It was one of those days when you happen to be driving in a neighboring town, and suddenly something catches your eye. You find yourself pulling to the curb, and before you know it, you are out of the car heading into a shop. That was the day I met Miriam.
At first, I had not noticed the sign until I was about to pass by. The word “weaving” caught my eye, so I found myself turning around and heading back to the square. As I pushed open the heavy glass door, a bell tinkled somewhere deep in the back of the shop. The door closed with a decided rush behind me; all the cacophony from the street was sealed out, and a sort of hush enveloped my senses. Then I started taking in the shop. All around me, at various angles spaced about the floor, were looms, some large with benches set before them like piano stools. Some of the looms were small but intricate, with what I would later learn were multiple heddles and harnesses.
Miriam emerged from somewhere behind one of the larger looms, striding toward me with dignified confidence that belied her eagerness. You see, Miriam was one of those people you meet who, once they know you share their love of whatever it is that makes them tick, cannot help but become animated in their zeal for sharing. And share she did. I do not remember what happened to the rest of that afternoon, only that I was suddenly drawn into the world of fiber, color, texture, and textile. Having just moved to the area from out of state, I was lonely and longing for connection with a kindred spirit, and God must have heard my unspoken prayer.
Though I lived a good distance from her shop, Miriam and I agreed that afternoon that we would meet on a regular basis. She was thrilled to have a willing student to add to her small collection of budding weavers and artists. Over the course of a few years, we navigated the beginnings of a friendship that would take us into the worlds of weaving and painting. More importantly we both had a desire for God and, most especially, Jesus. I was eager to learn, and so was Miriam. We had so much in common but came from divergent backgrounds culturally and socially. She was old enough to be my mother, yet we each had much to learn from one another. Each week when we met, we would start off with instruction on the loom. But over time, our conversation would turn to more spirited topics during the long hours spent together in the shop and the quiet studio behind her home after she retired. Together we explored our faith journeys as well as the questions, doubts, longings, and discoveries that come with time.
If you are willing, my daughter, you will be taught,
and if you apply yourself, you will become clever.
If you love to listen, you will gain knowledge,
and if you incline your ear, you will become wise.
Stand in the assembly of the elders.
Who is wise? Cleave to her.
Be ready to listen to every narrative,
and do not let wise proverbs escape you.
If you see an intelligent woman, visit her early;
let your foot wear out her doorstep.
Reflect on the statutes of the Lord,
and meditate at all times on his commandments.
It is he who will give insight to your mind,
and your desire for wisdom will be granted.
Sirach 6:32-37 (pronouns were changed from the original text)
In the eighth step of humility, St. Benedict teaches that “a monastic does nothing but what is sanctioned by the common rule of the monastery and the example of the elders.”*
When I moved to my new community, I was desperate to find others with whom I could connect and find common interests. It took a trip through a different town and divine intervention to meet someone who became a touchstone in my life, which led me into a future I could never have planned for myself. On this journey, our friendship took each of us deeper into the realm of faith outside the expected and predictable. Over time, we learned to trust and share with one another our different experiences, all within the context of realizing as different as we were, we shared a longing and desire to know God and Christ. Our lives were enriched by unexpectedly finding each other and becoming friends. However, it was the outcome of renewed faith for both of us that we treasured even more. Miriam was certainly an elder for me, who I think of whenever my path intersects with someone different from me who shares a common interest. For us, it was the attraction of the fiber arts that brought us together, but we would both say our lives were divinely woven together with purpose and by…. surprise!
*St. Benedict’s Rule, An Inclusive Translation and Daily Commentary, Judith Sutera, OSB
By Noel Poston, Oblate OSB
Image from sweetgeorgiayarns.com