Creativity & Community

Master Weaver Kate Smith and Illustrator/Icon Tasha Tudor work together to harvest flax for spinning. Each year they’d get together for several days to work together on their craft.

    Lately I’ve been having really good conversations with friends. About our feeling that something is missing….lost but perhaps not unretrievable. Something many of us haven’t even really experienced first hand, but have some deep sense memory of— community.

  Now, I’m about to get a little hippy dippy on you, so fair warning 😉

As I’ve learned to weave, I’ve learned to dress my loom. To take it from yarn on a spool, to the warping board, then to the loom and through the heddles, threading each little needle eye one by one. Then it’s time to tie all the threads with even tension to the bars on each end of the loom and wind all that thread, with good, even tension, on the back beam to prepare to weave.

    But the at the end of it all, after all that work, I usually find that I’ve made some error, or that I need at least one more pair of hands to help get the tension right as I roll up all that thread to prepare to weave. I’ve discovered—- this is something that is not meant to be done alone. Most women, when they sat down at their loom, had done all that preparation in tandem with their daughter, their mother, their friend who’d dropped by, their neighbor.  It made me feel lonely and a little out of my depth. It brought home that, on most days and in most tasks, I am alone and have always assumed that ‘doing it all on my own’ was the default. But something in me has started to question this, and I’ve started to miss something that my grandmas, great-grandmas and all those other women before me had— a community to lean on, and a respect for the small tasks they did each day. It’s something that I miss, although it’s not something I really ever had in the first place. But that wont stop me from looking for it.

Knitting with yarn harvested and milled by my friend Lavonne in Montana. She raises her own beautiful Shetland-Romney sheep and has acquired a wool mill to process it. She is my favorite shepherdess, and her wool is a dream!
My loom—- so relaxing to weave on but oh so much work to get all set to go!
My current weaving, done with yarn I’ve been dyeing with natural plants and elements. The green was created with goldenrod overdyed with indigo and the pink is from avocado pits

     The truth is, I don’t have any set plot point for how to make this happen. How to look around and gather my community around me. But I figure the first step is to raise my hand and say, “hello? Anyone out there?”

    I have a sneaking suspicion that our lack of community has been broken down by the message that has been ground into us that we need to do more faster, and the guide of what is ‘worth our time’ is the money it generates. Aint nobody making money helping me warp a loom. And it was many years before I even had the gumption to call myself an artist, because there seemed to be a stipulation that I be making a certain amount of money and have a certain amount of sales before I could claim the title. There was also nothing more uninteresting to people that for me to tell them I was home raising kids, because that was supremely ‘not worth anything.’ I can see now that there’s been a struggle within my own life of finding the worth in the small things I love and enjoy, because they aren’t worth much to society at large.

   We measure quality of life in these modern times by the quickness of the action and the cash it creates. The frantic accumulation of money and acquiring of ‘stuff’ is what life is supposed to be about in our times. To try to get off that track is often uncharted waters.
   There is no time to go help a friend, or look after a baby, or gather with friends to do a slow, time consuming task. Our priorities don’t allow for it.

  But, what if they did? They used to. 

  A couple of weeks ago I was out at a living history event at Hunters Home in Tahlequah, OK where I volunteer. That day I was out on the front porch of a small, rustic cabin, usually doing spinning demonstrations. Nearby friends were dyeing yarn in a big copper pot, there were others shearing sheep, building things, plowing up the field for this year’s crop (I think corn?) and horses and a wagon transporting visitors.

   I looked around and felt an overwhelming sense of peace and calm. There was no hurry, just steady diligence. Everyone was creating with their hands, getting things done…but there was no frantic sense of hurry or “I gotta do this and this and this….”

   I thought, “ohhh, this is nice. How do I keep this?” And to be honest, it’s been hard. Modern life doesnt allow for much slowness. Or much gathering to work alongside our neighbors. We are to get in our cars, go to our office, get in our cars again, close it up in the garage and then go alone into our homes.

All my natural dyed yarn in fabric, gathered in all its glory! I kinda just like to stare at it lovingly sometimes. It took a lot of work to get these things done, but it was so much fun to see how each experiment came out.
A closer look at the yarn

      I really have no answers to the things I’m asking here. But I am very open to suggestions. A few conclusions I’ve come to though, are these things…

– I want to know my neighbors and my community more.

– I want to purchase more of the things I use in my life or wear from the people that actually make them. And yes, I realize that this will cost much more money. I need to be more mindful with my spending and spend for longevity and quality, not just cheap and easy.

– I want to get together more with my friends and create. I want to support their creating and support, with my dollars, those who are creative.

–  I dont want to assume that life is done in a set way and I want to remember that life’s worth isn’t measured in money. I heard the phrase ‘wealth doesn’t equal worth’ the other day and it really clicked in my brain. I want to stop thinking of ‘success’ in terms of money, and more in terms of happiness, freedom and fulfillment.

– I want to remember that my life and my community are mine to create, and not to give into fear of what is ‘should’ be, or blame those I feel make it hard for me to live out my ideas. We are all living in this world together, and we have to find a way to do that in a positive way. Time to stop complaining and blaming, time to get to work.

– Realize ‘work’ can be quiet and fulfilling on a soul level. It doesnt have to be big and flashy to be worthy of doing.

My hens Peggy and Victoria both care for this little flock of chicks. They are two devoted mamas who get things done!

   Ah, and finally…..create community where I can. Be a good friend, a good wife, a good mother, a good daughter. Just try my best every day.

   If you have any suggestions for me….whether they are books, or artists/craftsmen to support, methods of staying focused, or a place to find community— I am all ears. I am here to learn! There’s a Zora Neale Hurston quote that says “there are years that ask questions and years that answer.” I am oh so full of questions. And I am ready to work towards answers.

And of course, most of all—
Take Joy!~

3 thoughts on “Creativity & Community

  1. I understand you completely and agree with you. I search for these answers also. Unfortunately the area that I live in doesn't lend itself to community or at least not the kind I'd be interested in. We do have developers that have saved an old mill and village but the houses are rentals to young adults that have a large interested in the craft brewing that they have put in the mill and even some of the old mill houses. Not quite preservation in my opinion as I remember the mill village and the beautiful lush gardens, and ladies knitting or quilting on their porches. It seems everyone works 40-60 hours a week and looks for loud busy trendy restaurants and breweries for community now. Maybe I might look toward the mountains or a more rural area. The city culture here is packed with crime and violence and it was once such a peaceful area full of people that still believed in the art of natural living and being a community. I wish you the very best. If we don't give up and hold on tightly to the belief that it still exits we will find it. Be blessed.Constance


  2. I could have written this, it´s such a pity those old ways of doing things are not in fashion anymore. I´m also most on my own doing things, I´m very lucky to have a wunderful and understanding husband who helps me out with lot of chores I couldn´t do on my own. It would be great to have a understanding community around me, istead of people who don´t understand our way of living. I wish you all the best in finding your way.many greetings from Sweden


  3. I really like what you say here about community. So many of my life choices have been influenced by the desire to put down roots and immerse myself in the culture around me.


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