Nearly three months ago, on the evening of the last day of a tapestry weaving workshop, I landed in the ER at Baptist Hospital and didn’t come out until three weeks later. Much like Alice in the story we all know, it felt like I dropped down a rabbit hole into a strange, albeit familiar, world of beeps and alarms, uniforms and white coats, pain and medications. Another hole opened up in my small intestine just a few days after extensive surgery to repair a closed loop bowel obstruction caused by adhesions from previous surgeries. The fistula (the medical term for this hole), though it has healed much, still has a ways to go. And if it does not heal completely, surgery (again) will be needed to fix it. This is a long, slow, tedious, and sometimes uncomfortable process.
The evening prior to slipping down the rabbit hole, I began a small tapestry to try to work on some of the concepts I was learning from Tommye Scanlin in her workshop on Design in Tapestry. I was so fortunate to be able to attend this workshop and learn from one of the masters in Tapestry Weaving today. I chose to begin an abstract piece based on paint explorations we had created in the workshop. Cropping and rotating what we have drawn or painted can offer interesting subjects to weave. I plunged in…warping the small loom with cotton seine twine, weaving a header, working a couple of rows of twining and establishing the first few rows/colors of the design. That was all I could do in an evening on the couch.
A couple of weeks after arriving home from the hospital, I picked up the little loom and tried my best to wrap my head around what I had been doing. I just couldn’t. Whether it was the fog of medications or the weariness of my body and mind, I just wasn’t able to hold in my head or in my hands what I needed to do to weave. I set the loom back in its protective bag with all the yarns for the project, and picked up my knitting which was simple enough to do. But I remember thinking that this geometric abstract design was not what I wanted to weave. There would need to be flowers…organic flowing shapes of design-heavy florals. Yes. This was certain. Some day.
About a week ago, I pulled out the loom to give it another go. I was feeling stronger and hoped that I might be in a place to tackle the small tapestry. I looked at what little bit I had woven and saw the beginnings of stems reaching up to flower heads, pink petals and green leaves growing from the square and rectangular beginnings. A small portion was unpicked as I knew the color would not be needed for this new design, and a cartoon was drawn incorporating the established shapes and colors. A total re-routing of an original plan. I liked it a lot and had the mental and physical ability to begin working on it.
It occurs to me that the healing I am undergoing is much like this tapestry and tapestry weaving in general. This health crisis has certainly been a total re-routing of an original plan. Healing from it is slow, very slow and tedious and even (when I sit at the loom for too long) uncomfortable. As I weave a small tapestry, the work is not linear as weaving cloth is. Tapestry rarely allows for a yarn to be woven straight across the warp, back and forth, back and forth. Rather shapes are being woven, section by section. Negative spaces between the shapes must be filled in before shapes are completed or new shapes begun. It is a like a puzzle…working a bit here, then over there, then back again to fill in and finish that area. Healing feels like this also. Especially with a fistula.
The surgeons speak of a fistula that is healing by saying that it “stutters”. It will seem like the fistula has healed for good and then it starts to leak again, and back and forth for a while. They say this is a good sign. My fistula has been stuttering a lot. The back and forth nature of tapestry, the leaving a leaf undone while I weave a stem, all of this seems a bit like stuttering my way through a design. It is a very different process from any of the other mediums I’ve dabbled in. And while I know that my design will be complete one day, the process of creating it is nevertheless full of fits and starts and sometimes unpicking.
I am trying to rest in the process of healing that my body is still undergoing. Nightly nutritional tube feeds and protein feeds during the day are all designed to aid the fistula in its healing. I must stay the course even though I can’t really tell whether there has been improvement lately. This too is like tapestry where at the end of a session of weaving it doesn’t look like I’ve accomplished much. I must trust the process, keep doing the daily work, in hopes that it will all resolve in due time.🙏
**Special Note: Many of you reading this have been sending healing thoughts and prayers my way and I am so very grateful for them all! This is a “marathon” unlike any I’ve experienced before and I’m so glad for comrades along the path. 💖