Anonymity Is A Crime

 

    History
    Ask ten people in a room to define “history” to themselves, to their life and living space, and the chances are good that textbook ramblings or milestones such as children or first homes will come to mind
    History, to a weaver, to a spinner, is something more
    We live in a generational world, where we do everything we can in a finite time that we have no idea the span of, to find success, love, something ‘better’ that only we can see the end means of
    The world that we live on does not allow many means of ‘leaving something behind’ for others to remember us by, and once the last memory of a person is gone, that life is still there, but it is muted, because those who touched, who heard, who shared moments with that person are now second-hand memories to others. Books, video, film, photos...these are means that we try to preserve ourselves to later generations, our own small, but assured immortality
    And then...there was Egypt
    Four thousand years is nothing to the planet we dwell on, a scab perhaps in its billion-year existence, but there were people who sought nothing more than immortality, eternity, a lifetime of servitude to one person, one deity-on-earth. Comprehending it on a spreadsheet boggles the mind, everything that has just happened in the last one hundred, two hundred years, lifespans, medicine, cities and their structure, genetic manipulation to feed and enable others to survive who were marginal to begin with
    Egypt
    Imagine a piece of 1/4th inch plexiglas, cheap plexiglas at that, recessed into an old, worn piece of wood that has warped under time and so many people leaning upon it that it has bent, taking the plexiglas with it, and enabling someone on one side of that wooden structure to be nose-to-nose with something so beautiful, so fascinating, so...unimaginably beautiful and timeless that all you can do is stare beyond the plexiglas, and wonder
    What is the wonder, for a weaver, a spinner, a fiber freak, to stare though that tiny barrier, beyond wood and fabricated pseudo-glass, and behold the work of another. We have all shown our finished products to those around us, the exuberance of finality at last, something finished! One less pile of fiber stash in the closet (time to buy more!)
    Beyond that scuffed, scratched, faded-with-time barrier, is something that the mind cannot comprehend, a gray-brown scratching that any child looks to have done...until you read the small, not-even-hand-sized placard, down near the floor, where, if you walk by quickly, you would miss its significance
    What is that insignificant lump beyond the barrier? Lint? Someone’s hairball that got left there as a joke to the tourists? Shredded coconut coir perhaps, from an age that did not have such things, but probably utilized something similar all the same
    A lump, no larger than a post-it-note, of wavy, wiggly little lines, ragged against two sides, and smooth, neatly attended on two other. What is that, sitting, dismissed for other treasures beyond, Tutankhamun’s gilded glories that are on the same, second floor, and draw millions (or used to) every year to behold its surfaces
    This....this is the gold to a weaver
    This is a remnant of a worker’s woven skirt, blasted to a sooty-brown after nearly four thousand years of sitting, unseen, unnoticed, bathing in its silence in a corner of a tomb for a man whose immortality was assured, as long as his tomb was intact
    What else can you do but stare, breathless, through that plexiglas, at four thousand years of weaving history before you, reduced to a hand-sized clot that other tourists simply walk by, unattended, unnoticed, because it is ungilded, unadorned, silent and commanding little more than a first glance
    A closer glance, after the placard gives up its secrets, reveals that it is unforgiving, unmerciful linen, perhaps crimped as it was washed and left in that means for all eternity, or perhaps woven in a means that they have not investigated closer as yet. Linen, the bane of many a weaver’s hopes for household goods *shudders* linen and I have no relationship on a loom, nor the spinning wheel, but we know one another of old
    A piece of woven linen and I are simply in a moment...someone, four thousand years ago, at the beginnings of dynastic Egypt, wove this, wove it so beautifully that you can see the individual strands of linen, which, upon several crossed eyes and perhaps a mis-count after the fourth attempt due to strain, reveal a possible 100 epi for whatever it was woven with, and on
    They were people, just as us, but this...this makes them real, to someone who grew up adoring all the stories of Tut, of the pharaohs, but here, here is history to an adult. Someone raised flax, retted it, braked it by some means, scutched and combed and spun and wove it into the distressed lump that it remains today
    The tiny placard says that it might have been colored; exposure to the air upon finding destroyed much of the linen skirt, and what tiny bit remains is all that lies for the immortality of a weaver whose name is gone to history...and yet, here they are. Something they made remains, for other weavers, spinners, fiber freaks to gawk at, as others race around them towards Tut and his wealth down the other end of the museum
    Tut dominates the Egyptian Museum of Cairo, on the second floor (the first floor is statues & other large pieces), but on that same second floor are small relics of other people, lesser than the sun gods’ children, no less important, and it is their remains that I am searching desperately for
    The linen clot calls me back several times, but there is another case beyond the remnant, a collection of...of beauty
    Take your hand, turn it, and stare at your fingernails from the side, probably the width, from cuticle to ‘top’ of nail of perhaps the stem of a pansy flower at its greatest width? In several small, ‘tasting sauce’ sized wooden bins, are piles of color, beauty. These are turquoise beads, so tiny that, at first, you are beholding the remnants of a tablet, perhaps, a crumbling chest from the bounty of Tut, down the hall maybe
    The beads are arranged, in each tiny box, by stone type...alabaster, so difficult to work with in tiny means, and there are not many of them there, but the turquoise is overflowing into several of the tiny, wooden boxes. Lapis lazuli demand attention, even after millennia, as do coral and painted wood, probably cedar, or so a small placard at the back of the display case explains in old, manual typewriter style, with several typos that make it all the more beautiful
