Tuesday, April 10, 2012

SPINNING STRAW, WEAVING GOLD…

On Sunday, my friend Isabel Anders, gave me a copy of her latest book, one of over twenty inspirational books she has written during her career as a spiritual writer. Spinning Straw, Weaving Gold, A Tapestry of Mother-Daughter Wisdom contains poetic conversations between mother and daughter about female spirituality that is connected to the physical and material, such as the actual weaving of cloth. The conversation is a metaphor for the spinning and weaving women do to create their tapestries of wisdom to be passed on to future generations of females.

This small book of 43 pages includes quotations from many wisdom writers and poets, including Sally Fox’s book of days, The Medieval Woman, and Anders uses the medieval practice of spinning to illustrate the concept that the spinning/weaving process is based in the “good material feel of work in the world that can lead to creative consequences…the slower process through which she gains experience, sifts and filters it through her natural stages of development.”

Anders invites reader to consider how spinning that which comes to women in the good and bad circumstances of their lives enables them to weave straw into gold, especially when the weaving and spinning are operations of love.


Spinning Straw, Weaving Gold is the second in a collection of that which Anders calls “uncommon mother-daughter dialogues” that call attention to the small scenarios of women who struggle and become successful in the weaving of their various tapestries.

I particularly liked the section entitled “Wisdom of the Unseen;” e.g., when the daughter asks, “Mother, what is our trade and how may we describe the work of our life?” and receives the reply: “St. John of the Cross wrote, ‘My occupation is Love. It’s all I do. We can do no better.’” And another dialogue: “'How does the Spirit come to us since we cannot see the ‘wind’ of its presence? How can we know we’re being led and shown the way?’ the daughter asks. The mother answers: ‘The great da Vinci has said, ‘When the Spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.’ Then the Mother points to their newest tapestry.”

This is a book of poetry and meditations derived from the world of women and grounded in spiritual wisdom. After reading it, I know that each time I announce the Gospel (as a deacon) in church, I’ll think of Sophia and how the Greek Orthodox deacons say that name preceding the Gospel because it means that they are reading “wisdom” to the congregants – I’d love to announce the reading that way, and I know that if I did, Anders would be among those in the congregation at St. Mary’s who would vigorously nod her head at the invocation.

One of the sage observations in Spinning Straw, Weaving Gold is the quotation from St. Catherine of Siena: “Make two homes for thyself, my daughter. One actual home…and the other a spiritual home, which thou are to carry with thee always. These are the two lives we are building as we labor, sometimes all in one motion.”

Complete with notes, Study Questions, and Bibliography, this small volume is tightly woven with wisdom in dialogues created from the pieces and scraps of Anders’ own life…and that of many writers of wisdom literature. The result is a rich tapestry of carefully-chosen colors.
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