Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Clan Hats — Coleen O'Connell

While happily knitting away during one of our cohousing meetings, I realized that I could knit a clan hat for every person - child and adult - that would become a Belfast Cohousing and Ecovillage member. In our small coastal area of Maine, you will know the clan by their hats. How was I inspired to take up such a task as knitting everyone a hat?

Years ago, on a visit to the Hudson Bay area of Quebec, Canada I was on the Cree Indian Reserve and stepped into an indigenous craft store. If you want to learn about a culture, I have discovered, check out what crafts they are engaging in... what artforms are they producing and sharing? I wasn't disappointed in my exploration of the Borealis Craft store as I left with a local photographer's night time photograph of an aurora borealis similar to the one I had experienced the night before in that vast expanse of northern sky. What was also in my bag was a finely crocheted cornflower blue hat, banded with a zig zag design emblazened boldly in bright contrasting colors complete with a large tassel hanging from the top. Aside from being beautiful, it was the label sewn into the hat and the story that came with it that sold me.

I had purchased a "Pang" hat made in the Inuit settlement called Pangnirtung on Baffin Island. Baffin Island lies off the coast of Quebec but is officially part of the new Province of Nunavat. Pangnirtung is situated on a deep fiord that cuts through the mountain peaks of the Penny Ice Cap from Cumberland Sound to Auyuittuq National Park. Located at the arctic circle, the Inuit people experience long, snowy, dark, cold winters in this climate. Living close to nature and each other, the Inuit women had identified a brilliant way to locate their children, husbands and relatives at a glance in the snowy, all-white terrain... they each chose a color & a design which they knitted into hats and mittens their family wore. One glance at the children playing outdoors and they would know if any of the bundled children were theirs. Or one look out onto the waters to see what kayaks were coming home would inform them if it was their husband or father. I was humbled with the knowledge of how people in community all over the world come up with creative ways to solve problems.

I cherish the idea that I own a Pang hat of an Inuit family. My hat came with the information of the family to whom my hat design belonged and also a thank you for contributing to the cottage industry that was helping to sustain their community. I was invited in the brochure to enjoy the warmth and beauty that came with these clan hats.

It was in one of these first meetings of Belfast Cohousing and Ecovillage that I realized that the colorful jester hats I love to knit with Maine Peace Fleece could become, like the Inuits, a tribal hat for our forming Ecovillage. We are in the process of building a village with the intention of living together in one place, while raising our children, and listening to the land and our elders as we figure out what living sustainably really means. As one member commented a few weeks back, "We are doing something really BOLD, RECKLESS and CHALLENGING." Maybe not living at the edge of the sea on the Artic Circle, but no less living on the edge of our culture as we explore what it means to bring the old concept of neighborhood back into our lives, to live intergenerationally caring for both young and old; living sustainably in energy efficient homes, and growing as much of our own food as the Maine summer allows us. What will living sustainably really look like at Belfast Cohousing and Ecovillage?

I am excited and proud to be part of this bold, reckless and challenging project. We must come up with new structures of living if we are to birth the ecological era that is calling to us. May what we are forming at Belfast Cohousing and Ecovillage last 12,000 years and beyond as the Inuit culture has. Someday the children will be asking, just where did this design for a hat come from? How did our family end up with reds and greens and their family end up with blues and purples? Let us hope we are knitting together something that will endure and be generative. You too could have a clan hat!

No comments:

Post a Comment