Less than three weeks ago, an esteemed English professor/poet laureate staying in my home pulled out his flip phone (no kidding), and pondered how to Zoom his new online classes.
Look at us now. Henry is sailing through his Zoom maneuvers; my niece Emily is streaming her Sunday morning service to an at-home congregation; my accountant is educating me via a webinar; Elton John and friends play for us from their homes; artisans the world over are checking in via What's App, friends on email and text; phone conferences play out at my home on the hour; grandparents celebrate their little ones on Facetime . . . I mean, the longer we are isolated, the more creative we get in banding together.
And then there are some, in the midst of life's strange calamities, who will rise into their full stature, and with fear, but not trembling, find a way through.
Even I'm a sucker for Amazon next day delivery. Retail is dead, they say. Madison Avenue is a mausoleum of the marketplace. Shopping is now a finger-click, and poof! - your next TV is waiting at your door.
Five years ago, the writing is on the wall. I open Ibu online, knowing the real market is rocketing into hyperspace. A team of five is working in my house - at the dinning table, the sewing room, the office, the kitchen - but know one else can see with their own eyes the handcrafted beauty pouring in from all over the world, which is, I think, a shame.
How do you make a button? The loop-de-loop kind of intricate things that march down a Moroccan djellaba by the dozens like a proud brigade?
Ask any of the twelve Ibu allies who traveled to the city of buttons to learn how. Sefrou, Morocco is where women know how to start with a tiny piece of paper and needle and whip up a chic little button, no problem; but teaching an American crew was another story altogether!
Cathie Black begins her book, Basic Black, talking about the importance of Drive. Persistence. Passion. A fearless forward motion in a woman that doesn't stop when set back.
I'd say she is describing herself. This woman who became the first to head up Marketing for a ground-breaking upstart called Ms. Magazine when women's issues were hardly at the forefront of public discourse - this woman threw herself into an almost impossible job and didn't give up. I'd call that Drive.
Maria spends her days sitting in the courtyard of her home in the rural village of Pinotepa de Don Luis, Mexico, weaving on the ancient backstrap loom. She ties the loom to a post and secures the strap around her waist, sits down on the stone ground, and begins her craft. Each hand-woven garment requires two weeks of preparation and spinning, and another 3 months or 400 hours of weaving. The pieces created are nothing less than a language of love. When asked if Maria enjoys this type of work, she proudly says this is not work to me, this is my way of life.
And then I look up and see Sarah - herself head to toe in indigo, presiding over this beauty with a knowledgeable face, and I think: That's someone I want to know.
What a handsome number, 2020. Balanced. Strong. Sturdy. And clear, as in perfect vision.
Generous, too, throwing us a bonus day. I must admit, this leap year makes me want to leap - not just into a new year, but a new decade.
What illuminates this whole coming year is the celebration of women and our 100th year anniversary, in this country, of obtaining the right to vote. It is enough to make me pause. I mean, it is also the 25th anniversary of my life with my husband, which means that women have been voting only 4 times as long as I have been swimming in this happiness. Incredible.
Did you know an orchid can live 100 years?! (No one told mine, who grace my kitchen for a few fleeting weeks, max.) And this - orchids are 100 million year old, collectively speaking; fossils spill that secret. I had no idea.
What I did know is that deep in the three mountains ranges of Colombia, hundreds of varieties run wild and free.
Here in Sile, a women's community honors a 150-year-old craft tradition,
hand-looming organic cotton, washing it in the saline water of the Black Sea, and spreading out their cloth to dry on the quartz sands of their beach.
I walk into the design studio of Carolina Vélez in Medellín, Colombia. . . totally unprepared for the jaw dropping that is to come.
Her lover gave her a splendid orchid blossom. It splurged; it faded. Still cherishing, she tucked it in a drawer. A month later, forgetting, she opened and found the blossom still there - dried but alive with memory. A jeweler, she dreamt of turning it into gold. She consulted teachers, experts; no one could tell her how to perform this alchemy. So she set out - by trying and trying again - to find her own way.
I'm sitting down with Chantha Nguon to discuss designs for our World Dress collection, having admired for years her work with luscious silk. Chantha is a strong, petite woman with a handsome face and eyes that hold a harrowing history. Born in culturally rich Cambodia, Chantha escaped the Khmer Rouge regime when she was nine, living in war-torn Saigon and later for 10 years without family in a Thai refugee camp. When she at last returned to her home in Cambodia, the culture had been extinguished; the women in her village knew nothing of their heritage, nor of hope.
Each week, I celebrate here women of uncommon strength; artisans crafting a new world; Ibu on the move. But there is another kind of Ibu in this movement: women of influence and accomplishment among us who are reaching out to elevate women worldwide.