Braided Threads of Life

Back in 1978 my mother was visiting for a few days. One morning as she sat at the kitchen table eating breakfast, she began to muse. “I don't know what I want to be when I grow up,” she said. “I've been a mother, a secretary, a teacher, a shoemaker, a milliner, a seamstress ...” she paused for breath. “I don't know what to be next.”

As things turned out, she became a multi-media artist in the pre-computer-age definition of multi-media, meaning water color, oil and acrylic paints; stained, etched, sandblasted and shaped glass; photography, batik and various other fiber arts; and I  probably missed a few. She once had a one-woman show of pieces all based on a photograph of a wasp on a flower that my father had taken. She rendered that wasp in stained glass, batik, various cloth treatments, paints ... you name it, she did it.

Thinking over my mother's life a dozen years later, I remembered that breakfast table conversation and realized how rich and varied her life was. It occurred to me that there were many strands or threads running through it that peeked out at various times, without being obvious every day.

I was sorting through my yarn basket as I thought about this. Yarn of every color in the rainbow caught my eye and inspiration hit. Using pieces of primary colors, I wove a long, seven-strand braid. Still doodling, I doubled the ends back on the middle and wove the braid into a braid-of-braids.

Her birthday was near at hand, so I mounted the finished braid on a sheet of paper, with mat board behind and this poem alongside:

This is your life.
It is woven of many
strands, each representing a
different aspect of
your experience.
They are closely
Sometimes they
double back on
themselves. The
total effect is
color-full and
intriguing in its

That card sat on her desk for years. Today it hangs on my wall, not just because it reminds me of her, but as a reminder that all our lives are composed of many braided threads. We all have work, family, friends, things we do for fun, spiritual beliefs of one sort or another, memories we'd rather forget, things we've learned, and so on. A complete life story will include at least a glimpse of each of those threads.

I've begun looking at my life, thinking in terms of threads, and making notes about how each manifests. When was it most dominant? What memories connect to this thread? Many of the stories I've already written relate to several threads. Others may point to a new thread I hadn't thought of.

Life is never as simple and neatly organized as this braid, but the braid does provide and example of one way to look at it.

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