I began my professional life as an occupational therapist, one of those folks who ostensibly taught “basket-weaving” to those who are sick or ill in mind, body or spirit. Of course generally when folks use the words “basket-weaving they say it with a touch of derision as in “what a waste of time and how simple-minded can that must be! People pay you to teach that to others?” But when I saw my first floor loom in the occupational therapy department of a local Seattle hospital it was love at first sight!
At the time I volunteered for this hospital because I wanted to know more about the field I hoped to enter. The first person I worked with needed to recover from a bout of depression. The therapist sat us down at the loom and showed me the basics. Then the patient and I sat together as he learned to coordinate his feet and hands in this ancient pattern: over-under-over-under-over-under.
Over the years I have led basket-making retreats where weaving becomes a spiritual discipline and used my own floor loom to produce placemats, napkins, dish towels, rag rugs, yardage for small jackets, a fine linen alter cloth, and many, many stoles for clergy.
What I know now: the coordination of hands and feet in repeatable patterns stills the mind and forges new pathways for the brain to make creative leaps; that the act of weaving places me in a lineage of weavers thousands and thousands years old.
Through weaving matter twines with matter and unexpected patterns emerge filled with color and texture. And at the end of the process one can revel in the joy of actually making something useful!
Now that I am a pastor, and having served the same congregation for over seventeen years, I see how the over-under-over-under-over-under of our lives has bent toward and away from one another, bent toward and away from God, ‘til our faithful congregation has created a community made of new cloth, colorful, textured, something useful in the world.
March 19, 2009