Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Milk Path






Almost forty years ago, when we bought the farm we still live on in Avalanche, we could see there
had been a little cow barn, across the spring creek. A stone foundation dug into the creek bank and the silo base, and silo top, were all that was left of it.  We put a wire fence around that half acre, and put in a couple of sheep and some geese. The sheep lived in the old silo top with a fancy ventilator that now sat on concrete blocks on the ground.  The geese had barrels. Years and years later, the sheep were gone, into our freezer, and the pair of geese (that multiplied into a flock of 26!)  lifted off one fall day,  forming a low flying V along Main St,  turned left at the old store, and migrated south, 2 miles down the road, where they took up residence at the Serendipity farm and golf course.  Good riddance! After that momentous event, the gate hung open, and the goose lot grew up in box elders and thorny ash.

Until we decided to build a building for my weaving workshop and store, on the best building
site in the lot, where the old 6 cow barn had stood. One other thing that remained of that
endeavor was the path between the backdoor of our 160 yr old farm house, and where the
barn door had been.  Worn by others' feet, long ago, along the creek bank,  I continue to follow it every day, as I go to my shop to weave.  I could call it chores. It is my work, and livelihood.

I think of it as the milking path, and since I warped my loom in the Swedish drall pattern, Jamtlandsdrall, I couldn't get it out of my head.  So the first set of drall scarfs came off, and they're all called Milk Path.

The drall pattern is an old Scandinavian favorite,  from Davison's book.  It was probably used
for utility cloths and functional textiles, towels and blankets.  It's from Northern Sweden, Jamtlands.
When I weave it, I have a peculiar sense of deja vu.  Yet, I've never woven it before, nor
can I remember seeing anything  that looked like it in my family's house.  I repeat the traditional pattern, and the pattern itself  is made of repeats. Weaving is repetitious.

I don't envy the farmers who lived in this place, and made the path between the house and the barn.  We probably wouldn't have liked each other very much.  They were probably devoutly Christian, I'm atheist.  They were not educated beyond the 8th grade. They were very poor. The family dynamics in this small town, from stories I've heard, may well have included spouse abuse, child abuse, incest, or a host of other regrettable human behaviors. People are people.

I don't sense  enlightened living on this farm, only poverty, and survival.  Still, my feet fall along their path.  The farm house, though not much improved,  is  now warm, insulated, electrified. There's a new kitchen,  computers, microwaves, flush toilets, hot water, refrigerator, washing machine, drier,  electronic devices, radios, and a large, flat screen t.v. If the weather is bad, I do have to dress up in boots, and coat, mittens, scarf and hat, to hike across the creek.  Sometimes I need to shovel snow drifts from  the path, or we put planks on the ground to walk on during the spring thaw and mud season, but otherwise, our daily lives are probably very different.

What I may have in common with them is that they loved and grieved, worked, were exhausted, were too cold, or too hot.  They ran around, they settled down.  They were probably as amazed as I am when the giant pink moon rises over the hill, the way it did last night in the valley.  The Big Dipper hangs in the same place in the sky above the valley, where it always does in September, the time of year I had my first born daughter. They probably listened to the owls hooting back and forth across the valley, up in the woods.  They stood on the bridge and looked down on the same winding waters of the West Fork. They collected the delicate finch nests that blow down from the white pine growing by the house, and set them on the window sills in the kitchen. They dreaded floods. They waited for winter, watching for the signs of the seasons turning.  They nursed their children through bronchitis and flu, head lice,  pneumonia, poison ivy, and broken bones  They buried some.

In many ways, we're walking the same path, in the same place on Earth, repeating our tasks, wondering if anything will ever change.


18 comments:

Hilary said...

I love your weaving, and glad you are back. I've missed your posts.

Rachael | The Slow-Cooked Sentence said...

This is beautiful. Whenever you post, I visit your Etsy shop, hoping to find some of your fabric there. But I've always found your shop empty, and though that disappoints, your words never do. So I wrap myself in your words and move along, returning every now and again in hopes that I'll be able to wrap a scarf, as well.

jude said...

This is such a comforting post. I read it many times already.

Valerianna said...

Jude pointed me this way, I'm glad I followed her to your path, your words are like a weaving, too, old threads, new threads, roots and branches, I found it comforting to read as well

Velma Bolyard said...

i like your voice telling me this story. been thinking about how we measure, and my measuring tape, and the breadth of an eyelash. hope you are well.

Susan said...

Hilary, Thanks for still being interested. I always have a lot to say.
and it's a relief if it makes sense to another human being. This life process is quite a trip, isn't it?

Susan said...

Rachael, Thanks for reading! I do sell weaves in my etsy store. I announce my sales on my Instagram account, where
I post my workshop pictures regularly. I write in hashtags.

Susan said...

Jude, I had a point to make. Not sure if I made it. I'll try again, but thanks for reading!

Susan said...

Valerianna, I appreciate that.
These are disquieting times. I'm just holding on.

Susan said...

I'm well, Velma, I hope you are, too. But, I'm also anxious about the changing climate, not only warming, but rising hate and injustice all over this land. What's a responsible person to do? How to make best use of our time here. Trying not to lose my sense of humor.

Karin Hofvander said...

Lovely text.

Leigh k said...

Such a beautiful commute.. Lovely post!

Kim G. said...

I got the point. Beautifully said. So glad to see your writing, and your weavings again. I've missed you. I don't think you realize what kind of inspiration you are.

Thistle Rose Weaving said...

How lovely to to see you are writing and weaving again, I have missed your quiet ways. Love the milk path, oh how I wish I could slowly amble down it and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Michele said...

I think you made your point beautifully. I'm glad to see you back as well.

Dawn of LaTouchables said...

*sigh* such a good read...

Saskia van Herwaarden said...

love the post, it is at once very moving as it is evocative of how lives are lived, what we share and yet how different the circumstances are; I especially like the fact that you are not romanticizing those farmers' lives (we tend to do that, forgetting how much we rely on our modern conveniences!) I feel it is actually more respectful
thanks for this wonderful tale

Velma Bolyard said...

so glad to return and re-read this. your place is so similar to mine in many ways. and your writing makes me happy and sad about how and who we all are. i keep asking these days if we can ever learn from history, if we ever learn.