Feather and Stone Journal Of A Cross Cultural Traveler

Grandmother Spider

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From “The Red Thread” by Jennifer Atlee Loudon…A WFP Iter in Nicaragua during the 1980’s.

Grandmother Spider is fundamental in many Native American lore traditions and spirituality. She was primary in teaching the Human People about fire, pottery, weaving and spinning.

I climbed into the silent darkness of solitude and northern winter, rolling a stone across the mouth of my cave, so no one, nothing more of the world could come in. I wanted to shut out all that I had seen during the war. I wanted to sleep and never wake up. But the stone could not keep the memories out. They seeped in through crevices and welled up from the earth. They came to me in the cave – memories, faces, spirits, the dead. There was no escaping then. So I surrendered. I listened. I remembered. I cried and, with my tears, honored all that had been desecrated. They showed me why I was dying and they told me I was going to have to live again.

They showed me that life is a sacred fabric into which we are all woven. Each of us is a thread inextricably lined to all others. War rips a gaping hole into this fabric. It cuts deeply into the being of those who endure or witness it. It also cuts deeply into those who perpetuate it. War desecrates what is sacred. The fabric of Nicaragua was virtually torn to shreds by the violence unleashed on it during those eleven years.  The sacred fabric hangs in tatters.

During the decade of the I 980s, my life was woven into the lives of the Nicaraguans with whom I lived and worked like a richly entwined braid. The war slashed at this cord, severing friend after friend. The places where their lives had been so gently pulled into mine were cut off- ripped away, leaving ragged, frayed edges.

The task for me has been to begin mending – to reach back into the severed places in myself and reconnect with what was lost. To gather the loose and gnarled threads and begin to touch them, run my hands over them, lay them straight again, generate new strands to attach to what is left of the old, and slowly mend the holes. Grandmother Spider, 7 master weaver, who links past and present, showed me how to work like her – to spin new thread out of myself The future lies inside of us, she Says. We must spin out the pain, the grief; the mourning, the anger, the rage, the disillusionment, the despair. Spin it out until a new thread starts to come – clear, strong and healed – a thread with which we can weave anew the sacred fabric.

In 1988, four years after I’d first come to Nicaragua, I was pregnant and could not keep up with the physical demands of my work in the war zones. I spent the year working for the Guatemalan Church in Exile whose offices were in Managua. During that year, as invisible hands knit a child in my womb, I sat in front of a computer translating the testimonies of Guatemalan victims of military repression, Their stories were brutal, grisly and endless. During that year, descriptions of horror beyond belief entered my ears through tapes gathered by priests working clandestinely in the highlands and jungles of Guatemala. Day after day, I strained to hear soft voices, telling unthinkable stories on crude recordings. I rewound the tapes over and over again, careful to catch every word, every detail, and to work their statements onto paper, into English and out into the world.

In retrospect, I realize that the life being spun in my womb provided a balance to the stories of artrocities that were spinning in my head. Grandmother Spider says that this balance must be maintained in order to survive. New thread is spun even as the weaving is being unraveled and destroyed. Guatemalan women know this. In the midst of genocide and ex the women had one constant request of the international community traveling in and out of Nicaragua during the embargo… Red Thread. They needed Red Thread. Vibrant Mayan Red. The Color of Blood. The Color of life. Even as their people and culture were being massacred, the women are asking for one thing. Red Thread. They had to keep weaving. So I sit at my computer and try to spin and weave. My read is bloodied and stained, coiled tight inside of me. I pull on it gently, coaxing it out. little by little it comes – memory after memory, face after face – with it comes anger, pain, grief; fear, despair… but above all great love. I have to keep spinning it out. I want to get to the Red Thread.

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