Excerpts from Chapter 5 of ZATI The Art of Weaving a Life
"Weaving involves crossing two threads, the warp and the weft, one
vertical and the other horizontal, one stretched taut and the other
undulating and intertwined with the first. To produce the textile it
is necessary for these two threads to be bound, otherwise each will
remain a fragile and fluttering potentiality...if the meeting of
opposites does not take place, nothing is created, for each element
is defined by its opposite and takes its meaning from it."
--Dario Valcarenghi, Kilim History and Symbols
The art of weaving is a profound metaphor for understanding the workings of the universe and our place in it. Through the physical process of weaving, we gain a better understanding of this world and how we as human beings are woven into it.
We are bound to our bodies with the fragile threads of earth. Our skeleton is a loom on which every system is strung and woven with our blood. The meeting of opposite elements woven into a whole is the quest of every spiritual seeker. No wonder the art of weaving is so appealing: it is the essential art of creating the unified one out of two opposites.
Archaeological findings suggest that weaving is at least 20,000 years old. But because weavings are so organic and biodegradable, no physical evidence this old has been obtained. The conclusion that weaving is a practice of such antiquity was reached by piecing together clay patterns and paintings with scraps of materials dating back to 5000 BCE.
Today we are weaving on the sky through which the space shuttle draws a thread of smoke. A computer is a loom of sorts, weaving a web of information on the grid of pixels and energy across the world.
Weaving has come down through the centuries as a woman's art. Women, who stayed home to take care of the hearth and child could start and stop their spinning and weaving at any time. Thus the distaff, the staff which holds fibers for spinning, symbolizes the women's side of the family. Connected with the ancient goddess cultures, weaving is at the center of creation as personified by the three fates (the old women weavers of Greek mythology), Clotho, who spins us into being, Lachesis who weaves our fate, and Atropos, who in the end, cuts the thread of our lives.
Because I realize my life could end at any time, I work to stay conscious of weaving my daily actions with that which I have deemed valuable. What a hero's journey it is to stay awake to what is valuable!
The weft is built thread by thread, weaving in and out between the warp threads, touching each one as it passes by; in the same way our daily actions weave through our values, touching each one on the way. Weave your threads in, remembering your values as you touch them and lift them to guide the weft threads through. Notice that with every little thread, you touch all your values one by one as you weave a row. This is ultimately all there is to a conscious life. This is how you integrate your life: you touch your values one by one as you guide your actions back and forth to build the fabric of your day. So how do your daily tasks touch your values? What parts of your life seem to miss them each time? How could you bring your threads back to touch your values?
Bringing them back brings us back to the selvedge, the edge of the weaving. Our selvedges are the self-edges of our lives. Each time you guide the thread through the warp, you reach the outer edge, and you turn the thread back into the warp. Each action you take with your values in mind, each daily task done with your inner structure as its reference, reaches the edge and turns back.
It is this turning back, this rhythm of turning, and turning, and turning that gives your cloth its strength; watch the edges: they will tell you where you are. If you are concentrating on the actions only, and forgetting the vertical strands of values, you will tend to pull them tighter, pulling the warp threads together, and even possibly pulling your values out of line. If you forget to turn back, and forget the values for a while, you may skip some warp threads, and find loose places and uneven edges in your life. This is all part of the natural way! None of us is perfect: our fabric, our process isn't perfect.
We are not here to judge, only to learn.
Turning back, turning and turning is like a dance that you learn over time, getting the tension too tight and too loose, and eventually seeing the pattern in your life. Patterns are created when our actions follow rhythms and cycle through the rhythms the way we cycle through our days. We wake, eat, work, rest; these make the stripes and textures of our fabric.
Some love the regularity of stripes of color; some work better without a regular pattern, letting the days come as they will, weaving through their values as they feel right, making a randomly beautiful fabric that is every bit as strong as patterned fabric. Each life is different; each fabric is made of its own threads, even to the individual thread crossings, where intention and action meet. These little moments make the whole, bit by bit as the threads are laid one on the other, day after day until the pattern emerges.
Beginnings and endings, emptiness and pattern:
There is a method that intentionally leaves holes in the fabric. Kilim or slit weave leaves holes in a way that keeps the fabric strong. It teaches us that where there are places of loss, where the weft is interrupted, and there is a hole in the fabric of our lives, that fabric is still strong. In the keyform of the mask, we will make the eyes with slit weave. The gap in the fabric becomes an opening through which to see from another perspective. In our woven lives, the empty spaces are the very places where we can see with new eyes, where we can look behind the day-to-day weaving for a moment to see our deeper truths within.
Our imagination is boundless, but we are not alone in the adventure. Even animals birds, spiders and beavers are weavers. And the weavers through the ages who have woven the fabric of history are with us in this moment.