Back in my craft show days, I used to bring my smaller spinning wheel to the venue to while away the hours between customers. Spinning fascinates children; at the shows, I was a child-magnet and soon I realized I was also the babysitter.
“Look kids,” the mother or father would exclaim pushing sweaty hair out of their eyes, “she’s making string!”
The kids would gather round and then the parent, after a pause, would slip away, no doubt figuring their children were safe for a bit while they had a few moments to themselves to maybe check out the hand-blown glass booth. At first I was surprised that parents would leave their kids with me, then I felt flattered. Then I felt a surge of parental responsibility. Heck, I figured, I ought to educate these kids. So I would explain how “in the old days” people spun fiber to create thread—not string—to weave into cloth to sew into clothes.
“Why don’t they just buy them at the store?” one little girl asked, unimpressed.
“They didn’t have so many stores,” another child replied. “They only had stores that sold barrels of flour.” (Apparently a devotee of the “Little House on the Prairie” TV series.)
One day I was spinning mohair—the fiber from the Angora goat. The usual crowd of kids was around, so I launched into my spiel. “This is mohair,” I said. “See how lustrous it is? It’s used for—“
“—what’s a Mo?” a boy from the front row interrupted.
Another time, I decided to give them the whole shebang. I began with the carding combs, demonstrating brushing the fibers into line and peeling off the rolags to be spun. Since the children looked so dumbfounded (which I interpreted as amazement) I began to explain the principles of spinning, explaining how the microscopic scales on wool fibers caught with each other—sort of like Velcro—and that was what allowed the thread to form, and was also what was responsible for felting. About this time, a scrawny boy with ill-fitting clothes and scuffed sneakers moved closer to the spinning wheel. His eyes flitted from me to the spinning wheel, back and forth, with more and more urgency as I continued to lecture. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore.
“Just do it, already!” he burst out.
His unwashed face and dark-circled eyes, so different from the scrubbed and well-fed faces of the kids who lived in this prosperous town, looked intense; his eyes burned. I began to spin.
The other kids eventually drifted away, or were picked up by their parents, but he stayed, rapt, watching the spinning wheel create thread, as if seeing magic in the world for the first time.
I just finished a book about the magic and mystery of the natural world and it thrilled my soul like all good books do, especially when the story has to do with forces we humans don’t understand.
Today is Friday the 13th. And not only that, it’s a full moon—two weighted events in many people’s psyches.
The full moon’s effect has entered our lexicon: lunacy, lunatic. And Friday the 13th is considered unlucky—13 being the number outside of the whole number of 12. I’m not sure why Friday, although I do know that sailors will not start a trip on a Friday—I know we didn’t in my family.
But I don’t consider the full moon an adversary and I certainly don’t think Friday the 13th is unlucky. I’ve written about the full moon before Full Moon Dreams and you know that I pay attention to what is shown to me during this time, because instead of being half or fully buried it has now been brought up to a place where I can work with it.
As for Friday the 13th:
I was born on the 13th and I turned thirteen on Friday the 13th. And the day I turned thirteen on Friday the 13th was the full moon.
I think “unlucky” is a way to describe events that happen to us that we don’t know how to process because they are not what we think we want to have happen to us. My personal belief is that everything that happens to me is for my highest good—that the natural world, of which I am a part, has my compassionate evolution in mind, not my destruction. So with that belief firmly seated in my soul, I gratefully take what the world gives me, trying to learn what I am supposed to learn.
One last thing: my Buddhist name, given to me by my teacher, the late Peter Matthiessen, is Tsu Ki. It means, The Moon.
There is a man I first met through my husband, who immediately embraced me with the same trust and love that embodies his friendship with Richie. Several times a year he sends gifts—wine, fresh fruit from Florida, chocolates, jams and jellies. He always ‘likes’ what I say on Facebook, and he always adds something supportive.
He has not had a charmed life. He was sent to Vietnam to fight and there he witnessed, first hand, the horrors of that war. But it didn’t harden him, rather the opposite. His life experience in Vietnam gave him the opportunity of turning mean and cynical, but instead he chose another way. Knowing at some deep level that to hate, was to hate oneself, he turned to humanity, having witnessed inhumanity.
He lives his life to connect to others with love and he does it perfectly. He—and the ones like him—the ones who choose love over hate, trust over fear, compassion over cruelty, they are the great ones.
Mother Theresa spent five decades ministering to the poor of Calcutta. For her life of selfless service you would think she would have felt fulfilled, but you would be wrong. In letters she wrote and asked to be burned after her death (but were not), she admitted to her advisors and priests that she felt empty, lost and even tortured. Those were her words. Her advisors said that just showed her closeness to Jesus—that she suffered as he did. That’s one interpretation, but here’s another: She wasn’t filling her own needs, and so she didn’t feel fulfilled.
We’ve been conditioned to hold up the selfless life, the life of sacrificing one’s own needs to help others, as admirable. But what are we really doing when we do this? We are denying ourselves the compassion and love we think it is so admirable to give others.
We’re supposed to be living selfish (in the meaning of self-care) lives; lives of compassionate self-care, not lives of willful self-neglect. If we truly take care of our own needs out of self-love and self-respect, we will have learned compassion for ourselves, which naturally awakens compassion for others, since we will have understood the connection of all things.
So when Mother Theresa admitted that she felt empty and that she continued each day through self-will, she was actually ignoring self-compassion and its fulfilling, connecting aspect. She was left feeling empty, because she was empty.
Like the oxygen mask in the airplane—the one you’re told to put on first before you help someone else—it’s your job to take care of yourself first, because how much are you helping, really, if you’re passed out from lack of oxygen?