Little by little the old woman weaves the snowflake … This string of words have wound their way under my skin since I first read them in a hill-top village in Spain.
We were travelling with friends and following our noses through the Rioja area. Despite its fame in the wine industry, the area was easy to navigate and ours was often the only vehicle driving across the beautiful undulations of that countryside. Hills, valleys, vines, dirt roads and no fences; every so often a taller hill had a tower or a small castle where someone profited from a defensive position.
You know the sort of day, you’re all a little numb from so much view, so many beautiful places, the shock of living like a tourist away from responsibilities and work. We wander into the village of Briones. It’s early in the tourist season, and relatively early in the day for the Spanish. The village is immaculately maintained and still asleep. We are dazzled at the enormous Cathedral and stumble across a house which has been reconstructed as a museum of life in the Rioja It’s full of household objects that are so familiar – rolling pins, frying pans, brooms, rakes – the stuff of the quotidian so basic to domestic life, that they haven’t needed to be changed much over time.
It was the word ‘vieja’ which caught my eye. It’s so similar to the word that we use in our northern Italian dialect for old woman – Italy and Spain have had a lot to do with each other through history.
As soon as I Googled the meaning for this saying, I was hooked. It is so true. Patience and persistence can achieve anything.
And women have performed such painstaking miraculous tasks over time. Weaving wonder from wool and straw; bringing family together for food that nourished the body and soul. I think of my nonna, whose life was one of hard physical work, and how readily she could conjure a delicious meal once she had finished in the dairy.
My life is so different and comfortable. But now I too am ‘vieja’, and I have the pleasure of sitting with snowflakes and weaving them into poems.