Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cloud County, Kansas

Among the first ministries of the first Sisters of St. Joseph in 17th century France was giving instruction in lacemaking to indigent women in the city of Le Puy. Having such a skill enabled women who were widowed or abandoned to support themselves without having to resort to begging and/or prostitution. Lacemaking continues to be a foundational metaphor for the CSJs, at least in North America.
This week I have been on a lacemaking retreat at a CSJ House of Prayer in north central Kansas. Each morning we meet for prayer in the chapel. Then we have two hours of lacemaking instruction. Then we have most of the afternoon free to pray, continue working on lace, read, or all of the above. We meet again for prayer and a reflection on CSJ spirituality from the retreat director just before supper. The evening is free for whatever.
The kind of lacemaking we are learning is the kind the first sisters taught: bobbin lacemaking. It's not really hard to learn, but I'm finding it's hard to get good at it. It clearly takes a lot of practice, and the sisters at this retreat who spend their free time working on it are moving along with that more quickly than I am. Here's my first effort:

...a bookmark whose threads are a little cattywampus.
And here's the beginning of my second effort...

...the beginning of a butterfly, which, I'll admit, I didn't finish. I decided it was too advanced for me, and so I went back to the basic bookmarks. I need to learn the foundational stitches well before I try to do something small and roundish like a butterfly or a doily. My second bookmark is turning out quite a bit better, and is also teaching me quite a bit about how the threads all work together in the making. I'll post a photo here when it's done.

So what have I been doing while others diligently work on their lace? Well, reading, and sitting on the wonderful shady front porch contemplating our charism, and birds, clouds, Elizabeth Johnson's Quest for the Living God, hollyhocks, and people riding by on scooters, which they do a lot around here. Here are some photos of clouds, birds and hollyhocks:

From our prayer this morning, a poem entitled "Mindful" by Mary Oliver, from Why I Wake Early:

Every day
I see or hear
that more or less
kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
of light.
Itwas what I was born for -
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over
in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant -
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

1 comment:

Kelly_SSJ/A said...

Thank you for sharing. I have always been intrigued by lace making. I am not sure I would have the patience to get really good at it. sure doesn't take much effort to see how the first sisters probably saw it as a representation of God's weaving in and out of their lives.