It all began with one one person and one simple idea. Let's learn a new craft.
Rachel called me and invited me to join the group. She wanted to teach Swedish Weave. And of course, my response was, "what is Swedish Weave?". (Just Google it, it's awesome.)
And with that, we embarked on a brand new journey -- something each one of us longed for -- to stimulate our creative brains, venture into new territory, connect with like-minded women, and enjoy each other's company along the way.
It was perfect female symbiosis.
So on a lovely May afternoon six of us gathered in Rachel's kitchen, in a huge, homey farmhouse worthy of hosting a hoe-down, a family reunion, or just a cup of coffee between two friends -- the kind of place where it was obvious that both family and friends were welcomed with love and with food. Decorated in a rooster motif and outfitted with an oversized, harvest table, Rachel's kitchen was a perfect venue to learn the art of creating anything -- it was, in modern parlance, ground zero for crafting.
An integral part of learning something new, I found, was learning about the people who shared your quest for knowledge. I am proud to say that as I learned, I made new friends.
Irene, Rachel's best friend, was a person who easily attracted others. Her smile was endless. She always smiled, even though she found the craft challenging and at times frustrating. Her quiet perseverance was a lesson in itself. She set the standard for all those who want to give up when it didn't come easily. I could see that Irene was a friend to be cherished. By the end of the course, Irene had comfortably mastered the fine art of Swedish Weave.
Ownie's smile and kind disposition was like a blanket of warmth. As soon as she was introduced to me, Ownie made me feel like I was not a stranger to her. She never failed to comment on my progress, ask about my granddaughter and include me in the conversation. As it turns out, Ownie is a grandmother herself several times over, and as she worked on her piece, she filled us in on the granddaugher who had requested the colours she was using. One of them liked vibrant reds, greens and yellows, another opted for greens and blues. It was obvious that Ownie's work on her craft was purely a labour of love.
Sheila, Ownie's daughter-in-law, has sparkling eyes and an easy laugh. She was by far the most advanced student of the class, and the work she turned out made a beginner student like me most envious. She had already mastered the craft and had gone on to use other materials, like metallic ribbon and more advanced patterns. Sheila's work made me want to do more. She was an inspiration.
And then there is Helma, a sparkly personality who seemed to be up for any challenge. Helma was energetic, positive and diligent. She said that at home, she leaves her work out on the table and instead of sitting down, she regularly stops what she is doing to work a row on her piece standing up. Incredible! Helma always brings her sweet Bischon Frise "Baron" to class with her, and I have to admit, I was in heaven when Baron decided to "wash" my feet under the table. His rough little tongue made me feel that even I was one of the family!
Our teacher, Rachel, is one of a kind. Absolutely, Rachel is the hardest working person I have ever met. She rises before dawn to bake pies and desserts, cans hundreds of jars full of fresh vegetables and fruits, runs a highway market stand, and helps with garden and crop work on the farm where she lives.
And yet, Rachel has an outlook on life that should be emulated by all. Feisty and opinionated when she needs to be , Rachel is as soft as butter. She is generous with her time for family and friends, is a cook and baker extraordinaire, and I firmly believe she is a person who can master anything she puts her mind to. I thank my lucky stars that by accident, or by design, I met Rachel. And you should see what she serves us for afternoon break! My mouth just waters at the sight of her strawberry custard pie, keeflies, carrot and apple cake and all manner of homemade, oven-fresh delicacies.
If all that is not enough to refresh the soul, the conversation around the table as we stitch is filled with the most useful information. I learned that there is a "flat cabbage" that is invaluable for making cabbage rolls because the leaves don't have tough veins that have to be cut out before rolling. I found out that the supermarket sells a mix that makes a sauce for strawberries and other fresh fruit, so that your shortcake looks really professional. And I find out where all the freshest, most reasonably priced produce can be purchased from local growers and fellow farmers. Between us, we exchanged views on spouses, family, current events, recipes and bargain-hunting. No subject was taboo and ideas and opinions flowed freely.
Needless to say that, in the end, I feel I am the luckiest person in the class. These are incredible, accomplished women who give so much to their family and friends, and, I suspect, ask much less in return.
So who is the richer for this experience? Quite likely all of us, but most definitely, me.