Regular Onions

This was a piece of textile art I began in 2012. I attended a natural dyeing workshop with Kristen Ingemar through an organisation called The Australian Forum for Textile Arts and dyed a piece of silk with onion skins and cotton (a couple of pegs were the resist that made the lighter coloured square shapes). We were given a chance to sit quietly with one of our pieces and make something more of it. I was given the word ‘regular’. Onions are quite regular. They are used in nearly every cuisine in the world today. They are bulbs that grow up from the ground and nourish and bless our plates with flavour.

At the time I had also been reading a book called The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon, an Episcopalian Priest who loves both food and it’s Giver deeply. He writes a poem in Chapter 5 ‘Wave Breast and Heave Shoulder’ that takes the reader on a journey through creation … mineral, vegetable and animal, seeking to point out that sacrifice of life begets new life. This is a truth deeply embedded in the Christian understanding of the human condition and most fully exemplified in Jesus’ life. Capon insists that somehow, Jesus is both Lion and Lamb, priest and victim … and that is how life is to be lived. Taking in creation that it might be offered back to God and others in sacrifice.

It is a wonderful poem but now back to my onion. I had been asked to reflect on the word ‘regular’ and had this onion-skin dyed cloth and so, I reflected on the very ‘regular’, very ordinary nature of soil sustaining plants, which sustain human bodies, physiological beings with spiritual life intimately connected to our physical well-being. The words ‘tov, tov, tov’ are also a quote from Capon, the Hebrew declaration of the goodness of God’s created world that is both deeply physical and deeply spiritual all at once (this time from a different book, The Third Peacock.

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