What is it about this ritual washing in the sea that is so moving? That women in a small town in Turkey not only hand-loom their organic cotton into the sweeping grace of cloth, but that they then bathe it in the salty waters of the Black Sea and spread it to dry on the quartz sands of Sile beach, as they and their mothers' mothers have done for 150 years?
It's the ritual that moves me. The certain hope that this ceremony alters the fabric and makes of it not only a soft, light touch upon the skin, but also a woven witness to their lives. The labor of their days is consecrated by the sea and branded by the sun's slow passage through the sky.
In the eight weeks since I began working from home, my husband and I sequestered ourselves in a tiny guest house on a sea island 30 minutes from Charleston, and stumbled into a daily rhythm - not my usual schedule of meetings, but of another kind altogether. Rising not to five blaring alarms as I'm accustomed, but naturally, when the clouds begin to blush pink. Then greeting the neighbors I have come to know: the orange spotted turtle, the possum, raccoon, silver snake, mother deer and fawn, the great blue heron and woodpecker and rooster and turkey and yes, the two eagles soaring overhead, the horses across the road and their barn-tending cat, Oreo. After my extended greeting, I set up my office in the garden, stop for a mid-day meal with my husband, return to work as the tide threads through the marsh, and rise at dusk for a long walk to gather the day.
On these daily walks through the late slant of light, I've watched fields of hay ripen, swagger in the sun, get shorn, rolled into stacks, laid bare. I've watched the sun creep north on the horizon each night and rise a full hour earlier than when we began; I've wakened to a blistering full moon - once and then once again - the string of orbs a pearly succession washing over me.
I will remember many things about this time in seclusion. The angst. The uncertainty. The strange absence of friends. But most of all, I will remember this: bearing witness to the slow flow of time. Walking the same path at the same hour, day after successive day, has planted in the furrows of my brain tiny, important things: the procession from blossom to leaf, the spinning of inchworm to cocoon, the clever unzipping of a gecko's skin after mating.
Like the women of Sile know to do, I have marked my day with simple rituals. Spin. Weave. Dye. Email. Sing. Whatever. Allow the sky to witness your labor, the sea to consecrate it, and the sun to ignite your efforts, however small, making of them something beautiful . . . and large.
with a certain hope,
Susan Hull Walker