“The mind is like a richly woven tapestry in which the colours are distilled from the experiences of the senses and the design drawn from the convolutions of the intellect.”
– Carson McCullers, American author
It was a beautiful August day when I set off with a bag lunch for the park near work. I had decided to cut through a back alley and was both surprised and delighted when I happened upon a sale overflowing from the open doors of a rundown single car garage.
The host looked to be in his mid-60s and was reclining half-asleep in a lawn chair. Items were piled haphazardly upon tables — most long past being saleable or even truly useful.
I was about to leave when an old tapestry tacked to the garage wall caught my eye. It boasted a rich mountain scene featuring a herd of elk with a majestic bull in the forefront standing proud, strong and poised.
“It’s beautiful,” I said, motioning to the wall. “The tapestry.”
“Oh yes,” said the old man, suddenly coming to life and sitting up straight in his chair. “For as long as I can remember that old tapestry hung on the wall of my mother’s living room.”
I walked over and ran my hand across it. It was thick, heavy and tightly woven. Despite its purported age, the colours were still brilliant: deep browns, lush greens and vibrant reds in the foreground with dark and foreboding blacks, purples and blues in the background.
“How much?” I asked.
“I was hoping to get $35 for it.”
I offered him $20 and after some consideration, he reached out and took the bill.
First, a little history courtesy of Wikipedia: a tapestry is a textile art woven on a vertical loom. Tapestries have been used since at least Hellenistic times. Samples of Greek tapestry have been found preserved in the desert of Tarim Basin dating from the third century BC.
The next time you admire a tapestry, take an up-close look. You’ll discover that the scene quickly dissolves as you begin to see each individual string that comprises the picture. The tapestry is therefore not one complete scene or illustration unto itself but rather the culmination of tens of thousands of tiny individual components best viewed from a distance.
It’s not a new or novel idea to compare life to a tapestry but the timeworn metaphor remains applicable.
We are weaving our life — our tapestry, if you will — in this moment. Without awareness and an active involvement, our tapestry will be woven by events and circumstance which appear beyond our control, our knee-jerk reaction to said conditions and the whims and desires of others.
Perhaps, the time has come to step back to see what we’ve woven.
If we could see the tapestry our life has created, what might we discover? Would it be the red slashes of agony and despair, the purple of a victim mentality or the pale blues of resignation and denial?
Allow me to clarify that “colourful” question. Perhaps you’ve lived in fear and regret up until this point and you’ve woven a life which is sad and regrettable. You might think it’s too late to make a difference, but the truth is if you’re thinking and breathing, there’s still time to weave a better picture.
When we approach life with passion and purpose, we’re free to choose the strings of understanding and self-awareness, of self-acceptance and self-love.
We are all weavers — weaving threads and colours into our lives but just as assuredly into the lives of those around us. Has the influence been positive and empowering or has it been damaging and detrimental?
We might take that thought a step further and ask how our actions and attitudes have coloured the tapestry of our communities or even our country.
Take a moment to consider history’s greatest heroes and villains. For better or for worse, each has woven threads into the shared tapestry of our collective consciousness. An awesome sense of responsibility should come from the understanding that we are all weaving each other’s tapestries.
Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female member of the Supreme Court of the United States, summed it up well when she wrote, “We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads form one to another that creates something.”
Nearly 25 years have passed since I purchased the old tapestry. Recently, I removed it from the cedar chest, carefully unfolded it then stood back to admire the scene.
In the background are dark browns, blues and even blacks which could aptly represent the dark time in our lives. In the forefront, however, is a vibrant picture of life enlivened with powerful reds, greens, and brilliant whites.
Though others may affect our tapestry in negative, positive or even unexpected ways, it is we — by responding positively and hopefully to what this amazing, challenging and unpredictable life presents us with — who will in the end tie the final knot.
Murray Fuhrer is a freelance writer. contact him at www.extremeesteem.ca