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The Spinning Ways of Fate

I'd call this an essay...don't do them that often, but it was a pleasant thing to write, nonetheless.


The drop spindle spins round and round, twisting the roving I'm using into a white woolen thread.  It's what I do when I'm tense, or upset, or have a project in mind.  It makes me feel connected somehow to the long line of women before me who spent so much of their lives doing just this, spinning thread to clothe their families, and maybe, sometimes, have some left over for sale.  

Spinning.  In the book of Proverbs, the worthy woman is noted for her skill at dressing her household, at spinning and cloth production.  Helen of Troy sits with Menelaus and the son of Odysseus, spinning.  The only work a Roman could demand from his wife was spinning.

I pull the thread out of the soft white mass, watch the fibers loose and unconnected become tight and strong.  Wool is my favorite to spin, because it's easy.  It probably wasn't the first fiber spun; some sort of plant fiber, wild flax or hemp is probably the start of regular cloth making - it took a while to breed sheep that were woolly enough to bother with, but it's easy.  It almost spins itself.

A weighted stick, that's what a drop spindle is, a stick pushed through  a round weight called a whorl  near the bottom of the stick or the top, or somewhere in the middle...that was what dressed most of the world through most of the history of cloth.  Something so simple, but enormous in its use.  I watch mine, a top whorl, turn round and round.

It makes me think of Klotho, one of the three fates, and perhaps the original of the Greek Fates.  Klotho, the spinner.  Her thread spins out the length of our lives, turning the unconsolidated events into a tale with a beginning and end.  The thread of life, continuity moving from one bit of fiber to the next - even Zeus couldn't ignore her.  He too was not immune from the passage of Fate.  Sometimes, when spinning, I ponder the lessons of fate as a spinning - all that twisting.  No gain without pain, maybe, as the events of our lives pass by - sometimes a piece of burr gets spun in, or the thread gets knotty, overspun, or a bit of fiber gets too thick, making a weakness.


Suddenly, as I am getting ready to wind up this bit of thread, my fingers do something wrong, and the thread breaks, and the spindle clatters to the ground.  With a soft "damn" under my breath, I pick up the spindle, find the nearest good place, and give it some extra spin, retwisting the fibers where they loosened, and carefully reconnect it to the unspun wool, spinning it carefully to make sure the thread will hold, and start pulling out fresh thread.  I think of Klotho again, and the ways of tales and life and thread, and wonder idly, how often she does that, too.