I am weaving a new towel design and exploring variations. In this design, vertical ivory stripes alternate with twill stripes in different pastels. After I’ve woven a couple towels, I decide I’d like to add some horizontal accent stripes.
I could get up from the loom and draw some sketches to scale to decide where to place these accent stripes. But I’ve already started weaving this particular towel and once I start, I like to keep weaving until it’s finished. I decide instead to use knowledge gained from previous towels and trust that it will work out.
As I settle in with this decision and weave the first accent stripe, I am struck by the contrast between my relaxed approach to these stripes and my anxiety about what else is going on in my life.
I decided to sell my house and move home to western Massachusetts. But this move is not working out the way I had planned. I have once again been caught off guard by complications and have no idea when they will be resolved. I desperately want forward movement and instead I am stuck waiting for people to return phone calls. I am not enjoying this place of not-knowing.
As I continue weaving, adding another accent stripe, I wonder: what if my life is like a piece of cloth being woven? This question brings a little ease and the cloud of anxiety lifts slightly.
I do plan out projects. I twist strands of cotton together to get a sense how the colors work with each other. I make proportional wrappings to test the size and order of the stripes. I calculate the number of threads and allow for shrinkage. I weave samples trying out weft colors and treadling sequences.
And still, with so many projects, there’s a moment of “what-the-hell-was-I-thinking”? I’ve been through this enough times now that I know to take a few deep breaths, continue weaving, and reserve judgment until the cloth has been washed and dried. Released from the tension of the loom, the cloth changes slightly in the wash. And the two hours it spends in the washer and dryer gives me some distance and reawakens my curiosity.
I made my moving plans based on the information I had at the time. Then new information arrived, throwing my careful plans into the air.
This is not the first time that plans have fallen apart. But instead of breathing and trusting, I am tense and anxious. My tension isn’t relieved by well-meaning people tell me that selling a house and moving are among the most stressful experiences in life. What does help is to apply the trust that I’ve developed with weaving to the uncertainties of life.
With weaving I can’t see the entire towel as I weave it. I can only see about six inches at a time. I create a plan and when I decide to experiment, I trust what I’ve learned from weaving hundreds of towels. When I cut the cloth from the loom, I can see how these accent stripes worked out.
With life, I have less control. I can make plans and when things get skewy, I can trust there is a bigger picture.
Instead of welcoming in the new year under a cold New England sky, my yellow lab Codi and I will be honoring our California tradition of a romp at the beach. It’s not what I planned and it’s going to be okay.
My invitation to you: The physical act of weaving helps calm me in times of stress. Weaving also teaches me that I can let go and trust things will be okay. Is there something you do in your daily life that offers perspective in times of stress? I’d love to hear about it.