Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Beauty in a Windsor knot

A woman folds a cloth; I am transfixed.

At our church, a long strip of coloured fabric – a stole – hangs over the lectern so that the tails face the congregation. The tails are sewn with images evoking the church season. On Sunday we celebrated Pentecost, so the stole was red and decorated with dancing flames.

And on Sunday, we had a guest preacher. As happens every week, the preacher placed the stole over his shoulders before speaking. As happens every week, when he finished he placed the stole back on the lectern before returning to his seat in the congregation. And although he didn't just flop the stole back onto the lectern and although it wasn't left in a crumpled heap, it was crooked and awkwardly short, and the hand sewn flames were no longer visible.

After the sermon, we have a time to pray at different stations around the room. While people slowly moved about the space, I saw a woman, the gifted seamstress who made the stole, walk quietly to the lectern, pick up the cloth, re-fold it with her skilful hands and, in a single flowing graceful movement, drape it perfectly over the lectern again.

Because our worship space is flat and we worship in the round, her act was unobtrusive. Yet it was utterly beautiful, prayer lived out, and I was transfixed.

It took me back to stories of the women who tended the body of Jesus, or who found the tomb empty with the graveclothes neatly folded. I thought of Joseph and his coat of many colours and the gifted hands who sewed it for him. I was reminded of the time each week when we set the table for communion, and the cloth is floated over the table, then smoothed down ready for bread and wine.

And then I found myself thinking about how I toss sheets in the air and let them drift down onto a laughing baby as I make my children's beds each week. I thought of hanging out the washing, how I snap my husband's shirts to shake out the creases before hanging them up to dry. I recalled flipping a jacket around my daughter's shoulders and easing her arms into the sleeves, and the way I used to swaddle my babies, folding cloth around their bodies to hold them tight. I saw my husband putting on a tie, and knotting it with a flourish.

And why not?, I thought. Why not see the beauty in a Windsor knot and the expert hands that form it? Why not see the sacred in a square of cloth, in the snap of wet washing, in the dance of tea towels upon the line? Why not see it in the act of dressing a child? These things must be done, so why not pay attention to the way life crackles in the interplay of fabric and hands, bodies and cloth?

It's cold and winter comes. Thoughtfully, I pull on my sleevies and concertina them just so, then spin a long scarf around my neck and leave the ends dangling; my children like to play with them. And then I say quietly, Amen.


  1. This is lovely. Thank you for helping me see the extraordinary in the ordinary.


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