As the sun begins to ripen, despite the temperature, and the grip of winter tightens and relaxes, tightens and relaxes, we are not yet ready to move out of the inside-time, inside our homes and inside our spirits. For many traditional cultures as well as early modern cultures, this was a time of beauty-making before the pace of spring and summer quickens. It is the period of conception in the cycle of seasonal creativity, as we anticipate the work that lies ahead for this year.
Over several hundred years, we see the evolution of machines taking over human tasks, as progress. Yet, much has been lost. Before the onset of industrialism and consumer culture, people had few daily belongings and tools, each of which were precious. More than that, our tools were honoured. The stone, bone, wood, metal, and fibres were harvested and thus gave themselves to us, to be used to enhance our tasks. They would be asked first if they agree to give of themselves for human purposes. The agreement would be that our tasks would be performed in synchronicity with the cosmic cycles of the heavens and the seasonal cycles of the earth.
For these reasons, tools were ornamented with symbols and stories that expressed the spirit behind the work and behind the apparent world. Then the tools were prayed over, before use. From carved digging tools of the Australian First Peoples to the incising of birch bark baskets of the Ojibway or the painted pottery of early Europeans, from ornamented scrapers and bowls to the ceramic tiles on floors in ancient Greece, these tools and places of work were part of the sacred round, working in harmony with the Earth. Within the last century we still see traces of this, from carved bows of wooden ships to prayer over
lobster fishing boats at the start of the season to
cracking champagne on a new ship or cutting a ribbon for a new building. In all these ways, there is an expression of a deeper purpose at work, a deeper rhythm being expressed.
Even the clothing of tribal peoples, while not much in quantity, was elaborate and conveyed group identity, individual creativity, and belonging to a place, an Earth-based place and an cosmic place. From beaded moccasins and
belts to embroidered blouses and scarfs to woven wool and linen items to handcrafted jewellery, we as humans need to “show up beautifully” before the world of natural beings who themselves are so beautifully clothed (Martin Prechtel, 2012). In this way, we respond in kind to the way the Earth is clothed in grasses, flowers, leaves, serpentine rock and lapping waters. We show up in our gardens and places of work showing respect to the life forms that help us to perpetuate our lives, the purpose of our work.
Our homes have lost the beauty of handcraft as well. We walk into large box stores and pick up home decorating items that match colours or items that may say love and beauty, but they are made by
machines of the cheapest quality, mimicking original handcraft. Most of the home building materials now are composites, as the real materials are dwindling in