St. Placid Priory is a women’s Benedictine monastery in Lacey, about an hour south of Seattle. The hallmark of Benedictine communities is a radical hospitality that extends to all people, and even beyond–to the more-than-human world of nature, and wildness. St. Placid’s has a lovely, quiet guest house, where I sometimes spend a few days writing, or just finding some solitude (anyone can visit–no religious affiliation required!).
On a recent visit, Sister Monika Ellis told me about a market bag she’d crocheted. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. For “yarn,” she’d cut sixty (SIXTY!) plastic grocery bags into half-inch strips. She snipped them in loops, from seam to seam, so they could be strung together like rubber bands into a long, long line, then rolled into a ball. This she crocheted into a strong, beautiful, open-work bag using a free pattern she’d found on the internet. I love how different colored bags were used to create a striped pattern.
Many of the sisters at St. Placid spin and knit wool from the fleece of local sheep, and the resulting creations they offer for sale are often wondrous, but this bag is something new altogether! People want to buy Sister M’s bag, and she says, “You want me to make more of those? Are you kidding me?” But she has provided a demo roll of the plastic yarn, along with directions to inspire people. “If I need something, I always try to figure out if I can make do with what I have first,” Sr. Monika told me.
In Seattle, the city council recently passed a “bag tax”–twenty cents for every new plastic bag we take at the grocery checkout line. Good heavens, from the resulting outcry you’d think they’d told us we had to sacrifice our first born children. The detractors provided some astonishing math. It would cost $1 every time we shopped! In a year, we would spend the same amount on plastic bags that we would have spent on 77 gallons of milk! 200 loaves of bread! (Um, not if we bring our own bags…). It didn’t take long to gather the 20,000 signatures needed to get a “Repeal the Bag Tax” referendum on the ballot.
When I think of all this, and when I find myself feeling unmotivated to make the simplest life-giving steps in my own everyday life–out of laziness, or hurry, or cynicism, or lack of creativity, or even despair, I try to remember Sister Monika, patiently transforming our refuse into something practical, lasting, and beautiful. Thank you Sister!