2001 Soul-Making Literary Prize
On those days when I feel as if my heart has been torn in two, I drive directly to a fabric store. I make a bee-line for the silks. (I just love the idea of hideously expensive fabric coming from worms.)
My favorite is silk charmeuse, so light and soft, it feels like human skin. Charmeuse is sexy, flowing, it begs to caress me. If I am sure the salesclerk isn't looking, I will gently brush it across my face. It has the touch of an understanding lover.
"There, there," it whispers. "All shall be well--all manner of things shall be well."
Then there is cream-colored pongee made from wild silk. It is both coarse and smooth, wild and serene, heaven and earth. It speaks to me of finding the sacred amongst the profane. "Yes, yes," it says, "find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Recognize the Divine in a homeless drunk, a mouthy teenager, a crazy old man."
Wildly different is Honan silk. It is a plain weave with slubbed yarns but is brilliantly colored-teal, magenta, yellow, purple, lime green, iridescent black. It is a shrieking, in-your-face, extroverted, party-girl fabric. The Bette Midler of silks. When you cut it with scissors it crunches as if you are walking on crusty snow, or biting on fresh celery. It likes to be cut, to be fashioned into something new, into a garment that is going places, doing things, seeing people. Honan silk screams, "Have a vision! Never give up! Celebrate!"
Often I will pick up a bolt of Honan silk and drape it around my body and gaze at myself in a mirror. Salesclerks like this because they think I am serious about buying. I do adore the material, but I have learned that I don't always have to own it to appreciate it.
But of course I do own silk--yards of it, bought over the years, stashed in different places around the house, the storage spots like hidden altars which I visit now and then. Sometimes it is taken away for the sacrament of sewing; other times it is simply left with a prayer of thanks.
When I pick up a roll of silk I realize that I am holding not only fabric, but yards of potential. A two-piece suit? A simple sheath? A sexy blouse? I am reminded that like the beautiful silks, I can fashion myself into someone new: a person who is more loving, less critical, more flexible. The possibilities are infinite. So when I go to the fabric store I am really searching for spiritual healing. I am seeking something that not only covers my body but touches my soul as well.
Of course none of this is obvious as I finger the bolts of silk. The clerks don't realize that I am secretly on a kind of Vision Quest. So although it is seldom that I actually buy fabric, I often buy something--some needles, a zipper, a packet of buttons. I consider it the price of admission.
Once, after an hour or so of looking at silk, I brought a spool of thread up to the counter. "Is that all you came in here for?" the salesclerk asked.
I looked her straight in the eye and said, "Yes, I just needed to do a little mending."