(“Heartwood” – Valentine’s Day Gift from artist Iren Schio)
At winter solstice I was becoming physically ill from an intolerable situation involving sleep deprivation during which time I was possessed by the idea of making a wreath. Since I have been weaving wreaths out of balsam greens since I was a child and they have been an intrinsic part of my solstice rituals for almost forty years, I assumed that my not making a wreath was breaking an emotional and spiritual tie and this was why I was so distressed/obsessed.
I knew that my friend Iren had grapevines so I asked her for a few to fashion a small wreath. I was then troubled to discover that even after soaking the vines they remained stiff and un – pliable. Determined not to give up I struggled to form the vines into a circle without success.
By this time I began to suspect that there was more going on than I originally thought because I knew that my inner state usually mirrors what I am experiencing in the world. Certainly, I was not doing well spiritually, emotionally, or physically.
I fought with the vine. Eventually, I formed an ugly distorted round that I had to tie with twine in order to create the semblance of a genuine open sphere. The use of twine forced the vine into a shape it refused to choose on it’s own and that fact alarmed me.
I hung the wreath on a tree outside my window after placing a calcite “dagger” that I had found on the day of the solstice in its center. The calcite gleamed like ice, and this addition to the ugly skeleton wreath felt just right, so I left it.
Shortly, after finishing the wreath I found the strength I needed to make the decision to get myself out of my intolerable situation. Every time I looked at the wreath with it’s dagger I thought that the struggle to make it, ugly as it was, had helped me make a decision I would have done most anything not to make.
When I moved I left the misshapen vine hanging from its tree.
One day, returning for some clothes, I saw the bedraggled wreath that now looked quite pitiful. Feeling sorry for it I picked it up and took it with me not knowing why. Before I left it on the ground outside my door, I removed the dagger. It sat there for about a month, neglected.
When the red willows began to glow, turning that unearthly golden green I decided to use some reeds to add another layer to the wreath. I gathered some, and late one afternoon I sat on the floor at the window and started to thread the willows into the grapevine skeleton. I was delighted to see that a circle was emerging without effort or string! I was re- weaving my world, I suddenly thought with surprise and delight not having a clue what I meant.
When I ran out of reeds I hung the wreath in the living room and every time I passed by it the wreath seemed to remind me that it was a work in progress and that soon I would be weaving some more!
Valentines day dawned and with it came a dark cloud that had been hovering since the day before. I was grieving loss of trust and possibility.
Knowing how important it was to honor my feelings because this was such an important part of self love (if we cannot love ourselves we cannot possibly love others I had learned over the course of my life) Yesterday afternoon I gathered more reeds. Placing them in a vase under the hanging wreath I marveled at the beauty of these willows that grew so straight and true and bent with such grace.
Once again I sat down on the floor and began to weave a third layer of reeds into my wreath. I could still see the places where brown twine peeked through, but at some point I had already decided how important it was to let them be. The original circle had been broken. I needed to witness and stay with that brokenness…
Once again I ran out of reeds and re hung the wreath on the living room wall. This time I felt real satisfaction because the wreath had become thick and strong.
Earlier during the day (before re-weaving for the third time) I had received a beautiful card and a piece of “heartwood” with tiny bones attached to the string from which the wood could be hung. I placed the heart inside the now sturdy hanging wreath and suddenly heard words in my head: “You are re- weaving the world.”*
Thinking this thought to be a form of personal hubris or wishful thinking because I was in an ongoing state of despair over Earth destruction and in particular the lack of desert rain, I ignored the message, finished the third (but probably not final) weaving listening to poet and prophet Bob Dylan’s song “It’s Not Dark Yet But It’s Getting There” feeling both personal and collective grief flowing through me like water.
When I re hung the wreath with it’s new “heartwood” center Bob’s song “You Gotta Serve Somebody” was playing… Oh, he was so right.
Freed from the day’s depression and feeling physically lighter, I had an illumination: By honoring my grief, and acting out this grief by working on my wreath, I was making the choice to love and strengthen my heart self and choosing Life in all its wonder, grief, and complexity.
At the same moment I heard the desert crack and open to the healing balm of falling rain…
In retrospect I think it may be possible that re-weaving one’s own brokenness also may also help the Earth in some unfathomable way.