This book tells two stories -- of a woman, then of her daughter, notated as bits of poetry, each corresponding to a feature on a so-called calendar string.
The Yakama women historically did not have a writing system other than the on-going string representing their daily life, featuring knots, beads, shell, and other items. This was a lunar calendar and the strings would collect into massive balls over time. A newlywed woman would have her calendar string started for her by her mother.
To understand this custom and to get in the spirit of it, we the volunteers and the friends of A Small Garlic Press decided to give away with each book copy a string that we wove. Our press run of 449 books means us weaving of 449 individual strings over time. We just dispatched to Paul, the author, 150 to match his 150 author's copies.
This left us initially with a depleted supply of 40, but here comes Polish cavalry to the rescue! 100 new strings were woven in true Yakama spirit by Marek's mom -- and, more than several by his dad. They both took extra liberties with some strings, weaving in brass buttons and fleece, and B. Callaghan, our dear friend from Boston, attached fall leaves to hers, while Therese Leigh wove feathers into ends of hers. In all, we have had help from an array of people, listed in the book save those who wove later (parents), including Marek's Halina Poswiatowska-translations gurtrix, Asia in Poland, who additionally wove a special spectacular Baltic cord string with raw amber and wooden beads, but that's another story (and a string) for another time.
As long as we keep the book in print, so long we will produce strings, one per book. We say so in the book itself. If you did not receive a string or lost it, we will weave you one, just write us.
Obviously, this is a labor of love for us, which unfortunately, also requires a discussion of pragmatics: Given how few of us there are and the distances involved, we will not fill massive orders, and we will shun resellers altogether. We will understandably take great pains to avoid alien to us middlemen, other than an occasional bookstore ordering for their customer.
Strings: The Lives of Two Yakama Women in the 1800s (fragment)
Long ago, I too wondered
if the bleeding would ever stop...
To cleanse myself, I bathed
in an icy stream, ashamed
that I stained the water.
Later that year, Doka promised
himself to me
Kwona has returned
to our round hut. She sits
quietly on the floor,
weaving a tule mat.
A young man has been leaving
love charms for her.
I saw him putting pine gum
on a hemlock, so he could tangle
the feet of a hummingbird.
It is said the miniature heart
is the best charm of all.
Copyright © October 1998 Paul Brooke
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Copyright © 1998 A Small Garlic Press. All rights reserved.
Created 1998/12/28. Updated last on 2008/5/2.