I had some faint idea when I asked the director of the small museum of local history here if I could spin outside why I wanted to do it. Today was the second time and it was full of the things I imagined could happen.
I had just sat down when the antique dealer next door showed me a picture of a painting of a local artist of a spinning lady. This is local garb from the 1800s with the black jacket, the colourful shawl and the embroidered board in front of the chest.
Then the first cruise ship tourists passed by. An American musician who taught music history asked if I knew Schubert’s song “Gretchen am Spinnrade”. He said it was always taught to students, because the piano accompaniment represents the turning spinning wheel, and when she is so lost in emotion that she forgets to treadle, the piano stops as well.
Now that I looked it up, it turns out this is Gretchen from Faust, the lyrics are by Goethe. Gretchen is a short form of Margarethe. My grandmother’s name was Grete, it was supposed to be Margarethe, but her father was too drunk by the time he got to the registry office to remember that. Everyone bought him a drink to celebrate the birth. True story.
People are just happy seeing someone spin. It is a magical sight. Today it was windier than I expected, I could have used my woollen shawl and was only wearing the cotton and silk one I had just made, because I thought it would be warm. Figuring out what to wear for spinning… again, I don’t want to wear something too traditional. No embroidered boards for my chest, thanks. But I do love a long flowery dress.
After many nice conversations, lots of children happily watching for a bit, tourists from absolutely everywhere, an Irish lady stops by with her husband. We chatted a bit about yarn from Donegal and knitting patterns from the Aran Islands. They went into the museum, I kept doing my thing. She hovered a bit and ended up sitting down on the bench next to me and singing me song she knew from her mother.
I managed to keep it together for a few seconds, then the emotion of the situation just got to me and I had to get the tissues out. It’s ok for you Irish people with your music and songs, but we’re just not used to being sung to in Germany.
She left and came back to ask my name, I asked hers.
Her name was Margaret.
How do you even talk about a day like this?