Weeks ago, a storm took down a large branch from a chinese elm tree in my front yard. Poor tree; it was once struck by lightening and is not long for the living. When pruning was done last season I couldn’t have the tree taken down. It still grows green if even a little weak.
The branch was green and so not very good for burning. One morning while the sun was out and the air was warm I sat on my porch and began to strip the bark. Elm bark makes for good cordage. That is rope hand twisted from natural fiber, original rope. I had just had my knee fixed and could not walk well nor stand for long. I thought i could heal my own knee’s connective tissue by making cord. I needed to keep my hands busy too. So while I sat still with the familiar twisting of reverse wrap, my wife sat beside me on the porch, then more than six months pregnant.
I remembered the stories that come from the rope makers. It seems the Elm tree in my yard has a story to tell and a lesson to teach.
Prepare the bark. You must tear each piece into several strips very narrow but as long as possible, striping the outer and inner bark away keeping the middle bark to twist. It feels as if you are taking the tree skin apart. Then begin reverse wrap.
That is two strands of fiber twisted in opposite directions around one another. Like people.
Cord is a symbol for relationships, connections between individuals to form something greater than any one. Each twist and each wrap must be made carefully and tightly or the rope will snap with light pressure. The cord must be mostly uniform, withstanding stress from one end or the other. See? As we grow in relationship each experience binds us tighter to each other. If we rush or take sort cuts that relationship will break with the lightest of stress.
The cord is family too. Many frail fibers wrapped or bound tightly together to form an incredibly strong rope or line. Stronger together than we ever could be apart. I sat on a cool early spring morning turning a fallen elm branch into a long cord meditating on relationships and family. I had daydreams about my child I am about to meet. What will I say and do as a father. How might our family grow. I am about to be a father. Just a few weeks left now.
May we all make each twist strong and lasting that our bound may never break.