May Your Soul Be Cool

My mother was visiting over the weekend and she and I slipped away for a few hours to go see the Mood Indigo exhibit at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

I have been looking forward to this exhibit as I have three treasured indigo pieces (in addition to my favorite jeans): an airy maternity dress I still love to wear, a cloth I carry with me as a park/picnic spread my sister-in-law Rebecca brought me from Senegal and a tablecloth made in India that I found at Maiwa in Vancouver.

We wandered among the many and stunning textiles, reading about each piece. In addition to finding great quotes from Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Tom Robbin's Jitterbug Perfume and Star Wars, I came across this found poem, so fitting for hot August days:

Sacred Shawl (Ulos Ragidup), ca. 1900
Cotton; warp resist (ikat): supplementary
weft; natural dyes including indigo
Indonesian, Sumatra, Batak culture.

Sacred honor is bestowed 
whenever this type of shawl 
appears in Batak communities. 
It is a technically remarkable cloth 
with complex iconography 
that carries great significance. 
Wrapped around the shoulders 
of a person in transition 
(at weddings, for pregnancy, 
and other life changes), 
it invokes speeches by chosen 
people whose great knowledge 
enables them to carefully 
observe the cloth and divine 
a way to enhance the wearer’s 

May you partake of the fat of the fat of the land.
May you find a wallowing hole with no leeches.
…a clearing with no mosquitos.
…a grazing spot with no gnats.
may you be like the bamboo growing in the mountain valley.
No wind to bend its growth.
May your soul be cool.

…Seven generations free of catastrophe. Health! Coolness! Long life to all of us!

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