As an animist I can feel the life force pulsing through everything. As an artist and craftsperson this force can shape the projects I am working on. Sometimes when I have an inspiration to create something with the result pictured in my mind, the substance I’m working with ends up taking over and changes the whole outcome over to its own inspiration. Then there are the times when I’m working with a substance and it begins to give me glimpses or visions of its former life. This is what happened last night while preparing to spin some wool into yarn.
I love natural fibers and one of my favorites is wool. When most people think of wool they think of a scratchy, stiff fiber that they would wear as an outer layer for warmth but never as something they would want next to their skin. If you have never spun or worked with wool then you may not be aware of all the different types there are. For each kind of sheep there is a different kind of wool. They range anywhere from extremely course to the softest, silkiest fiber that wouldn’t dream of being scratchy or irritating. The wool I was working with last night is from a type of sheep called Corrie Cross. Their wool is somewhere between soft and slightly course. I like it because it is one of the easiest to spin and dies extremely well with my favorite dying medium, Kool-Aid (which is the only thing anyone should ever use Kool-Aid for). I have been spinning and dying a lot of wool lately for a large rug I’m crocheting. Last night after going outside into the freezing night to pay my respects to the hazy full moon and speak to the ice faeries that dwell near my back door, I settled in for an evening of drafting and spinning by a warm fire. Drafting is when you gently pull on a rope of thick wool called roving to prepare it for spinning. How much you pull it will determine the thickness of the resulting yarn. This process can be very meditative so as I sat quietly pulling the wool, delighting in its soft, soothing texture, I began to feel a presence within it. At first it was distant like the call of a bird echoing in the morning mist. Then as I continued to draft, it slowly crept up closer to my consciousness until I could see its shape, hear its thoughts.
This ’voice’ began to show me a field, green and lush surrounded by trees. A warm sun filtered through the trees and I had a distinct feeling that it was a spring morning. I could hear the buzzing of insects, the song of birds greeting a new day. But something was feeling uncomfortable. My skin felt hot, like I was covered in heavy clothing on a summer day. The thought went through my head that I really wished someone would take this winter coat off me. It was then that I realized I was being given a peek into the mind of the sheep that once wore this wool I was drafting. It brought to mind all the times I had wondered how sheep feel about being sheared. Watching the process it seemed they didn’t particularly like it. Bringing myself back to my sheep’s mind I did fell the fear and frustration of its shearing but then I felt the feeling of relief when it was completed and the lightness it felt from having all that heavy wool removed from its body. It actually reminded me of bathing and trimming my dog which she hates, but after I’m finished and she is free to go she takes off and runs, coming back running circles around me, tail wagging with a big doggy smile on her face. Like my dog the sheep moved faster and easier and there was a greater joy in her step as she returned to the green spring field to fill her belly with fresh grass.
I looked down at this lovely pile of wool in my lap and its energy spoke of the warmth it gave the sheep through the cold winter but it also spoke of the releasing of that which no longer served its host and in that releasing came this gift of wool. I took a moment to send gratitude to that sheep who once wore this wool, created from its own body then released so that I could morph it into something useful, beautiful and warm.