This year hasn’t worked out the way I planned. My family lost two little lives before they even had a chance to truly begin. A business venture fizzled into frustration and disappointment. An intimate relationship broke into a distant friendship. A dear friend moved across the country—still a cherished friend, but distant geographically. An elder in our family moved geographically nearby, but dementia seems to widen the gap between us—or between us and who she used to be.
It’s as though the ground I stand on has shifted. Sadness, disappointment, and empty places in my heart. Something is different in my expectations, in what I take for granted. These experiences are mingled with traces of fear—fear of more losses, more heartache. They’re also interwoven with love, grace, and optimism—and gratitude. As this year has unfolded, I have a new appreciation for how our lives are all intertwined, the way we touch one another, whether close or far away.
I’m a weaver, so it’s easy to use the metaphor of a tapestry with all its colors and patterns, the full image not emerging until the warp is cut and the cloth is rolled away from the loom. So many threads that come to the surface, then disappear at the back of the cloth.
But I’m also a felt maker, and I’m struck by an even richer metaphor. In felt making, the materials are individual fibers, and they wrap around one another, tiny little strands tangling up among one another, until some of them disappear, and others show up on the surface. I used to think there was something magical about the wool fibers and the felting process, because no matter what colors I put together, I never made ugly felt. Somehow the colors mixed together, but never got muddy. Some pieces were prettier than others, but each had its own beauty and fascination.
I think our lives are like that. Full of delicate little strands that wrap around other tiny fibers, and the more they’re moved, the stronger the piece becomes. In felting, the shape emerges based on the direction and force with which you move the fibers. And so it is with our lives. All those experiences push and nudge us into who we become—small, large, strong, fuzzy, flat, bumpy, colorful, simple, complex.
So what does all this mean? I’m not really sure. All I know for now is that life is rich and beautiful and complex—and the year isn’t over. It’s a confusing mess of dark and light, bright and dull, soft and hard. I also know that I’m grateful to be here, especially grateful for the strands of love and grace that are all tangled up with the stuff I didn’t plan.