Friday brought a smile to my face, bringing me home to memories of the front porch at Millwood. My sister and I at the drum carder turning, and turning, and turning the handle while my mother sat quietly behind her wheel, fingers adeptly guiding the oily fibers into a tight spin while her foot kept the beat spinning the wheel. Wool. It peppers almost every memory I have of my mother. Spinning wheels, carders, drop spindles, looms at Julie's house, their yarn shop The Dancing Ram, the ever present knitting projects beside every chair in the house, new hats under the Christmas tree every year, visits to the Nadeau's farm to check out the sheep...When I think of my mother, I think of fiber. It wasn't that fiber was her life, afterall she was a full time nurse, part-time midwife, mother, wife, gardener, reader, friend, and on and on and on. My memories of my mom when she was knitting and spinning are memories of her smiling. It made her happy. There are so many lessons and skills that I learned from her even though my living relationship with her was so short. Friday began a re-awakening for me with my childhood, my mother, my cultural heritage, and my own happiness.
I met the boys at a local farm. Thank you Mema for graciously picking the kids up and meeting me. I desperately wanted to share the beginning with them.
When I arrived there was a freshly shorn sheep getting her nails cut by our hostess. Behind her the rare sheep shearer working his art on another soon to be fluffless friend. Simon's eyes were fixated on the shearing, Ben's eyes equally as large and fixated. I almost feel badly for my arrival because it was inherently distracting for Mommy to arrive. The boys enjoyed the barn, the dirt floor and exposed beams, got to pet a baby goat, feed it's parents, observe horses grazing in the distance, and of course witness a sheep lose it's coat.
As the afternoon wore on, and I began to feel more and more like we were getting in the way of the end of a long hard day's work, we picked out a fleece. Both the boys were excited and worked together to tug the rolled and bagged fleece out of the barn and towards the van.
I left it in the back of the van as the evening routine of mommyhood beckoned. It's presence floating around in the back of my mind.
Saturday morning arrives early of course. Ben and I make waffles. I enjoy a hot cup of coffee. The fleece is in my mind but so is the list of chores I have neglected throughout the work week. I continue to neglect the list as I pack the boys into the bike trailer so that we can ride downtown, return our library books, pick up some dog food at the market, and pedal uphill to the park. Worth every second of it. As the boys show signs of wear, I load them up and pedal home, thinking that naptime is near and I can tackle that mountain of laundry that needs folding and hang the next one on the line. Lucky me the boys pass out before my legs do and I park the trailer in the shade. Do I go inside and fold laundry. No. I walk around to the back of the van, pop the trunk and tote the fleece towards the veggie garden. I dump it out and see if I can figure out how to unroll it. Of course I did a cursory reading of a few articles as to how to wash a freshly shorn fleece (it has been far too many years for me to remember the details), but afterall this is about exploring, and I can't help but jump right in, hoping that a little instinct and common sense will guide me. So here it is. My first grown up fleece, stinky, greasy, and just plain beautiful.
As water conscious as ever I opt for washing the fleece in a large garbage pail using natures best, water only, thinking that with every gentle rinse I can put that filthy (maybe nutrient rich) water on my thirsty garden. I fill the pail with clean water and immerse the fleece.
The thought crossed my mind to let water do it's work and let it soak, but impatient and not wanting to lose any minute of my precious naptime I begin gently immersing a smaller pail into the water, filling it, and walking it over to each individual plant, an offering of love. I have to say I felt like I was living my adolescent dream. I can't pinpoint exactly when I developed this dream, but it was defintely before 10th grade because I remember writing a narrative for Mr. Rode that he read to the class for it's imagery. It resembled something like this...cottage in the woods, gorgeous herb garden, antique cauldron over a fire pit bubbling with some natural dye collected from the forest, skeins of home spun wool hanging from lines strung from tree to tree, a woman of course presumably me in the future flitting about stirring the pot...
No, this water isn't exactly some magical dye brewing away but it might as well have been in my mind. I felt like I was there, or maybe it just held the promise that someday I would be...
I made it through that whole bucket and began to fill it again when I heard "Mommy" from the distance. We prepared our nap delayed lunch, ate together, played together, and not until Adam arrived home did I get to revisit my fleece, this time it got a chance to soak. This time the boys joined me in distributing the water that was getting clearer with every rinse.
The evening wore on and little eyes began to droop. We called it a night, filled the tub up one more time, and headed to the family shower (yet another attempt at frugal water use!).
I fell asleep with Ben to one side of me, Simon nestled near his coveted breast, spooned by my husband, and literally counting sheep in my mind.
Sunday arrived and there was no avoiding the chores. My little family worked away cleaning, organizing, maybe disorganizing a bit (Simon...), and I think I found my way back to the fleece mid-afternoon. I moved my operation to the herb garden so they could recieve some of the gift too. After another rinse that was quite clear I decided to hang it to dry. I could still see bits of hay nestled between fibers, and it still possessed an oily coat, but the weekend was drawing to a close and afterall this is all about exploring.
I decided to put up a few plant cages to drape the wool from over the herb garden, letting a slow trickle of water drip over the plants. When I was finished it reminded me of the caves we visited last summer in Montana growing stalactites and stalagmites. The colors resembled each other and of course the shape and steady drips. I think it is kind of pretty.
So stay tuned as the exploration continues. For now we are dripping and dreaming.