I sit in a circle of women in a cozy cottage on Nantucket, the sound of the ocean in the background. We have flown, driven, ridden the bus, taken the ferry to get here for a writing retreat. We are physically present in the room and our spirits are still arriving.
Our retreat leader Jena reads Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese” and invites us to write permission slips.
“You do not have to be good,” I start.
“You do not have to follow rules.
You do not have to follow writing prompts.
Your place is here
In this moment
In this place
As you are.
Tired from driving
And curious about writing.
You do not have to be good or eloquent or articulate.
You don’t have to be anything other than you are.”
We take turns reading our words aloud, letting the words settle in the space and letting them build upon each other.
These words of permission – and all the ones written and shared over our days together – touch me deeply. Wordless tears roll down my cheeks. I hear honesty and struggles. I hear delight. I hear shared themes and recognition. I hear women coming home to themselves.
These words are a precious gift.
After I return home, as I walk in my familiar woods with Asha, I start to understand my tears. Listening to women read aloud, hearing their desires and struggles, they unknowingly gifted me the reassurance me that my work, my weaving matters.
I wanted them to have my handwoven towels. As a balm for the pain, the hard spots. As encouragement to take care of themselves. As a reminder to live the permissions they were writing for themselves.
On the surface, I weave kitchen towels and napkins. But for me, they are so much more than that. Just as a tomato is more than the sum of vitamins, minerals and calories, a textile is more than warp and weft. It can be a tangible reminder to be awake to the beauty, worth and worthiness that each of us carries with us, within us.
I sit at the loom day after day because I have given myself permission – permission to leave teaching and create a life centered around weaving, permission to focus on cotton kitchen towels and napkins.
I believe this permission – along with love, beauty, joy, connection, prayers – gets woven into the cloth.
I want this to ripple out and become permission to own and use beautiful things in ordinary, everyday ways.
From there I want it to ripple out into ever widening circles of permission.
Permission to take exquisite care of yourself.
Permission to be fully yourself and let your beauty shine through and light the world.
Permission to say no, to say yes, to say let me think about it and get back to you.
Permission to ask for what you want.
Permission to break rules and create new ones.
Permission to write, to speak, to sing.
Permissions for whatever your heart yearns for.
P.S. Speaking of permission … For years I’ve struggled with December, specifically the disconnect between the natural world saying slow down and the cultural world saying speed up. This year I’ve given myself permission to heed the call of the natural world and step away from the rush and crush of winter events.
While I won’t see you at any shows this month, my online store is open. I also invite you to schedule a time to visit me (and my looms) at my Whimsy & Tea studio in Conway – and maybe enjoy a cup of tea too.
Your December purchases will help two nonprofits. I’m donating 20% of my December sales to organizations supporting survivors of domestic violence. Dina’s Dwellings offers permanent housing and in-house therapeutic counseling for residents. Safe Passage provides a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter in a confidential location and community services that include counseling, advocacy, peer support, and legal services.
Barbara M McNally says
PERMISSION, a magical word. Thanks Marilyn, this warmed my heart, like your woven towels warm my soul, especially my Zinnia towels, they practically make me leap with joy!