    This collection of color, faded, cracked, many of the beads collected as an afterthought it seems, draws the eyes to the beads, but to the left of those waves of color, all eleven of them, lies something so precious, so beautiful, that it demands ½ inch plexiglas to protect it, because here, here is history, and not just to the odd, graying-haired tourist lady who stares at it, as if it is the most important thing in the museum, which, for that moment of time and life and existence, it is actually
    The infinite beads were adorning a cotton shroud for an overseer, and were manhandled upon their discovery, and many of the beads were crushed, as they were walked on; the beads in the tiny boxes remain through the kindness of someone who thought to gather them up and preserve them with the crumbling shroud
    The shroud, the little placard says, was wound three times around the overseer’s body, giving it a length that betrays how many beads remain, and to the left of that eye-catching color, lies the remains of the shroud itself, now reduced to an irregular, non-geometric shape some eight inches across and maybe fourteen wide
    The beads are still on much of this piece, as the ragged ends that are trying to slip themselves free of the beading, along the edges, reveal a fabric that seems to have been duck-cloth thick to begin with. They are testimony of a living, real throng of artists...the like of such many of us laugh at these days. The weaver was dependant on the carver of the beads, the polisher, the sander, the metalsmith who somehow wove the filament-thick edge that remains of the shroud, where the beads were pierced at their tops, not lengthwise as in the rest of the weave’s majority
    Did they sing, as they wove this shroud for the unknown overseer, who was taken millennia ago by grave robbers, and this remnant somehow tossed carelessly to the floor, trod upon, ignored, coated with dust and mud and decay of time. How many walked on it, crushing the beads, tearing the cotton that had been perhaps a lifetime’s study of drape and precision; how many ends per inch is not able to be determined due to the beads, as some of them are strung with multiple cotton threads, some with a single, in not enough preservation to count them with accuracy
    Two thousand, seven hundred years ago, this piece of beauty adorned a man’s body, helping him on his journey to the afterlife, with his pharaoh. Two thousand, seven hundred years later, a gaping, gawking female tourist wonders if it was a man who wove it, a woman, perhaps with a curious pair of child’s eyes, and a gentle, older hand taking that tiny one, showing them how to throw the shuttle, how to beat down the shedd. I cried a lot in the museum...I still cry now, thinking about that
    But what makes a weaver, a spinner, unique in what they do? Is it their ability to make something out of nothing? Well, then we have to define ‘nothing’...that being ‘nothing’ in ancient Egypt was wasted, not even the date fronds
    On the lower/main floor of the museum, there is a room of wooden sarcophagus....sarcophagi....sarcophagee? Sorry, it’s early, I need some tea in me soon...but there is a single room filled with little more than painted wood. Paper machaie (sp) was in use at that time, and there are several formed ‘covers’ that adorned the gilded, painted layers beneath, protecting them from dust, and it was hoped, from robbers for eternity
    Apparently, in Egypt alone, there are upwards of 90+ species of date palm, many unchanged in form, flowering or fruiting since the tombs themselves were a thought on papyrus. Each one serves a purpose, not just food and sustenance, but date palms have a story to tell all their own, because they are like any other sweet treat, as they have a dark side to them
    Date palms are notorious for having spines, spines that one can open their hand up, and, lengthwise, still not reach the length of the spines. They are on the fronds as they open, growing with the frond and eventually expanding out to prevent grazers from reaching the delicacy of date fruits. These same spines were used in early medicine, and perhaps for decoration on some ceremonial masks, as traces of them have been found. They made the delicate work of painting easier, with their fineness for getting in small areas, and might have been used, with sticky honey or some other means, to get the hangnail-sized pieces of ebony and mother-of-pearl in some of the chests that have been found
    On that main floor, near the bone-tipped arrows made from local reeds, is a basket, perhaps two feet wide, a foot high, made of date fronds, rolled, strapped together, and tied together in thick ‘ropes’ to form a basket, grayed with age but still sturdy, still holding its shape, its dignity. It is a testament to whomever wove it that it not only remains, but that it was preserved with its contents
    Within, a thick coil of rope, made of linen and what they think to be jute or some sub-species that is extinct at this time (very few items beyond Tut’s treasures have been carbon-dated, because there is no need), or so the tiny, unevenly-typed placard tells, set just above the basket, where only someone beyond the height of six feet can read it (or one’s tall husband...there are some advantages I guess)
    The detail of how they crushed some of the fronds, pounding them perhaps to loosen the inner fibers beyond the thick, outer layers of the date’s base. Pounded, perhaps soaked, and then rolled (on the ground? On the hip?). Here, thin strips of that outer date palm skin were used to wrap the rolled fronds into ‘ropes’, and then formed into the basket, the thickest not at the base, as one would have expected, but near the top, and the finest, smallest ropes at the bottom, hidden in the coil of real rope
    In a flight of fancy, or daring perhaps, someone looks as if, at one time, they carved their name, in heiroglyphics, on one of the inside edges of the basket, but wearing fingers and time have crumbled some of it away, so there is no way to know, to acknowledge, whose this was, who made it perhaps. More the pity...another anonymous item to wonder at, and no one to give the credit to
    China may have the monopoly on farming for four thousand years, & dispute it with Egypt, who also claims the title (for five thousand, not four), but this...this is history to one simple person, on a journey to see ancient sights
    Four thousand years ago, a spinner rose with the sun, and began to spin, just as I need to do today
    Two thousand and some odd years ago, a weaver placed the last bead on a work of art, and stood back and prepared to finish the last ends of a masterpiece
    Is there anyone more humbling than seeing another’s work, the piece of another person’s soul on display...and being unable to speak their name, and thank them