Cordage Dreams in the Sun

May 11, 2022 - By Linden Thomas

I first learned to make cordage from the fibres of the Linden tree, after which I am named. The fibres were gathered from the trunk of a large, dead tree, then soaked in water for a long time, even months. The process of twisting these threads together, which had grown stronger through their preparation, was a way for me to connect to my identity, to the beautiful tree I am named after and the many gifts it offers.

As I recounted my experience to a group of wide-eyed Foxes at a recent Pine program, I passed out raffia fibres (a type of palm tree from Madagascar) and slowly demonstrated the pattern of rope-making to the kids, over and over until it clicked. There’s a certain comfort that comes from the repetition in cordage: left side twisted away then over, away then over, away then over. The task drew even the most energetic and talkative kids in, quieting their minds and bodies as we twisted fibres and basked in the afternoon sun.

When we were happy with the length of our ropes, it was time to put them to use. Our newly created cordage would work perfectly to hang up the seed-covered pine cone bird feeders we had made earlier that day. With their feeders now complete and the day coming to an end, the kids looped them around their fingers and ran to show their parents, eager to hang them in their backyards.

I smiled, remembering how special I felt bringing home gifts I’d created when I was young. I reflected on the subtle, almost invisible growth that I’d seen while making the bird feeder gifts that day. In practicing cordage, the children wove new learnings into their own identities. They practiced patience and persistence with the repetitive and at times tedious task. They felt a sense of accomplishment at having created something on their own, and joy from sharing the results of their efforts with their family. They connected to skills that our ancestors needed to survive and formed an appreciation for the ways the earth cares for us. They may not have been weaving with fibres of their namesake, but their cordage experience deepened their connection to identity nonetheless.