In order to weave any kind of textile, the weaver needs to start with the warp threads. Warp threads tend to be stronger and more coarse, because they must be able to withstand tight stretching. They also provide a core of support for the finished piece, giving the textile body and form. The warp is stretched onto a loom before weaving begins, and it may be coiled onto a spool for very long or large projects. This spool is unwound as needed, while the finished weaving on the other side is rolled up to get it out of the way.
You know how you know some things, but you’re not sure how you know them, and you’re pretty sure that what you know is probably a little off base but still it makes you sound like you know what you’re talking about (unless you’re talking to somebody who really knows what you’re talking about)? MmmHmmmm.
I don’t know much about weaving. I do own a rather dandy antique spinning wheel. Two in fact. One of them won the blue ribbon for antique furniture in the Idaho State Fair one year. It was displayed in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building one summer, right in the middle of that big round table in the center of the massive marble lobby. It has a nice skein of flax on it, with a little leader twisted onto the spindle and bobbin. I’ve used the wheel once or twice, just to remind myself that I know how it works. I probably couldn’t work it right now without really thinking about it, and probably Googling it. But if we had to we could spin wool and flax at our house, I guess.
My cousin was a weaver, if I recall correctly. She had a large loom right in the middle of her living room. She showed us one day how she did it; stretching strands of tightly spun wool across the loom, left to right, creating the warp. Once the warp was set she used a variety of colored threads to weave in and out of the warp, pressing a pedal with her foot, raking a comb with her hands in a rhythmic pattern that involved multiple pulls toward her chest. The loom clicked and groaned as she worked the fibers in and out of the warp. Her work was meticulous and beautiful. Mom bought some place mats from her, and I purchased a nice neutral colored shawl made of linen and silk.
Anyone who really knows about weaving will think me silly to write about weaving; but I have this image of my family that involves a loom and even though I’m probably off base in what it represents in symbolic terms, I’ve had this picture in my mind for a long time; and since the word for today was “warp” I decided to go with it.
The thing about a warp that means something to me is that someone sets it, with their own hands. Someone selects a particularly strong fiber, tightly spun to give it additional strength. Someone uses their muscle to stretch the threads across the loom tightly. A loose warp makes for weak fabric. The character of the warp fibers are usually pretty universal. It’s the waft, the more delicate fibers woven through the warp, that provide variety and color and pattern. Waft is interesting, and gets a lot of credit in the Ooo and Ahhh department. But it’s the warp that does the labor, that takes the beating - flipping up and down as the waft is woven in and out of it. It’s the warp that bears the tension, and it’s the tension that facilitates strong fabric.
Tonight we shared dinner at a restaurant here in Puerto Penasco, Mexico; a fine Italian restaurant overlooking the ocean, situated on a bend in the beach where the sunset can be seen through the west wall of windows. Our friend Neal introduced us to the owner, a man named Julio, who is the District President in the Mormon Church here in this area. He was gracious and friendly, shaking our hands and looking into our eyes with that familiar warmth of one who loves God and his fellow man. David paused as they met, then asked if they had met before. “Were you at Jared Parker’s house in Salt lake City, grilling shrimp last year…during General Conference?”
“Yes. Yes, yes! Were you there?” The pitch in his voice raised slightly with the excitement of recognition.
“Our son John is married to Jared’s daughter, Ashley! We met you at the Parker’s.”
Julio took David’s hand with both of his, shaking it in that warm and meaningful way, like when you have a deeper respect for someone.
“Ah, you are the parents of John? Oh, that John is a hard worker. A fine hard worker. Very good man, John Connors. I knew when Neal said Connors there was something strong in that.”
Julio nodded his head, as if to add an exclamation point to his words.
John and Ashley come with the Parkers and dozens of other people, sometimes a couple times a year, to help build houses for underprivileged Mexican families. Their non-profit organization, Families Helping Families, facilitates those who want to work for a better life, not by handing them what they want, but by working alongside them. They give up their vacations, even pay their way to come, pay for materials, and sweat their hearts out for two weeks, leaving grateful families with solid walls and doors and windows around them.
When John was 16 he helped our neighbor Ron lay sod. A volunteer service project. Ron came over to tell us how much he respected our son for the hard work he did, without complaint, and longer than most other teenagers were willing to work. This only represents one aspect of who he is, but it represents the same dependable selfless intensity evident in the whole of his life.
John is warp in my weave.
Libby spent yesterday driving our mom and sister to Provo to be with our brother and his family. Our sister in law Cyndy was diagnosed with lung cancer, though she has never in her life inhaled anything but the residual smoke of a campfire. Libby understands there are times we just need to be by each other, not to fix things, just to “be.” Our mom is wheelchair bound. Libby lifts her, dresses her, takes care of her personal needs, showers her. She makes her food, and cleans up afterwards; manages her medicines and makes sure her feet are covered when she finally settles in her easy chair. All this while she takes care of the rest of us; making sure we are all ok, making us feel important and loved. Today she spent the time between caring for Mom reading to a neighbor rendered speechless from brain cancer. She listened and talked to our friend’s husband, who is struggling to accept the inevitable. I have six siblings and she talks to every one of us at least once a day. No one understands me like Libby does; and she loves me in a way no one else can love me.
Libby is warp in my weave.
My ever faithful mother, pilot of the Pontiac Rocket and keeper of the tenderest places in the yearning heart of my youth; she is warp.
And David; and Sherry and all my sisters. My tender, strong and brilliant brothers. Each one of my capable, loving, inventive and intelligent daughters, their spouses, their children. These are the strands that are stretched over the loom, steady and strong and dependable. All of them strong enough to handle the tension necessary for a good weave. I lay myself beside them, allowing myself to be stretched as well, hoping I am strong enough to bear the tension, too.
The daily grind, the talents and trials and trips and treasures all color the delicate fabric that weaves through the warp; the waft. This trip to Mexico. Our time in Michigan. Our Sunday dinners around Gram’s table. Our Saturday afternoons in ball fields. Our moments on stage and in front of the stage. Dull and repetitive hours spent at the kitchen sink. Irritating tense moments trying to figure out how to make our kids , ourselves, do things we don't want to do. These make the story of our lives colorful and interesting. But they are all held together by the warp. And as warp, we understand the need for tension. Not that we love it. But we understand the need for it. Without tension our guitars would not sing; our vocal cords would not give us pitch, and the fabric of our lives would give way with the slightest tug.
Great Weaver of all things good, use us well. Spin us into good sturdy thread, strong enough for the most meaningful looms. Stretch us tightly beside each other; then weave.