I nestle into my quiet spot on the balcony. My book and pencil are invited, as usual. Graphite settles into grooves in the margins of bound paper, all these pages made from former branches cut from the trunk and given new purpose.

Skinny trees along my property line reach long arms toward me. The one nearest offers teeny purple berries.

A picture from the past flashes: stripes of red on finger tips and blotches of purple on the sundress, colors of a childhood summer.

I walk over and snap a mulberry from the twig, close my eyes and let it burst on the tongue. Better than any flavor off the ice cream truck. I help myself to another, then toy with the torn seam of its leaf.

I remember other leaves like this chewed through like swiss cheese. Before the island hopping, my sister and I rode tuk-tuks on dirt roads in the mountains of Thailand where artisans carved out creative pause under open canopy.

There, mulberry leaves fell to little creatures bent over in labor, spinning thread for the loom. It was a sweat shop really, my sister mumbled when we got a good look at the silk worms. So, we got out fast and went on to the happy garden where sunbathing orchids wrapped their roots around splintered wood.

Around the bend, artisans set out new creations to cure in the sunlight before the next monsoon. This product started with mulberry branches torn from the tree, bleeding sugar water, pale flinders cracking in open air.

Women peeled the bark back like skin off a potato and threw the branches into water, plunging them deep. The branches came apart in ribbons the color of newborn skin. There was no rest. It was all rapids.

The ribbons swirled through the metal canal and hurtled toward fangs that gnawed remnants of wood down to pulp. The bits sprawled into a slurry and cascaded down, not looking like much of anything.

But all of the hurry, the movement, the fragmentation came down to this one place. When it looked like nothing but murky water, there were hands that moved sure, ones grooved and browned like the bark of a tree, hands that grabbed hold of a sturdy frame and lifted it from the turbulence and into calm air. Water gushed down from the frame’s wire screen. Feathery wisps settled in, enmeshed. Frenzied fibers interlocked and found rest after  madness.

Without this stillness, there would be no becoming, only falling apart.

Artisans in straw hats arranged the sheets in the sun, each frame propped against another, forming a village of A-frame tents. And in the warmth of day, in the stillness, strands that once came apart in chaos now bonded together in a whole new way…becoming mulberry paper.



Experience the benefits of solitude (and the beauty of mulberry paper!) by winning this beautiful hand-crafted, recycled, fair trade journal and the thoughtful booklet “Write for Your Soul: The Hows and Whys of Journaling” by Jeff and Mindy Caliguire, courtesy of Soulcare. Plus, I’m throwing in a little twig pencil, one of my favorite finds of late.

To enter today’s giveaway, comment on this post before midnight on Friday, June 29, sharing one way you practice solitude in the midst of your frenzied life. The winning entry will be selected at random and revealed on this post on Saturday, June 30.

For more entries, simply “like” Message in a Mason Jar on Facebook or follow @darcywileywords on Twitter and re-comment here to let me know you did so.

And the winner is…Amber! I’ll be including another SoulCare journal set in the Gift from the Sea giveaway at the end of our easy, breezy summer book club. Stay tuned….