ve started the red stole.

“And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…” Acts 2:2-3

Here in southern California, we understand the power of wind and fire. Two weeks ago, wind stirred up a fire just north of here in Santa Barbara. Hundreds of homes were lost in the fire. Fire is part of our natural landscape, it burns away old, dry brush and gives a chance for fresh new growth to come with the winter rains.

A few years ago we went camping in Yellowstone National Park. Fires had burned a significant portion of the forest. Dry, old and diseased trees had been burned away, and new saplings made the mountainsides look as if they had been covered with green velvet. The fires gave a chance for new life.

red+stole+1.jpg

For a stole that gave the impression of tongues of fire, I chose an undulating twill, modified slightly, from “A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns.” This stole is weaving up much faster than the white one – partly because to elongate the pattern, I’ve doubled up the weft thread, and partly because the treadling is straight, less jumping back and forth.


white+stole.jpg

Unfortunately, the picture of the finished white stole doesn't do justice to it:

Thoughts On Dyeing

“Of the blue, purple and crimson yarns they made finely worked vestments, for ministering in the holy place” Exodus 39:1

Taking breaks from weaving the white stole, I’ve been dyeing the yarn for the red and purple stoles. Because I am going to weave the red and purple stoles from the same warp threading (different tie-ups and treadling), I want a warp that is a “plummy” red. Then I will use a brighter red for the weft of the red stole and a dark purple for the weft of the purple stole.

red-purple+dye.jpg

I admit it, I am no great shakes as a dyer. In fact the red warp started out as a failed dye experiment. I had several skeins that had been dyed with cochineal and over-dyed with indigo. The result was blotchy and not at all what I was hoping for. The skeins went back into my stash where I didn’t have to look at them. This time round I’m not messing with natural dyes. I’m going straight to the more predictable results from technical dyes.

As I am measuring the dye powder and other ingredients for my Sabrachron F - what you see is what you get - dyes, I marvel at the dedication of those ancient Israelite dyers. On what was essentially a forty year camp-out, they took the care to dye precious linen threads – undoubtedly brought with them out of Egypt – blue and purple and crimson for Aaron their high priest to wear in the tabernacle they were building (are Kermes indigenous to the Negev?).

I think on this again several hours later when I’m trying to wash the last traces of red dye from my warp. I gave up counting the rinses. How did they do this in the desert? “Hey, Moses, can you come over here and smite this rock? I need some more water to rinse my yarn.”

To pick my colors, I referred to the sample notebook made in Sarah Lamb’s workshop class at SOAR several years ago. I’ve found this book to be an invaluable resource ever since. I used my crockpot set on “low” for the dye bath, but otherwise followed the instructions on Pro-Chem’s web page.