How did it all start?
A blog post I wrote in the fall of 2015 tells the story of how Paradisaea came to be.
It was a Saturday in July last summer. The sun was high, the sky was open and glass-coloured, and we were driving somewhere in Western Finland. Both boys were asleep and I was deep in thought.
Mom was sitting in the back seat between the boys.
“How difficult exactly is it to weave?”
“Not too bad”, she said. “No, not really. Why?"
Why? A very good question. Why had I suddenly, without a real warning, developed a persistent idea that I should take up weaving?
It makes no sense. All I know is that I was enthralled.
I tried to talk myself some sense. I already had a piano, a guitar and a drum. Even a saxophone sitting in the corner of the room, throwing sad glances on my direction whenever I passed by. I could go jogging, do drawing, or whatever. If I was in need of a hobby surely I could pick up something easier. Weaving? Where’s the idea?
What would be the point of getting myself a loom - a massive jigsaw of heavy wooden pieces - and trying to press trough the process of putting some kilometres of yarn on it and trying to produce fabric? I borrowed some books from the library and what I was able to make out of them was that weaving is intimidating. So many new words. So many funny-looking objects. So many complicated-looking phases in the process.
But the thought wouldn’t leave me. I was fascinated.
I opened my laptop just to see if there were any looms for sale. Just to see what the market is. It appeared there is a market of used looms and a pretty good one was for sale nearby. I started to feel ants crawling on my skin, some deep thing underground starting to gather movement, a tension building up.
It took me several weeks to negotiate with myself. Was it just one more way of trying to escape reality? Would I get the loom and the heap of yarn and then realise that it wasn’t what I hoped it would be? Would I drop it like the other things?
And yet the thought wouldn’t leave me.
Thinking back I think I know now what it was about. To tell the story I need to go back a few years.
The last four years have marked a time in my life and in the life of my family that I wish we don’t have to experience again. In these three years I’ve been pregnant three times, given birth to two children and witnessed two of my closest people go trough sudden and unexpected cancer treatments. Most of us are survivors; there was one miscarriage in a very early stage.
We have two awesome boys and my loved ones survived the treatments and for all we know are doing well now. Something changed, though. The understanding of the fragility of life came upon me. Death knocked on the door, came in uninvited, left heavy footmarks on the floor and a calling card and said: Before long we’ll meet again and that time I might not give you a forewarning. He seems to have gone now, but before leaving he marked our minds with the understanding of the shortness and unexpectedness of life.
It’s not a bad thing. I feel now that it is a prerequisite of a right kind of understanding of life. No-one knows how many days we have left, and to be able to live with a meaning it would be helpful to appreciate the fact that everything can come to an end in an abrupt way. It’s a good lesson, though not a nice one. Also I know and understand that we got away with it easily. There are many families with a lot more tragic experiences, with a lot more painful situations. Death, fear and sorrow happen all the time and I have a deep sympathy towards those who are in the middle of the battle now.
However, the past years left a stain in my mind that I did not recognise for a long time. It happened slowly. I started to get weary, gloomy and tired. I assumed it was the normal tiredness of a mother, but it seemed to pull me down towards the ground, tie me up and prevent me from existing in the way I wanted. My soul got tired. Like I would look at life trough a dirty window glass; the landscape seemed grey and dull and uninteresting. It took me a long time to understand that the correct term would be a depression of a kind, but now I understand that the feelings from the past years were just too much. Un-dealed with they piled up as a stash too heavy, and my mind started getting wobbly under the load. Like a fabric stretched too wide, it started to break.
I am a theologian by occupation with education in writing and journalism too. Somewhere along the way my theology left me, as well as my words. I experienced an emptiness that left me lonely and anxious. Somewhat like when you were a child and got lost in a supermarket and for a moment the panic was real; the feeling of being lost forever and being abandoned.
I say my theology left me, not my faith. I had my faith still, loaded with new and painful questions and only a few tentative answers. Or there were answers, but they didn’t take away the hollow place inside of me. Somehow what I had learned did not speak to me anymore. Language got broken. I had difficulty in writing anything or hearing anything from God. Just silence, no talking. The form it took for me was pretty much a constant state of anxiety.
So I spent time inside my mental supermarket walls, trying to find security between the aisles, trying to find that Someone I used to rely to. For a long time everything was empty. Then something changed.
I didn’t recognise it first - it was something different and new. I can only describe it as a hunger for beauty. I started reacting to beautiful things. It was a bit awkward first because the easy way to deal with the desire is to want to possess beauty. To get stuff. Soon I figured it’s not a healthy approach, but was left wondering. There was this aching abyss in me, an empty deep void in need of something, but buying things didn’t fill it up.
I feel now that it was God trying to teach me a new language. He saw my sudden muteness and loss of words and took up a different angle.
I hung to it for dear life. I started looking at things trough that thought.
Where is beauty? What is it really like?
God, has this something to do with You?
It must have something to do with You. You’re the Creator, aren’t You? You must know beauty.
So surely beauty is a godly thing…?
So trying to pursue it is not bad, is it?
How does one do it?
There’s more to say about beauty, but right now I’ll just say that it seemed to become a new way of understanding God. Or at least a sign pointing towards a road that had some light on the horizon. I started hobbling in that direction.
And here we get back to the loom. I am an enthusiastic babywearer and the world of woven wraps is familiar to me. The beauty of handmade fabric has fascinated me for a long time. And for a reason I cannot quite comprehend the act of weaving that fabric myself really, really lifts me up. And it seems to work. I sit here with brightly coloured yarns, watch the colours blending in to each other and I see beauty. It feels like water, fresh clean water after a dry season. Colour therapy? Or then a new language.
And still my deepest reason to take up weaving is not the fabric but a thought of communication. Sitting with my loom is a place where I seem to be able to exist more freely. I wish for this to be a sanctuary of a kind; a cell like they had in monasteries; a place where to withdraw. I want to test this new language. I’m going to sit here and talk to God until I start to understand His answers.
I came to the end of most of my theology and I need time to understand it again. But conversation will never stop, if I don’t choose so. I know He’s talking. My deaf ears are hurting to hear again.
So I’m starting a journey to find out what beauty has to do with God, how He speaks of Himself and whether it really is possible to have a conversation with Him here and now.
I call this the Paradisaea Project. Paradisea stands for the genus of seven species of birds-of-paradise, found in New Guinea. For me they are a symbol of unexpected beauty and the insight of an artist; amazingly beautiful creatures, signs of some original beauty meant for the universe but often lost. And I call this a project ‘cause I don’t yet know what it will become.
For now it is enough to be here, weave and listen.