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.