Books and an Anniversary

First the book. I'm slowly catching up on my stack of books-to-review. This week I picked up The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius, from Storey Publishing. (Disclosure: I know both authors. Which matters not a whit in this case: I'd write the same review regardless. This book blew me away.)


I have dabbled in knitting over the years, and once enjoyed weaving on thumping floor-looms. But I am not a passionate fiber-crafter. So I didn't expect to fall in love with a book touted as a fiber encyclopedia, covering more than 200 fibers, "from animal to spun yarn." Until I saw it.

The book is beautiful, chock-full of stunning photos of glistening fibers and the animals that produce them. The layout is lively, with lots of sidebars and graphics. It's informal, with a kind of scrapbook, but no scrapbook I've ever seen is so enticing. (It's also priced reasonably, at $35 for over 400 heavily illustrated pages.)

It's the writing that kept me turning the pages of The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook though. The breed-by-breed text is not only encyclopedic, it's passionate and informed, but never preachy, and threaded with fascinating stories about each kind of animal and its relationship to humans, from history and folklore to the art of breeding and the facts of fiber-science. It clearly flows from boundless research and a well of love and respect for the creatures who produce our fiber.

The book also introduces some surprising topics. The first chapter, for instance, "Fiber Fascination," lays out the authors' passion for natural fibers in detail, and what could have been a dry, technical discourse is instead an engrossing read, including the slow food/locavore movement as it applies to fibers (imagine being able to dress locally!), and why conservation of livestock breeds we've never heard of is important to our future.  

For more ont this intriguing craft-book cum cry for conservation cum fiber encyclopedia, read the full review on Story Circle Book Reviews, the largest review site for books for and by women.


Then, the anniversary, not one I ever imagined experiencing. Today marks two months since the love of my life, Richard Cabe, died here in the home he helped design and build for us.


(The photo above is our shadows at sunset on our last trip to Carpenter Ranch in northwestern Colorado, where we were collaborating on a large public garden that will "re-story" the plants that tell the human and natural history of that extraordinary place.)

Let no one tell you that time is linear. It is anything but. My life is so different without my love that it feels like years since his death. At the same time, I can't believe two whole months have passed.

I'm not bored. I'm pulling together the material for another memoir, revising a book proposal for a practical, personal and spiritual book on living well in hard times, dealing with after-death paperwork (it seems endless), and supervising renovations as I work with Colorado Art Ranch to prepare our guest cottage and Richard's studio to welcome artists, writers, and scientists in the Richard Cabe Terraphilia Residency program, which will start later this year.


Just as I didn't imagine ever having reason to note the two-month anniversary of his death, I didn't imagine being Woman Alone. But I'm content, even happy. It helps that I live in a house full of Richard's work, from the sink in the guest bathroom he sculpted from a gorgeous pink and black gneiss boulder rescued from a nearby roadside, to the sandstone ledge that juts out of the chiseled block wall behind our bed, my own personal cliff overhang sheltering me as I sleep in the bed he built for us.

Richard and I were swans, paired for life and beyond. Apparently, not everyone understands that sort of enduring bond. I had a very unsettling experience recently with someone I trusted as a friend, and who must have thought "alone" plus "female" equaled "pining for male comfort." He was wrong.

In some ways, I feel like the amaryllis bud in the photo below, each petal slowly unfolding. I don't have a clue how long it'll take me to grow enough cells to bloom in this new incarnation, or what I'll look like when I do. But I'm determined to bloom well, and long.



Woman Alone

While I was away in Miami the week before last, I came to a sobering realization: I've been half of a couple essentially all of my adult life, almost two-thirds of my years. (I'm 55 years old. Richard and I were together nearly 29 years, and I was married once before.) There's nothing wrong with that, if couple-dom is healthy and nurturing, and my time with Richard was certainly that. Still, what it means is I have no practice in living alone.

It's not that I'm not independent and capable. This morning when I got up and opened the blinds, clouds masked the eastern horizon–there would be no solar energy to heat the house. So I put on my bathrobe, cleaned the ash pan in the wood stove, took the ashes out to the metal bucket on the back porch, and then chopped kindling and firewood, and made a fire.

Then I checked the temperature in Richard's studio to make sure it was warm enough (there's a woodstove there too), did yoga, cooked my hot cereal, and got on with my day.


Which included finally taking the lights off the solstice tree and hauling it down to the creek bank to re-vegetate an eroding area, hosting our little Quaker/Buddhist silent worship time, replacing an attic vent that chinook wind gusts blew askew, paying bills, filling out yet another after-death form (I swear that paperwork is the only eternal thing about our lives!), adjusting a squeaky door hinge, calling my dad and helping him sort out problems with his computer, and making dinner.

Once I would have had Richard's help. I can do many of the things he used to do, but there's a lot I can't do: I'm not Ms. Fix-it (though I'm learning); I can't use power tools (Raynaud's syndrome long ago took the nerves in my fingertips, so I don't trust myself); I couldn't design or build my way out of a paper bag; I'm neither big nor brawny.

But I'm smart, determined, and I have friends and neighbors who are happy to help. (Thanks especially to Maggie and Tony, Jim and Rynn, Kerry and Dave, Bev, Lisa and Tim, Jerry, Susan, Toni, Doris and Bill, Grant, Bob, and Mark and Brenda. You all are wonderful!)

Still, at the end of the day (and the beginning, in the middle of the night, and much of the time in between), I'm alone. On my own with whatever decisions, fears, challenges, and issues that may come up. That's new. Richard and I handled most everything together. Sometimes that made things difficult, but we worked it out; we learned to forgive, and to trust each other. 

Even when he was bedridden, and frustrated that he couldn't do the things he had always done, we talked everything over. His brain might have been severely impacted by the glioblastoma that killed him, but his mind never lost its brilliance.


Now he's gone. At first I assumed I would simply continue on the path we walked together. Now I realize that since his death blew a hole in my life, I have an opportunity I didn't anticipate: I'm no longer part of a pair. I'd rather be with Richard, but that's not an option. So I'm going to explore what this new role of "Woman Alone" holds.

That title, by the way, comes from Margaret Coel's Shoshone/Arapaho Reservation mysteries. Woman Alone is the name bestowed on one of Coel's main characters, Arapaho lawyer Vicky Holden, for her solo status. It's not necessarily meant as a compliment. But it could be. I like Woman Alone better than "widow," a word that comes from an Indo-European root meaning "empty." Just because I'm without a man, and specifically, without the love of my life, does not make me empty. At all.

When Richard was healthy, our path was was a matter of mutual adjustment to reconcile sometimes divergent needs. After his bird visions revealed his brain cancer, our direction was guided by helping him live well for as long as possible.

Now I'm alone, charting my own life-path. On I go, mindful of the grace in this ephemeral gift of life…