Five Green Acres Mary Jo + Andrew Borchardt Poynette, WI
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The fabric of time.

The fabric of time.
May 20, 2008 Mary Jo

I’ve mentioned that this house has an aesthetic all its own. That it requires, gently but firmly, handmade quilts on the beds, bright sunny colors on the walls, handmade rag rugs to cushion our step, and the boisterous sounds of laughter and bare feet tickling the wooden floors. Just imagine, then, my barely controllable JOY at finding this collection of rags. Already wound into balls, ready to become a rug. By the hands of my female ancestors. From the beautiful fabrics that dressed their days. Just imagine my joy.

Grandma says they were, indeed, used to make rugs, but not in the manner that I’ve undertaken. These strips would be taken to the weaver, to make a rug like this:

I much prefer the method of crocheting them. Besides the aesthetics of it, the rugs have lots of cushion and spring, and I can orchestrate the design and carry it out myself, without having to bring it to someone with a loom. And I think the crochet method will better showcase the beautiful fabrics that my elders had spent so much time ripping, joining, and rolling into balls. It’s also rewarding to feel that I have something to contribute to this project that was started so long ago. But if Grandma’s reaction is any indicator, I’m quite sure that they’d laugh at me for calling their old rags “beautiful”. They were rags, after all, worn to the point of being useless for anything but a place to wipe dirty feet. It surely is the haze of time passed that casts such a lovely light on these vintage threads now.

A kind soul commented the other day that she loved how what we were trying to do here at Five Green Acres was deliberately old-fashioned and the stuff of our Grandmothers. I couldn’t have said it better myself; I once read or heard somewhere that, in the event of a catastrophic disaster, only the Grandmothers would know how to survive. That sentiment has stuck with me. Yet while there are many folks who embrace the ideals of self-sufficiency to prepare for such an event, we’re certainly not among them. Our aim is much more rose-colored and perhaps even a little “control-freak”. I simply want to know where my stuff came from, how it was made, and how to make exactly what I want. In my eyes, these skills bring with them immense power. Design power. Power to live in luxury without buckets of money. Power to infuse pure love into something made by hand. Power to feed my family.

It seems that the flawed short-sightedness of our culture compels us to overlook the wisdom of our elders or dismiss it as out of touch with The Now. Perhaps we should be consulting the Grandmothers of the world for our Terrorist Preparation Kits instead of taking Homeland Security’s suggestion to buy rolls of plastic and duct tape for our windows. Echoing this sentiment is a children’s book we just read together, Old Ladies Who Liked Cats by Carol Greene. It’s a lovely, simple story of how things are connected, and how the Old Ladies are the only ones with the wisdom to see these vital connections that turn out to be crucial in protecting their little island. How do we get rid of the pirates? Just ask the Old Ladies. They know.

This stuff of Grandmothers – heirloom seeds, the know-how to make a bounty out of nothing, the smell of bed sheets dried in the wind, the sincere gratitude for life’s joys, the precious Mason Jar jewels lining the shelves of the pantry, the smell of the kitchen, the ability to use, reuse, reuse again, and not waste a single thing… To me, this is the good stuff.

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