What is a Spirit Trail?

After I quit my successful career in commercial real estate in Washington, DC, with the birth of our son, I realized that I wanted to reconnect with my creative "roots" and find a new profession where I could work from home, satisfy my artistic side and let creativity be the driving focus of my days. While my tenure in commercial real estate was quite beneficial in may ways ~ I learned how to create and manage huge income and expense budgets, manage vast commercial office portfolios, negotiate leases and contractor bids, make presentations, meet with clients, and manage an office of 15+ employees ~ it was also stagnating to my creative side. I felt stuck in many ways, and really yearned for the creativity and inspiration I'd enjoyed during college.

As I reacquainted myself with my knitting hobby and starting delving deeper into textile arts, I came across a book written by Noel Bennett, published in 1974 and entitled "The Weaver's Pathway, A Clarification of the 'Spirit Trail' in Navaho Weaving." In it, she described a concept in Navaho weaving called the weaver's pathway, loosely translated by some as the spirit trail. To quote Ms. Bennett:

"There is an intriguing detail in Navaho weaving which invariably captures one's interest. It is so unexpected that upon first encounter one may take it for a mistake or imperfection in the weaving, and only later learns that is it actually an intentional on the part of a weaver - a fulfillment of an old Navaho "superstition."

"In its most common form, this detail appears as a line passing from the background to the selvage in bordered rugs. And though its presence has long been noted, and variously labeled, its real meaning and purpose remain elusive.

"The most usual occurrence of the Pathway is in rugs in which the internal design is enclosed on all sides by a border. At some point in this border a thin, usually broken line of a contrasting color (that of the inside background) penetrates and provides a Path through to the outside: in effect an opening in the border.

"The idea of insuring an opening in a border is not unique to weaving, nor it is of recent origin. It is an inherent feature of many aspects of Navaho life and was noted as early as 1902 by Washington Matthews as a "spirit opening" appearing in Navaho basketry, weaving, pottery, and ritual."

There are many nuances to the meaning of the weaver's pathway, but one particularly stuck with me at the time, which was the summary of the weaver's pathway in the book, "And so a complex concept emerges from a seemingly simple line - a concept involving the weaver's fear that in channeling all her energies and mental resources into a rug with an enclosing border, she may encircle and thereby entrap her spirit, mind, energies and design. In jeopardy are future loom experiences: the continued use of design, the well being of weaving muscles, and of paramount concern, her vision and sanity. The moment of Pathway is a moment of liberation, of peace, of security ` and a wish for the future: may the next weaving be even better."

There is some question as to where and how the translation of this concept became the "spirit trail," and how accurate it is to the overall meaning of the weaver's pathway. But for me, this translation spoke to the place inside me that I had to put aside during my commercial real estate career, which was my love of creating, and my desire to free the artistic part of my temperament from the feelings of stagnation and disuse I experienced for so many years. The concept of an opening that would allow my creativity to flow from one project to the next, opening up the future and all its creative potential, was exactly what I was feeling I needed at that time in my life. A way to get back to the creative person I remembered, and a path that would keep me on the road of creativity and inspiration.

I think it is essential for each of us to listen to our intuition, and work to support all the different aspects of our personalities, all the different characteristics of what makes us unique and special. For me, I had ignored my creative side for so long in pursuing a career while, while successful, lucrative, and impressive, didn't begin to fulfill my deepest dreams and goals. From a purely financial standpoint, leaving commercial real estate might not have been the best choice. But from a sense of personal growth, of expansion versus stagnation, of creating a life I enjoy and we love as a family, it was the best decision I could have made.

Not to be too woo-woo, but this was where my thoughts were focused as I was leaving my professional vocation and dreaming of a creative, artistic avocation which could actually help support our family. I wouldn't really trade the years I spent as a professional career woman, because I learned so much about budgeting, running a business, meeting deadlines, being organized and professional in my dealings with others and my work habits. I use all of these in one form or another every day in my creative pursuits, in bringing them from what was once a hobby and a dream to an actual thriving and creative business venture. And so, I named my business Spirit Trail Fiberworks, to always remind me of why I'm here, my dreams and what inspires me every day. My own personal trail of the spirit (and there I go, getting all woo-woo again).

Jennifer