Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Walk With Me Wednesday of a different sort.....

I'm feeling a bit under the weather today, so even though it was a sunny, beautiful, April-like day (in January! Michigan?), no outside walks for me. However, I've been contemplating two versions of a story about a walk. Although they are often used in reference to the spiritual life, they have an application to the fiber artisan as well. These are folk tales which have been told in a variety of ways and I found several sources for them on the web. I've included a link at the beginning of each story to the sources I'm citing should you wish to look further.

Here they are. I'm curious to learn what resonates with you:

Story 1 Once far away, but not so long ago, lived a woman in a house made of mud with a roof of straw. The woman had been befriended by an American Peace Corps worker when her husband died and wanted to present her with a gift on her birthday to repay the kindness. She had nothing to give but her skill, so she started crocheting with any bits of thread she could find--from the roadside, leftovers from the neighbor's projects, etc.

When the small mat was finished the woman began her 5km walk through the bush to find her friend and deliver the gift. The day was steamy hot and the ground burned her feet like hot concrete. She ran out of water when she was only halfway there and the wind chapped her lips. Finally she stumbled to the door of her friend, who brought her quickly in, gave her a cool drink and wrapped her feet in a wet towel. As the American woman heard the tale of the gift and the determination it took to deliver. She cried with gratitude and wonder. As the sun started to set, the two women went to the well to refill the water skin and then the American woman offered to get the mule cart to take the woman home. The woman stopper her, saying, "I hope you won't be offended, but please understand that the walk is part of the gift."

Story 2: There once was a teacher in South Africa who sent his student to the shore. He told the student that he had a gift for her there. In order to get the gift, the student was given a set of instructions as to where to walk to receive it. She walked along still waters, rocky paths, and deep valleys and across plain fields. She met kind people on the journey and she had some troubling encounters. Along the way she experienced calamaties, adventures, and loneliness. After a very long walk, she came to the shore of the ocean.

There on the beach, exactly where the teacher had described, was a gift....a beautiful shell. The student picked it up, tucked it into her pocket and began the long walk home. She experienced adventure, grace, kindness and rudeness along the journey home. She said to her teacher upon returning, "Thank you for the wonderful gift of the shell, buy why the long walk there?". The teacher responded, "The long walk was part of the gift as well."

My thoughts: It's interesting that it works both ways. In the first story, I'm reminded of the handmade gifts given and received over the years. As a knitter, weaver, spinner, and quilter, it doesn't take long to learn to pick carefully the recipient of your handwork. Don't knit socks for a brother-in-law who prefers the X-mart variety.

Yet there are others who may (or may not) knit, weave, etc, who deeply and genuinely appreciate the gift from your hands. They appreciate the thought that went into the selection of the design and the color just for them. And they appreciate the time that went into knitting each stitch, or each throw of the shuttle.

I clearly remember the reaction of a young man I once worked with when I wore a handknit sweater to work. At the coffee machine he came up behind me and was staring at my shoulder. When I turned and said, "what?", his reply was, "I was just thinking how amazing it is that you knitted every single one of those stitches."

That is a person who appreciates that the "Walk is Part of the Gift."

The second story has meaning for the "process person". I can't help believe that if you are spinning your own yarn and knitting or weaving garments you could purchase at a lower price, you are a process person.

For such a person the wonder of inserting twist into a handful of fibers and observing the yarn that is formed is a gift. The walk is the process of acquiring skills, honing them, and combining the skills to create a finished product that is a unique expression of self: the gift of self expression.

Swatching, taking classes, doing the required preparation for those classes, and keeping notes on finished products are both a walk and a gift for the fiber artisan. When attending workshops there is often advanced preparation required, especially in weaving workshops. That preparation is part of the walk that enables one to receive the gift of what the instructor is prepared to give the class.

Both of these stories resonate with me....I hope that they are a gift to you as well.


  1. Janice9:39 PM

    Very nice read befor I turn in for the night. Thank you Val and I hope you feel much better tomorrow. Must be getting something from your Christmas company? I used to use Zi-cam but switched to Airborn and I think it really works for me.

  2. Beautiful stories, and yes, interesting that it does work both ways...thank you for the gift!

  3. the stories resonate with me too. thank you.

  4. Thanks for your gift to all of us.


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