I spent a day with Widya Harsana in Ubud, Bali learning the ancient art of batik tulis. Batik waxed by hand with a chanting tool is known as batik tulis. It’s the oldest, most traditional form of batik. A pattern is drawn in hot wax onto a piece of cotton or silk cloth. When the cloth is dipped into dye, those parts which have been treated with wax will not take up the color of the dye - leaving white lines and space where the wax had been.
Struggling to carefully apply hot wax with the small chanting tool, I frequently dripped wax in the wrong place onto the design I had carefully pencilled onto the fabric. “Ugh. I made a mistake.” I said with frustration as I dropped another blob of wax onto my fabric. “No,” my teacher said gently. “In batik, there are no mistakes. You just draw this wax into the design.” And he showed me how to turn my unwanted blobs of wax into soft shading for the flowers in the design. It turned out beautifully.
Too often we try to cover up our mistakes, hide them, or erase them quickly before anyone notices. That was my first impulse - to try to scrape the wax out of the fabric. But my teacher showed me that that would just make it worse - creating an even larger area of unwanted wax.
What if all our mistakes simply become part of the art that we call life? In batik, there are no mistakes. What about our life?
I am making you a scarf
in your school colors,
my hands stained by blueberries
like the ones growing near your porch.
Eating them now I remember
how you called my name,
excited to discover the first fruits,
how you inspected each berry,
picked the sweetest ones
and gave them all to me.
What am I doing?
Do I imagine there is some magic
in recalling the sweetness
that will make you remember too,
some power in my hook and yarn
and blue-specked fingertips
that can stitch us back together
before cold weather comes?
I want to believe it.