to weave, to join, fit together, braid, interweave, construct, fabricate, build

vyshyvanka

Some days, days when trouble looms, literally (a huge telecommunication tower is scheduled to be built across the highway from our property, which is troubling in itself, but the chosen location, a corner of property adjacent to the entrance to the Iris Griffith Field Studies and Interpretive Centre, named for a woman who would be horrified at this development, makes clear the lack of respect our regional district and the owners of the property have for the environmental values so many of us hold dear), some days I sit at my desk and imagine myself elsewhere. This morning it’s Lviv, a city I loved when I visited two years ago, and where part of the writing I’m currently working on is set. I don’t actually know what the writing will become. Fiction, mostly. Mostly it’s a dialogue at this point, a series of questions and answers. Attempts at answers. But as I write, I know a few things I’m moving towards. One of them is textiles and how they are repositories of memory and history. Is it a surprise to learn that text and textile share a root?

from Latin textus “style or texture of a work,” literally “thing woven,” from past participle stem of texere “to weave, to join, fit together, braid, interweave, construct, fabricate, build,” from PIE root teks- “to weave, to fabricate, to make; make wicker or wattle framework.”

In Ukraine, I was drawn to the beautiful rushnyk we saw everywhere, the ritual cloth embroidered or woven with red thread, the colour of life. In churches, they draped the ikons. When we arrived at villages, we were met with bread, salt, and horilka, the bread wrapped in rushnyk. When the family members who learned I’d visited their village (but somehow missed them) came to visit us at a hotel in the Carpathian Mountains, they brought me a piece of Bukovynian rushnyk.  I bought some textiles to bring home but of course I wish I’d bought more. I gave my sons (because Angelica was with us in Ukraine and she bought some of her own) and their families a piece of rushnyk each for Christmas in 2019.

I read somewhere that rushnyk were important in a symbolic way in the building of houses, where they were used to raise final beams.

Suffixed form *teks-ōn-, weaver, maker of wattle for house walls, builder (possibly contaminated with *teks-tōr, builder) tectonic; architect from Greek tektōn, carpenter, builder.

They protected hearths and harvests, they were used to wrap newborns, they contained images of sacred fertility and family gatherings. Some days I wear my heart on my sleeve. I wear bright poppies on a shirt, a vyshyvanka, made in the small city of Kosiv, and I think of the woman who stitched them, unknown to me, a granddaughter who returned in search of family history and who found living relatives, and who found a living language of red embroidery and weaving she wants to understand.

What’s going on across the highway has its own language. Public consultation. Technological necessity. A lot of baffle-gab, quite honestly. What wasn’t heard was the sound of children’s voices, the ones we hear on spring days when buses bring classes to nature school and kids learn about wetlands, plant communities, and biodiversity. After the pandemic, buses will pass under the shadow of an enormous tower, higher than the highest trees, a structure utterly out of its element, but somehow deemed appropriate by both the telecommunications giant responsible and the property owners who have given their permission (though for years they have promoted their resort business as a nature sanctuary). It hurts my heart, the one on my sleeve and the one that beat so hard in the night that I couldn’t sleep.

rushnyk

In the work I am currently finding my way into, one of the characters curates a small museum of these textiles, and by coincidence, or not, she is related to to the character who is trying to learn more about her family story. If I keep my head low, listening, my eyes on the cloths I chose in Kosiv, maybe I will learn something of the language essential to understanding a story hidden in red thread.

10 thoughts on “to weave, to join, fit together, braid, interweave, construct, fabricate, build”

  1. Sorry to hear a communication tower is being inflicted on you. Is it visible from your place? Can you fight it? Are others opposed? I hope you can send it packing! Seems I am fighting some environmental or heritage issue every few weeks, some local some national. After 50 years at this, it is rather wearying. But we do win some of these battles.

  2. This one might be visible — differing plans, one with navigational light, one without…– and we’ve tried to fight it. But the regional district insists it’s done due diligence in looking at alternate sites without success and the resort is doing what it’s done before: profess reverence for nature but eagerly settling for the monthly fee. I fear this is one battle we won’t win.

  3. Oh boy, that final sentence, “If I keep my head low, listening, my eyes on the cloths I chose in Kosiv, maybe I will learn something of the language…” — from reading many of your posts, I somehow knew this would be your way. Beautiful.

  4. Ah Theresa, I’m sad to hear about your tower and know exactly the feelings you describe. Here on the flat prairie, any slight rise in the landscape is snatched up for towers of one sort or another, all sporting red lights which flash at different rates to warn off low-flying aircraft. Our small rural property is on one of these ridges where a few years ago a new internet tower was erected, hugely visible from the living room window. Instead of improving service (always the selling point), there was thought that we might in fact be too near the pole itself for the ‘internet dust’ to scatter down to us but that hasn’t proved true. The best use of these towers in my opinion is as a way to tell how low the cloud cover is or how dense the blizzard. Can we see one pole? Two? All of them? The most invasive part is the humming thrum of the guy wires in the wind . . and the wind does blow here almost always. It’s hard to feel truly rural with these reminders peering in the windows. Would that we had tall trees to hide the worst of it. I only hope yours proves to be hidden from your daily life and is not a constant vexing reminder of the powerlessness of those of us whose priorities are the natural world.

    1. Thanks, Susan. We are more or less resigned to one in our area but feel the site chosen is so inappropriate in all kinds of ways. But it seems the decision has been made. Have spent time reading the input from those consulted and most of them don’t live here but have holiday properties. The ecological centre isn’t something they value so they’re more concerned with cell reception (not a problem for us). The plans are a little deceptive in that the tower isn’t shown to be its true size. I’m not sure we’ll see much of it but we’re not happy with the site Telus has chosen (they were asked to come up with an alternate site but our regional director said merrily that “It was not to be..”

  5. With reference to Susan’s wish that they had tall trees to hide the mast, in Chile (where my wife is from) they sometimes disguise masts as palm trees, though not always very convincingly!

    1. The Canadian prairies seem littered with huge highway-side replicas of things as odd as moose or coffee pots or pysanky so maybe we could disguise the towers as sculptural items that would attract tourists. Good to know some people are taking a creative approach to the problem, John.

      1. When we used to walk on a trail up the mountain behind us, one that meandered under part of the Cheekeye Dunsmuir line from the mainland to Vancouver Island, we’d hear woodpeckers using the big Hydro masts for the spring drumming.

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