friday evening finds me, eve of solstice
oiling my spinning wheel
adjusting the drive band and spindle whorl
until the wheel turns true –
the wood glowing warm by firelight.
this wheel is older than i,
felled from a forest in someone else’s backyard,
continents away – worked and shaped and turned
until the maker honoured the source
and this spinning wheel existed
where none had been before.
passed on, passed down, stored in an attic
sat on a shelf broken,
i have a spinning lesson in the morning,
we have agreed to meet under the trees
in the parking area of the farmers market, corona style.
i have not taught for months,
(and of course i thought about the drive –
20min to sedgefield
beautiful past lakes and hills
long mountains still soft
in morning light –
i had missed this early drive –
wondered about the fuel i used to get there
where it might come from –
whose water it might of poisoned
and whether, in this country of distances between,
we could live yet
without the drive)
her spinning wheel has a story as they do
she has lovingly sanded down years of neglect
and the wood of her wheel sings smooth stories
of forests and makers, of the years of quiet dust and long
waiting for someone whose heart
would quicken to the rhythm of foot on treadle.
a few adjustments to band and brake
and the old wheel does what she was made for.
the rhythm of spinning lives within us –
the feel of a twist of fibre between fingers
and rhythm of foot on treadle is enough
to remember what we forgot we knew –
new thread, new beginnings
new stories wind slowly
onto the old wooden bobbin
of a newly remembering spinner
back home the white cat greets us
on the pathway bench,
brush tail swishing question marks
as she leads the way inside.
by nightfall she will be lost to the forest –
some wild correcting of balance
some need for solstice blood
i cannot begin to understand
we walk the deep paths for days
calling – hoping for her return.
in the afternoon,
(still unaware of the white cat’s departure)
in perfect light we plant trees on the graves
of those lost to the year.
this is the heavy edge of our living,
a forest edge holding space for our domestic existence
on the fringes of this reclaiming forest
that still claws for its very existence too.
conversations between prey and predator
are loud here, boundaries redrawn with the seasons
as the young forest grows tall with the years.
i am trying to remember how to be a farmer
and lover and deer path follower too,
how to love the goat and the caracal equally –
not as an abstract, but as a practise
and i know fifteen years in one place
is only long enough to show me my impatience
and harmony will take more lifetimes than mine –
so today we plant forest trees on our fallen,
may their shade bare witness to this living.
usually on winter solstice the house is filled with people,
a warmth of noise spilling out into the night
together we face the longest darkest night of the year
have soup and spicy apple, light lanterns, sing the songs –
but lockdown has kept our gates closed for months
this year the house is quiet.
heavy with concern for the white cat and the darkening forest
the girls have been out calling
and have now closed themselves in their rooms.
alone i light the flame
under the clear winter sky
sing the songs below my breath,
beg the forest for her safe return
but honestly i do not know
what deal may have been brokered
in the wild of the forest beyond my imagining
what sacrifice might have been offered
to the turning of this year
later, full dark under a quiet sky
my oldest daughter and i walk alone with our lanterns
to the top of the hill, as we have every year
since we have lived here.
stripped of the bravado
of a group of noisy singers
the road is dark and quiet
our feet finding time
in the gravel crunch underfoot –
our flickering candles more a hindrance to sight
than guidance along the way
tonight there is vulnerability in this walking
this offering of our light
on long dark night of this year
there are stars on the top of the hill
a year finding a moment to catch its breath
there is an ease on the way home
it is after all
all downhill from here
tomorrow the sun will rise
on a world turned towards the light.
tomorrow the white cat might return
(though what we know of witches
are that they are infinitely practical
and black cats blend
into forest shadow)
tomorrow we will wash the fleece,
spin the wool, harvest the greens, see the trees turn bud –
our dreams will still be stalked
by beasts that smell wild sweet
as this rich dark soil
where we stand
on common ground.
In response to Earthweal’s weekly challange: Culture and Nature