We’ve just sent Spider Woman’s Children: Navajo Weavers Today to press. It will be three months before we have actual printed copies in hand, but in the meantime I’ll be pruning my files: the stacks and stacks of paper, heaps of books for reference, gigabytes of words and images that tend to pile up as a new book takes root. Three thousand, three hundred fifty-nine photographic images (which got pruned down to about 125). I’m not even going to count the myriad versions of text as it passed from me to Karen to our copy editor Katie Bright to our designer Michael Signorella to the authors, and back around the circle many, many times. I know there were fifteen different versions of the design, each one a little more refined. Most of these reams of paper and swarms of e-files have to go!
I’ve had a different kind of pruning in mind lately, the kind of pruning that heralds new beginnings. A few weeks ago in the Miao village of Basha in Guizhou Province, China, I saw a youth, about sixteen years old, having his hair cut with a scythe. (With a scythe!) The cutter shaved him close all around, but left a long patch on top which became the topknot that marked him a man in his community.
And sorting through photos and text created by the Young Weavers of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, I found a remarkable shot of a five-year-old boy being baptized prior to having his own ritual haircut, a process that lasts for five days and involves multiple trimmings and gifts and feasts and general celebration of his transition from babyhood to competent childhood with all its attendant new skills and helpful chores. Juan Pablo Huaman Huaman’s ordeal mirrors the hair cutting of a six-year-old girl described in Libby Van Buskirk’s Beyond the Stones of Machu Picchu, beautifully illustrated by Angel Callañaupa. Hair cutting seems to have a theme of sacrifice and redemption and new beginnings across many cultures.
But back to pruning the Spider Woman files: it’s happening just in time to make room for a new project, a textile traveler’s guide to Guatemala by Deborah Chandler, scheduled for release next spring. I can hardly wait to dig into it, watch it grow–and alas, six months from now, begin the ritual of pruning all over again.
Discover more Andean folk tales in Beyond the Stones of Machu Picchu: Folk Tales and Stories of Inca Life. Available at ClothRoads, Amazon, and at your favorite indie bookstore.