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A Blue Sky Rainy Day

I woke this morning after a thoroughly restful sleep. I still had the rubber band from yesterday’s dye bundling loosely around my wrist.

In a way, it was the string of memory on a finger. That and the pale blue tint along my nail beds remind me of the glorious day I spent in the garden, in and out of the rain, in the company of a massive Rhodesian Ridgeback with human eyes and the letter “G” etched in fur on his chest and three women who are brave enough to tempt nature’s fates at the dye pot.

From beneath a ten foot tall Elephant palm, Janet’s dye and weaving shed peeks it cheery yellow facade. Doors on the front and side of this cozy outbuilding allowed access to work tables, drying racks and a quarter acre of well-tended, well-loved Savannah green.

We gathered the remainder of wild indigo (indigofera suffruticosa) from a secret corner of Janet’s expansive garden. A small harvest, the branches gifting us the remainder of the indigo greens plus an abundance of seed.

As a hard rain forced us into the shed, we sat cross-legged on the floor, as if around the indigo cauldron on a wood fire. We peeled fresh indigo leaves like the women who snapped peas on front porches. We recognized the magic of a repetitive task, the meditative crush of branches between our fingers. A green air filled the room.

There is nothing like anticipating the dye pot to keep you in the moment.

Well past noon, we took our masks off to share a meal.

And then we are back to work, grinding indigo bars, making an indigo starter, (IF our fresh-leaf refused to give us color), more mordanting (we had a pot of cochineal as well), wrapping, folding... and waiting for the leaves in the jars to become just-the-perfect-shade of green. We saw promise in the deep blue that rose to the top of the jars as they boiled gently for over an hour.

We saw color come alive on wool roving, silk velvet, treasured hankies and threads.

There are many lessons from the day.

Generosity of spirit: our host rolled out the red carpet. All participants contributed and shared materials, information, encouragement.

Patience: waiting for the leaves to brew. Diligence: following the recipe with accuracy.

Persistence: to believe the blue will happen.

Cooperation: as tasks like aerating the dye pot required four kitchen chemists to take turns with the whisk.

Gratitude to the plant, the people and the entire day.

And rest as I realize today that sleep is the reward of hard physical work, a touch of soil and immersion in passionate endeavors with members of your tribe.

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