NANCY G. SHAPIRO

FINDING CALM IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE

To Weave a Good Life

December 10, 2013

 

“You have to weave the good things you want into your life” is the motto of weavers Viridiana and her husband Jesús, passed down by Viridiana’s ninety-year old great-grandmother who also wove rugs and clothing just as they do today. They live with their extended family in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, in a sprawling wood and adobe house.

 

Set into a hillside with views of the mountains across a wide green valley, their home and place of work embodies great-grandma’s wisdom. Bags of raw wool lean against the walls. Bunches of dried plants wait to be ground in a stone mortar and pestle called a molcajete. Elegantly simple hand-made looms sit under an outdoor covered porch, unfinished rugs and skeins of wool resting on the vertical ribbing of white threads waiting for the weavers’ hands. Piles of finished rugs are evidence that here, life is an everyday creative endeavor, asking only for full participation.

 

Everyone helps with the time-consuming processes that precede the actual weaving. High-quality wool must be cleaned, carded, and spun. Native plants, natural minerals, and the dried carcasses of the tiny insect called Cochineal are gathered for the dyes—some color formulas known for centuries, others newly created through experimentation. The spun wool is dyed in large pots over outdoor fires, dried in the sun, and hung like brilliant decorations in the family’s home.

 

I fell in love with a gray wool shawl the day we visited Viridiana and Jesús. Wearing it on cool nights keeps me deliciously warm, and its handmade artful spirit passed down through generations whispers great-grandmother’s wisdom—to weave a good life is a labor of patience and attention, time and ingenuity, collaboration and love.

 

During this holiday season, what family wisdom is speaking to you? 

 

 

 

(With many thanks to Viridiana, Jesús, and Romina)

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