"The human soul is hungry for beauty . . . When we experience the Beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming. Some of our most wonderful memories are beautiful places where we felt immediately at home. We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul. For a while the strains of struggle and endurance are relieved and our frailty is illuminated by a different light in which we come to glimpse behind the shudder of appearances and sure form of things. In the experience of beauty we awaken and surrender in the same act. Beauty brings a sense of completion and sureness. Without any of the usual calculation, we can slip into the Beautiful with the same ease as we slip into the seamless embrace of water; something ancient within us already trusts that this embrace will hold us."
I recalled this passage while looking at the swatch of cotton in the photo above. I dyed it yesterday using quebracho red dye extract. There is something so soothing and grounding about the color and about the purity of this simple piece of cloth with its raw edges exposed. It evokes "a sense of completeness and sureness," as O'Donohue writes; something deep, perhaps ancient, is awakened within me when I hold it.
The cloth and the dye to color it came to me from Kristine Vejar of A Verb for Keeping Warm, whose book, The Modern Natural Dyer, was released this week. The Quebracho tree, I learned on page 17, is a member of the sumac family and grows in Central and South America; its dye is readily available to us.
I was the editor of The Modern Natural Dyer so this information is not new to me. But the experience of placing my cloth in a pot of water in which I had dissolved the dye and simmering it on the stove for an hour, then cooling and rinsing and hanging it to dry—being part of such a simple act—brought it to life to me in a way that has enriched my day. I welcome this beauty, which feels like a homecoming.