These colder days have me reaching for jackets and sweaters I have not worn for several months. There is always the kind of joy of having something ‘new’ to wear when the season changes. The lighter materials of spring and summer clothing with their pastel and bright colors gives way to the other palette that mirrors the landscape and feel of the impending winter. Gray. Brown. Black. Yesterday, at church, I noticed how some had made the shift already while others were holding on with a fierceness to brighter colors.
The last days I have started my morning wrapped in a shawl purchased on a trip to Scotland a few years ago. Normally this piece of Harris tweed lops over the back of a chair whose colors it happens to match. But on these mornings when the chill of the air bites into my skin, I reach for this simple piece of cloth and wrap it around my shoulders until the house and my body acclimate to the morning. Each time I do this I think of the woman who wove the cloth. Finding her humble studio(I don’t think she would have called it this!) was a gift on a rainy, cloudy Scottish day. A simple structure set away from the farmhouse where she lived with family, we met her and were taken with the simplicity with which she sat, day after day, weaving these cloths whose colors mirrored the landscape she witnessed out her window. The old loom and what seemed a very hard, uncomfortable seat was surrounded by the many bolts of fabric, hats, and jackets which had been born from her gnarled and aged hands. Her work blesses my morning.
Another warming piece of clothing I have reached for over the last days has been a heavy,deep, green sweater I bought in Ireland last year. For warmth, it can’t be beat and it also carries with it the memory of the woman whose hands had caused it to be. Sara was her name and meeting her was pure gift. Drawn as I was to one particular sweater hanging outside her white-washed croft house, I tried it on. “You could buy that one.”, she said in her Irish brogue.” “But this one is the one for you. It matches your eyes.” As she held the sweater, greens, golds, and browns all spun into one, I saw that she was right. To find a ‘hazel’ sweater that will keep you through the winter is a treasure. Especially one that comes with these words spoken by the tiny woman with, again,gnarled fingers from her years of knitting sweaters that match eyes.”You’ll have this for the rest of your life.” Quite a guarantee.
Mostly we do not know the gnarled hands that make most of our clothing. We go into stores and take things off the rack and rarely, if ever, think of the hands that pushed loom or ran machines that made the garments that clothe us. If we are blessed with knitters or those who sew in our lives, then we may have a greater appreciation. But for the most part this is just one more act of consumption among many others that make up the acts of our days.
But these chilly days,ones that will only grow more so as the months unfold, I am filled with gratitude for at least two of those whose labor keeps me clothed and warm. I am remembering the sight of their hands and the looks of pride and accomplishment on their faces as I received the work of their hands into mine. It was in many ways a holy moment when their lives brushed mine. The gift is that each day I can remember them though they have long forgotten the transaction that was one among many to them.
As we move into the chilling days that will become winter, may we be aware of those who need warmth, those who are without the clothes that will shelter their bodies until spring. May we also give thanks for all those whose work it is to create that which brings the warmth we need for our bodies. May their gnarled hands be blessed this day.