…[Y]ou always have love to share. Always. There are no limits to the amount of love we each carry inside ourselves, and in fact, the more we give, the more we have to give. — Deborah Blake, Everyday Witchcraft
Upon reflection Madi should have known what to expect when the mob came for her. After all, one did not spurn the advances of the Mayor’s son without facing some sort of consequence. To be fair, she told herself, you did more than spurn Tobor. She recalled taking the boy’s knife from the sheath around his waist and threatening to geld him should he grab her again. She had supposed she would be made to apologize or serve on some mission of mercy to the poor. It had never occurred to her that she would be banished from the village.
Be glad that it’s only the Unicorn you’re getting, she told herself. In her great-grandmother’s time, dissident women were accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. The thought was no great comfort as she knew most maidens sent to the Unicorn killed themselves after their wedding night. Others were found days later wandering without their wits. Those poor girls ended their days abused and killed by bandits. The thought of losing her mind scared Madi more than the thought of death. She had witnessed death plenty in her nineteen years: first her grandparents to the Red Fever, then her mother died giving birth to a stillborn boy, and finally her father the past spring—killed in a dispute over money.
Madi sighed and adjusted the pack on her back. She was allowed to take only what she could carry. Everything else, her family’s cottage, their grazing plot, even their old nag was to go to the village. From where she stood, at the outskirts, she could already hear the wagons rumbling up to the cottage. There was little satisfaction to be had with the knowledge that they had owned little of value.
“Better get on with you,” said the guard who had been sent to escort her out of the village. He would stay at his post until tomorrow to make sure she didn’t try to return. To insure that she wouldn’t just run away to another village, she had been marked with the symbol of the Unicorn, a spiral in the middle of her forehead. The skin itched where the symbol had been charmed on. It would not come off with scrubbing or herbs. If she were caught in another village she’d be stoned for shirking her duty.
“Once it was customary for the Unicorn’s bride to be escorted to the nuptial bed by a procession,” Madi said. “She was given a new set of clothing and women would cook a feast for the newlyweds.”
“That so? Well I think everyone is too busy to cook your feast. Move on now.”
“Give it away give it away give it away give it away now.”
Give it Away, Red Hot Chili Peppers
As singer Anthony Kiedis notes in his memoir Scar Tissue, a girlfriend once gave him a jacket of hers, because she thought giving things to the people she loved made her life better. “It was such an epiphany that someone would want to give me her favorite thing,” wrote Kiedis. “That stuck with me forever. Every time I’d be thinking ‘I have to keep,’ I’d remember ‘No, you gotta give away instead.’ … Every time you empty your vessel of that energy, fresh new energy comes flooding in.—11 Misinterpreted ’90s Songs With Lyrics With Lyrics That Totally Went Over Your Head As A Kid, Gabrielle Moss
It started with a scarf. I had a dozen or so fleece scarves sitting in a plastic bin, remnants from when I had an embroidery machine. Some I tore apart and turned into rugs. I didn’t have it in my to destroy the others, though. One in particular, soft green sporting an embroidered spiral goddess, deserved to be worn rather than trampled on. On a whim, I mailed the scarf to a friend, a pagan who hated the winter cold as much as I do. I didn’t tell her it was coming. I didn’t even know if she had received it until she posted a picture to Facebook. The sight of her smiling face struck a chord deep down inside of me. This was right.
I have always liked giving gifts. As an introvert dealing with anxiety issues, it’s a way of expressing love that is safe. I especially enjoy making gifts: something beautiful, something soft, something that will last and raise a smile every time it is used. Giving a handmade gift is giving a piece of myself to someone, a permanent way to say “I love you.”*
But when you are trying to make a living through your handiwork it can be hard to divorce your creative efforts from the dollar sign. Every hour you aren’t making inventory, you aren’t making money. Every day you aren’t working on a commission you are failing by capitalistic standards. I love you’s don’t put food on the table, after all.
The push back, however, is that we aren’t just meat-robots. Humans need to feed more than our bodies. Especially those who deal wit depression and self-loathing. Creating for the sake of it, gifting to others, is more than a rebellion against art as a commodity, it is an act of self-preservation. It is a way to balance the current, often crushing expectation for every aspect of our lives to have a monetary value with the absolutely essential need to establish that people are priceless. Human creativity doesn’t come with a price tag.
It was a couple of months after I mailed off the scarf that the idea of Random Acts of Craftiness gelled. I posted a picture of the Eighteen Panel Skirt on Facebook and a couple of friends brought up the idea of a trade. Their crafted goods for my own. Then later, I posted the Majestic Fucking Unicorn cross stitch pattern and two more friends requested completed works. I said yes in both cases. Yes to engaging in a craft exchange. Yes to sewing a message of support and love for people I care about with no expectation of anything in return.
Granted, saying yes was easier than the follow-through, at least at first. The balancing act between money and love has tipped more often than not in the favor of money. I’ve had to steal time from myself to finish projects. But with each one completed, I have felt how right it is to do so. There are kinks in the system, of course. Finishing works and getting them out the door has proven a stumbling blocks as well. Getting out of the house to the post office can be extremely difficult. Slowly, though, love is leaving this house in parcels.
And in return, love is coming into this house. A crocheted turtle sits in my workshop now. Every time I see it I smile, think of my friend, and feel that I am loved. I will fill this house with books and family and reminders that there are those out there who believe their time is worth more than money, their creativity has no price tag.
*I am not the only one in my family who does this. My sister sends semi-regular packages to me filled with cookies and other goodies she has baked.