A story has emerged for me lately that has helped me define myself. It is that of a woman carrying a basket and filling it with story threads as she wanders.
Last week I was on a conference call with a circle of women planning a women’s gathering for next summer. We’ve been wrestling with what to name our gathering, and someone mentioned the words “weaving wisdom”. We all liked it. I shared with them the fact that lately I have seen my role in life as “weaving story threads into a tapestry of wisdom”. Each of the women in the circle is also a weaver of some kind.
With weaving on my mind so much lately, it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that last night’s writing prompt was a spool of thread. I’d brought brown bags for each of the people in my creative writing circle and inside each brown bag was an ordinary item that the holder had to write about and possibly use as a metaphor for her/his life. I chose the last bag.
Here’s my story about the thread inside my brown bag…
For years she’d carried her basket, not sure what it was for or why she’d been gifted with it as a child.
Though she didn’t understand its meaning, she knew it was important. She knew she was meant to carry it.
As she went through life, she found herself attracted to colourful story threads everywhere she went. Each story thread that was offered her was lovingly tucked into her basket.
She was a wanderer, this woman. She could barely keep her feet from moving. Europe, California, Kenya, India, Nova Scotia, Ohio, Bangladesh… she went wherever the stories called her to go.
Everywhere she went, she added new threads to her basket. Stories of courageous young women in Ethiopia. Stories of devastated villages in Bangladesh. Stories of justice workers rescuing young girls from sexual slavery in India.
Her basket threatened to overflow with all the threads she carried, and yet it never got heavy. She loved those stories dearly and spent time with them every chance she could.
Still, though, she wondered… what was the purpose of all of this? What was the use of all of these threads? What was she meant to do with them?
She began to ask the wise people in her life. “What do you think I’m meant to do with my basket?”
“Hmmm….” those people would say. “It just looks like a tangled mess to me.” Or “You have to find the answer in your own heart.” Or “Have you talked to God about it?” Nobody could give her an easy answer.
And so she continued to wander and gather more stories. But her heart became heavy, for she knew that all of this was meant for something.
Then one day, there came a distant whisper. “Have you tried weaving those threads together and making meaning out of them?”
Hmmm… really? Was she meant to be a weaver? But these were just tiny snippets – how could she make anything meaningful out of loose threads? And… what if she didn’t have the skill to weave them properly, or even to know which colours to line up together? What if she messed up and damaged the threads that had been entrusted to her?
She picked up a few threads and played with them wistfully. Could she trust the wisdom in her hands to make something out of this tangled heap?
Soon she realized, though, that without much effort at all, she’d lined up those first few threads in a way that made the colours dance. Yes. That looked right. The stories took on new meaning and beauty when she placed them together. She added a few more… and then more. Someone slipped a new thread into her hand. Ooooohh…. that one looked so lovely with the others!
Before she knew it, she was weaving. The threads were slowly being shaped into a beautiful tapestry in her hands.
She worked for hours, lovingly caressing each thread as she added it to her work of art. When she finally looked up from her work, she saw that she was being watched by eager eyes. Several of the people standing nearby were reaching out to her. In their hands were new threads.
“It looks so beautiful,” said the people watching her. “Will you teach us how to weave?”
This shocked her. “You want ME to teach you how to weave? But… I’m just playing with threads…I’m not sure I know what I’m doing!”
“Oh but you do!” they said. “You need to trust the gift in your hands. The world is desperately in need of more tapestries.”
And so she gathered her willing new friends into a circle. Reverently, and in awe of what she had begun, she lit a candle and rang a bell. “Start by telling us a story,” she said, and slowly and tenderly the people in the circle began pulling threads from pockets near their hearts. The threads were beautiful and each one was different from the last. Some were sparkly and bright, others were rough and well-worn. All were rich in colour and texture.
Before the end of the evening, a new tapestry had begun to form. “We’ll come back next week and work on it some more,” said the friends, excitement in their voices.
And so they did, and each week the woman marvelled at what she had helped to shape.