it began simply enough.
Our sidewalk was blocked--
the narrow passageway
between an exuberant grape
and clump of coppiced willow
had become a tunnel--
nay, an obstacle course--
and needed clearing.
of mysterious, woodsy passages
along city sidewalks,
but to render ours impassible
to anyone in a wheelchair
pushing a stroller,
or getting from here to there
without the dreaded internal combustion engine,
So after a brief thanks for the enthusiasm
of this magical and self-sufficient shrub,
out came the secateurs,
and soon enough the bed
of our ancient pickup
was full of leafy stalks.
get cut in mid-winter and live their second lives
as figurative willow sculptures
or oversized shapes.
(they seem willing enough though there is no way to be sure).
The fruits of summer sidewalk brushing, however,
generally go straight to the community
yard waste recycling drop off--
at least once there is a full load
which can take all summer
cuz who wants to drive?
an armload of branches
I suddenly remembered
that basket weavers often gather
willow bark in the spring and summer.
Was it too late?
Nothing to lose by trying.
The bark peeled off
in elegant and satisfying sheets.
First and easiest thing
was to coil them up to set them aside,
then get back to the project at hand
in the studio.
But-- what if I peeled off the outer bark?
Would that be hard?
Indeed, it was as delicious
as the initial peeling.
And when I scraped each willow wand
with the edge of a palette knife
or handy oyster shell before peeling
(as per a Sally Pointer bramble cordage video),
it got even better.
Then new options arose --
-leave in the wide sheets?
-split into narrow strips for cordage?
-twist now, or let dry and re-wet?
Why not try them all!
The air was so dry
the thin strips were almost crisp
in no time it all.
And the willow seemed willing enough --
indeed, the dance between
the willow bark,
and the part of my brain
that loves more than anything
to have thrilling material adventures,
grew as sexy as a tango.
"This is NOT what you were planning to do today, Sarah."
"If this IS what you're doing,
because, duh, you've been out here all morning
without noticing how bloody hot it is getting,
how exactly are you going to make use of this
and is it related in any way to your goals
whatever they might be
because I sure can't tell
though as a distinctly non-essential worker
in times like these
it would behoove you
to justify your existence somehow."
you have some excellent
and significantly faster projects
that are going to turn into
useful and important things
that might actually lead somewhere.
And dont' try to tell me
you're going to write about this
on your blog because....."
You probably get the picture.
No need to quote it all
because the point is that this time,
instead of rebelling against this voice,
or trusting that it has
my best interests at heart
and is only trying to keep me safe
(as it insists),
I actively encouraged it.
"Ooooh -- tell me more!"
I cooed, as green willowy curls
fell to the deck beside me.
"Tell me ALL about
how I should conduct myself?"
-make things that were faster (ie produce more stuff)
-make thing that would make money,
(whatever those might be),
-at the very least go watch more videos,
so if I had to do weird shit
I'd at least do them the right way
and at the same time
contribute myself as fodder
for the attention economy
and maybe develop a craving
for an unnecessary plastic object
I never knew existed while I was about it
(perhaps a purpose built willow bark peeler...).
that this voice was not really mine.
The tone was wrong
And so was the language.
Though my voice,
does want me to stick with projects,
it is generally because
it is immersion that I crave and adore,
passion that has proved to improve everything,
slowing down, opening up
and falling in love with the materials and work
that leads to the making of magical objects
that I'm thrilled and proud
to sell/share with other people.
Also, I knew perfectly well
that I would never, EVER use
spindle spinning and backstrap weaving
as weapons against myself,
How very very interesting, then.
And what a relief!
trying to 'sabotage myself'
I can carry on with glee
and about those pesky
and very rude voices.
How else have they been
having their way with me?
I want to know!
And what fun to poke at my brain,
watch it go all scared and protective
and close up like a sea anemone,
then coax it open again
to let in a tide of fresh perspectives
I never knew existed--
with which our tricksy
and wildly unpredictable world
is now awash.
(in pay as well as health care),
and maybe even
Thanks as ever for sticking with me --
and for all the marvelous marvelous encouragement
in the comments last week.
You are the BEST!