Yesterday we processed the remainder of the flax needed to make my shroud. The first of three panels woven by Melanie’s students at Warren Wilson is done, and soon I will be adding my own hands to the rhythm of weft and warp to help weave the other two. The panels will be sewn together, and the whole of the shroud will be ready for embellishments. For this I’m considering dyeing threads to weave in for the significant moments of my life. Then it will be folded and tucked away until I’m ready for it.
But it is not done yet, and neither is the spirit of this project. Our goals remain of encouraging growers to return flax to their fields and creating a small local mill that could process it. We want to make it possible for death workers to encourage the use of body disposition materials that are earth-honoring. Because of the beautiful energy this project has attracted from its inception, Melanie and I are full of trust that we can see a way forward.
Just yesterday, Sarah Lasswell, who weaves caskets from the willow on her Lake Lure land, offered to make new equipment from her black walnut trees to supplement what Melanie already has, so that more people can hand process flax. An idea was proposed for people who enroll in my death fellowship classes (see deathseedinglife.com) to make their own shroud from local plants as a culminating, rite of passage event. There is even a plan afoot by people who are offering green death care services in our region to offer a webinar for Co-operate WNC, so that we can begin to tilt what we do towards becoming a mutual aid activity.
It has only taken a pinky finger to get this kind of energy stirred up, so ripe we are to take our death and dying practices back from systems that have monetized it to the point of inaccessibility and stripped it of its heart. The feeling is strong around this project that we can no longer be stopped from bringing it into our hands again. When Melanie gifted me with the first panel yesterday, she pointed out a little apologetically, that the weave shows the different skill levels of those whose who have contributed to it. But this is exactly what makes it so beautiful to me. We are all learning, and remembering as we go what we used to know. With all our hands contributing, we can make a blanket that winds around us with the warmth we’ve missed for so long now.
In these two processing events, I’ve asked participants to write out what in them connects to this project of mine, so that I can wrap their stories up with me in the end. Of all the beautiful words they shared, perhaps these by Alyssa Morgan said it best. “There is the Real Work, and there is The Icing. This was my big remembering in the days leading to our gathering. I am here today because, as you know, life/the spirit as destiny has its own agenda, and I am learning when to let the tides take me, and when to step in and steer my own ship. So, it’s doing life that’s The Real Work, and keeping a roof over my head/food in my belly/clothes on my back is The Icing. The work that supports The Icing is not The Real Work. But when it can be, that is the cake. That is holy.”