Spinning Straw, Weaving Gold:
A Tapestry of Mother-Daughter Wisdom

by Isabel Anders

John Hunt Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-780-99461-1.
Reviewed by Laura Strathman Hulka
Posted on 08/07/2012

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration; Nonfiction: Relationships

A daughter to my mother, a mother to my daughter, the circle spirals ever onward, and this thoughtful book of "word paintings" by Isabel Anders provides much to mull over and ponder upon.

Beginning with the introduction, Anders talks about spinning and weaving, the evolution of wise crone-words, and the nature of this theme in the lives of women. She also addresses the all-too-often belittled value of the stories of women ("old wives' tales" told by "spinsters") and the desire to not only express the worth, but also the innate beauty, wisdom, and power of feminine thoughts. As Anders states, "Can we then propose that the blended elements of women, work and wisdom—and even of age and endurance—be reconsidered for our time in new and fresh lights?"

In each segment of this book, a dialog between the daughter and the mother (who are seen not only in their relationship to one another but also in the light of crone-to-maiden conversations, which enrich all the lives they touch), the daughter questions or seeks enlightenment on mundane yet worthy questions. "How will I know what Work I am to do in the world when I leave our Home?" "Where is the Center of things, and how can I get there?" "Does life become easier as you increase in years?"

The mother interacts, replies thoughtfully, and teaches her daughter the nature of spinning our lives into form and shape. "The strands of your adult life are being gathered together, day by day..." "It is where love resides..." "...each day she must still sweep the rooms, tend the fire, and spread the board." The book is rich with metaphor and parable, wisdom that reaches beyond mere words, into the realm of heart-felt answers to questions that have unsettled women for millennia.

The biblically-based book is occasionally made less palatable by its focus on biblical teachings, for the message truly transcends any one religion or school of thought. There is little mention of the interpersonal relationships between the sexes, although the mother does say, at one point, "...It is all about balance. Too heavy a hand in any work can limit the outcome. Perhaps this is something that women can teach men." Yet the interplay of how the relationships between us, our weavings, and the incorporation of others' creations affect the pattern of the whole is also a subtext here; for in learning to spin our own life-story, we are also learning how to include the texture and thread of another.

This small book (43 pages) comes with questions for study groups that will enhance the readings in the book, and make the book intimately sharable. These conversations, between two women, could as easily be connecting two sisters, two very close friends, or a guru and disciple who are working together to teach one another, and enable each other to find their eventual "finished work." A gentle meditative reading, this book lends itself to a variety of uses, depending on the enrichment you seek.

Isabel Anders has authored more than 20 books for adults, children, and young adults. She has been Managing Editor for Synthesis Publications for twenty years. Find out more on her website.

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