Ice is raining down these days - buckets full, $115,000,000 worth of ice - for ALS support. It would mystify my father who died of ALS last December, all this fuss. But his sparkling eyes that outlived his voice by a year or two - they would be shining to hear of it.
The last thing I wove on my loom was a blanket for my father’s legs when ALS shut them down. I wanted to thank those long, lanky legs for all they had done for him - taking stands in heated controversies, pacing in front of lecture halls, walking proud through the world. When he succumbed to the wheelchair, I found a soft black cashmere yarn and wove a lap blanket with subtle red stripes to keep his legs warm on winter outings.
stages of looming a lap blanket for my father
What I know about hand weaving, because of that lap blanket, is how much love there is in it. You cannot stroke the yarn, wind the warp, thread the reed and then the tiny heddles, tie off the ends, and shuttle back and forth as the light of several afternoons climbs down the window, without love showing up.
So that when my father had that blanket tucked around his legs, it was more than warmth. It was memory, presence, affection. He was wrapped in love.
I keep all of that close to my heart as I seek out handwoven blankets and wraps for ibu. In Madagascar, a woman harvests silk cocoons in the wild, spins her yarn, dies it in her native leaves and mud, and then weaves a throw of astonishing simplicity and beauty. You cannot do that without putting your body and soul into the doing: your stained hands rich in dye, your shoulder burning as you toss the shuttle, your anticipation rising as the cloth is born.
In Myanmar, women embroider their daily lives on these Story Cloth Cotton Throws: harvesting corn, pounding grain, making music, roasting goat. Talk about warmth. How can you wrap this living, breathing cloth around your legs with-out feeling the hand and imagination that created it? Or, I would say, the love.
On this bright Autumn day, I give thanks for my father who lost the use of his legs with such grace that I am daily grateful for the leaping my limbs can still pull off. And after they give me a whirl through the day, I like to pause in my favorite snug spot, and wrap them up in ibu love - a soft luscious throw. I’ll take the ice in my glass this time - and not on the head, thank you very much - and toast the man who first taught me about love.
All the best,
Susan Hull Walker