Sometimes what first seems like failure is not failure at all. Last night I tried to make yarn from two small bobbins of spun singles, Shetland wool, and it was a disaster. The singles were so badly spun – uneven thickness, terribly under spun – and it just fell apart in my hands before I could twist the two together. I managed to get about 10 grams plied, and then I gave up and just unwound the rest into a ball of grey wool.
But I will never throw it or give it away. This failure represents something valuable to me, in memory and symbol.
I spun the singles about 10 days ago (can it be that long ago already?) while staying in a little house with DB and my mom, in Chico, California. We had originally planned to arrive later, nearer Christmas, to spend it with Mandy and John. But we got a call from John telling us that Mandy’s fight with cancer was about over and we’d better come sooner. So we changed our flights, but she left us the next day. We arrived in Chico in time to say good-bye to her in spirit, with family and friends and all the love we could muster for each other.
While waiting for the day of the memorial service I tried to stay busy. And spinning is like meditation for me, so I spun this wool. I was really struggling with it and the wheel. Everything seemed jerky. My hands weren’t able to smooth out the wool very well. I thought it was bad wool. I thought it was the fault of a new wheel that needed to be broken in. But I continued on and finished this little bit of 20g of grey Shetland and I set it aside.
It was spun with grief and sadness. It was spun with no chance of being useful for anything other than a meditation on that grief. It was never going to be used for anything other than what it was – a way to focus my mind on the turning of time and the world around me and to try to stay centered in the hub of that turning.
And grey was the perfect color! I felt grey. The world felt grey and still does. Fog and rock, rain clouds and big bad wolf fur.
Yesterday, 8 days after Mandy’s memorial service, I started spinning in color again. Red Shetland. Red as roses, red as big bad wolf blood. Red as the blood in my veins as long as that blood flows. Color will return to my world slowly, I’m sure of that, because anything else would be contrary to Mandy’s voice in my head, nagging me to “Carpe That Fucking Diem Auntie”.
For Mandy I will spin colors of vermillion, and chartreuse, periwinkle and blaze orange. For her I will do my best to seize each day and live it like she lived her life – full of more color than most of us can imagine.
She was the color in my life, manifest in a person who shone so bright, like all the colors of light combined into one beam.
The grey wool will stay with me always. It is grief and pain that I can hold in my hands. I can touch it and see it and put a shape to it. And I can slowly, so slowly, put it in its place in my heart and in my house. And begin to find color again – Mandy colors – unexpected and true and unique and fine.