What Women Make
by Katharine Weinmann | January 6, 2016
How to even begin? To write about these women, all the women the world over who, from Time’s beginning, did whatever was necessary to survive and make the way for their families?
Yesterday, the seed of this awareness took hold in Conche, Newfoundland – an outpost village on the Northern Peninsula’s historic French Shore – as I heard described and saw the four years’ in the making, 20,000 hour, 216 foot long “labour of love” made by thirteen local women recreating the history of their land on the “French Shore Tapestry.” Embroidered in the old Bayeux style on Jacobian linen with wool yarn, stem stitch outline, couching fill, it is but a stitch to recall my mother’s exploration of this old art form. First learning basic needlepoint to create her eight dining room chairs, stitched in rosewood and deep wine, to mastering every embroidery stitch – I, the blessed recipient of her cushion samplers, and the mirror made especially for my first “on my own” home – to her exquisite counted cross-stitch creations that grace many walls, commemorating weddings and births, life’s changes and celebrations.
Every day on this tour through Newfoundland, I encounter the women who are making a livelihood as innkeepers, restauranteurs, cooks, cleaners, guides and artisans. Reading the history of this island, of women who gathered and preserved the bakeapple, cloud, blue, black and partridge berry, who planted the roadside gardens of potato, turnip, carrot and cabbage, those hardy root crops that sustained their families during the barren and frigid winter months.
Women on this tour, spanning generations from their twenties through sixties: the young elder guide, her vast knowledge and deep love of this island palpable in every word she speaks. Her mother, our co-host, whose quiet pride in her daughter’s gifts and talents shines through her eyes – a balm to the Mother Wound so many of us carry.
The grieving mother walking in the footsteps of her three years’ gone daughter, reclaiming her joy and boldness, bringing that special combination of endearing kindness, humour, and hard-earned wisdom, whose very presence speaks of the power of healing and making peace with what is.
The “Quartet” of wild women: athletic mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, best friends all, who make their living tending to the hearts and psyches of their communities’ broken ones. Witnessing how they tend to each other, their mutual appreciation and history felt in their communal laughter and quiet talks. Generous to invite me, one of the “Singlets,” into their charmed circle.
The “Sisters,” counterpoints in demeanour and endeavour, in how they look, live and approach the world.
The “Singlets,” who formed a bond by accepting my invitation to meet and travel to Corner Brook before the tour.
Our own tapestry of relationship – to Self, the Land and Sea, to each other and our lineages, being stitched with every story told, laughter shared, dream realized, tear shed.
For more on the trip that inspired this essay, click here.