Last night began the second annual quilters' retreat at Camp Keola. Last year a group of women from North Fresno Mennonite Brethren Church met there for an informal communal quilting retreat. This year they will be joined by women from Mennonite Community Church. It's quite a sight to see these ladies, young and old, with their projects spread out over numerous tables throughout the dining hall; Fabrics in every imaginable color and pattern, notions and sewing machines, clippers and pins. Tables of food and fruit and cakes and pies and cookies and snacks line the back wall, and coffee and tea are brewing all day and all night. All the while the ladies are working and carrying on the conversations of community.
The days at Huntington Lake now are clear and cool, and overnight temperatures dip into the high twenties. But the big dining hall is heated and as cozy as a large community teepee. I can imagine women and girls of the long-ago tribes sitting together cross-legged in their community teepee with their leather or bead or craft projects on their laps, contentedly working and humming and carrying on the conversations of community in the native ways.
Sue does not really have the energy for this yet. But she is there, among them, camped out in a canvas easy chair, wrapped in coats and blankets, with a hand-stitching project on her lap, listening and laughing and enjoying the comeraderie. And napping on and off. There is something healing about community. It's like an aromatic, warm balm.
Jessica is there, too. She's almost finished a dress and is starting a new quilt. Jessica needed help putting a zipper in the dress. Sue did not have the oomph to get up and show her how to do it, so Dotty showed Jessica. That's part of the beauty of community -- the whole village chipping in to help each other, to show the way, to teach and learn, to share stories, share a laugh, share a meal, and to share each others' burdens. For Jessica they are all surrogate moms and sisters.
It will be a busy weekend, but measured. Women creating beautiful quilts, sharing lives, making memories. Tom Hunter's song "Weaving" puts it like this: "We are weaving, weaving, weaving the future from the fabric of our past." These ladies are weaving the fabric of community, and it's a crazy, durable, strong, beautiful fabric .