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Well Supplied with Generosity

Updated: May 23

Embroidery hoops and needles, organic cloth and thread, and fabric pens have been delivered and mailed. Soon the embroiderers will begin their part in satisfying the dream my friend Jackie was given this winter for finishing my shroud.

I was in a very long hallway with French doors at one end and a lot of natural light. There was "fabric forever" along one wall, attached to big rectangles that lifted onto a big table, along which people were facing one another with a generosity of feeling for their reason to be there. The rectangles functioned as embroidery hoops, and there was a rainbow assortment of threads. Seeing this made clear this was Katherine’s shroud, and I was to lead them in sewing on images of the plant and animal guides she would need in her afterlife journey. People began doing so, working from the outer edges towards the center. In addition to the guides, many people were stitching their hand prints.

Since the morning Jackie shared with me what she’d been shown, I’ve opened this dream many times, asking it what I should know beyond the literal directive of how to finish the shroud. I might have otherwise casually considered a dream someone else had about me, but this one, in its consistency with the Field to Shroud project’s purpose to re-weave our earth injurious body disposition practices, and its appearance in the midst of a worsening chronic illness—make dismissal impossible.


As I open to its possible intentions, I see that I could have just made a shroud with Melanie four years ago, accepting the terms of isolation handed to us by the pandemic, and abandoning the vision we carried for leveraging the project to support a return to our Appalachian heritage of growing, processing, dyeing and milling cloth-making plants. Instead, we chose to get creative about how to bring people to it--growing the flax on her campus, processing it in her yard with people curious about those skills, and weaving it with her students through the frigid winter on the outdoor porch loom. We even invited participants to write of their experience in a journal so that I would be able to speak the jeweled story beads of their contributions.


And I see that I could have permanently surrendered to this illness--believed all the doctors who’ve gaslit me for years as I’ve sought an explanation, or friends who’ve subtly suggested I’ve brought this on myself.  Instead, I’ve tried to walk with the mystery of a disease that won't yet name itself, and face what comes up when Death makes its presence known. I'm working with the fear of being forgotten and of not having mattered much, which appears as you watch the people around you go on with experiences you can no longer access due to overwhelming fatigue or immune vulnerability. And then there is the existential fear of no meaning, which haunts as you become less of who and what you were, and have to abandon ways of being you once assumed made you “you.”

Fear of dying keeps most of us living a poverty, a profound stinginess, which makes our story too small to have any nourishment for those around us. Every child who is kept away from the funeral is starved of the story of how life is. Every body that’s returned in a manner that keeps the earth’s hungry mouths away from it or that feeds it poison rather than health, robs the earth of our gratitude for what it took to keep us alive. Our deaths will and cannot feed life unless we stop refusing and fighting death, and exempting ourselves from the great biodynamic imperative of life being how it is.


But stinginess cannot be found anywhere in this dream. There is a promise in its vision of a soul bounty as we fulfill its mission on the big table in the long hall--an abundance of natural light, fabric forever, a generosity of feeling from shared purpose, a rainbow assortment of thread, and many hands to swaddle a loved body with grief and gratitude.

I can see. The Divine Wow is clearly in charge, and thus, I am turning the manifestation of this dream over for it to break our poverty open it as wide as can be. I am wresting its finishing out of the small space where it has lived for years now, assuming it was my responsibility to vision and complete its last stage, and placing it into warm hands. I am trusting the embroiderers will be generously pollinated with a vision of what to embroider for my protection and earthly repatriation. All of us, well supplied.

"Imagine living in a place and knowing that the people around you will be sustained by your way of going out from among them. Imagine how your feelings about what your own death means would change then. Imagine an old man or woman like that charged with initiating you into life, and imagine this insistence on you dying was his or her way of serving you. Imagine that something of this is possible for our children and our grandchildren. It is. Amen."

[1] Jenkinson, Stephen (2015). Die Wise: A Manifesto of Sanity and Soul. North Atlantic Books.

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