On October 1st, all the members of the Wednesday Group gathered at our site on the Hudson for our last regular meeting. We will never disband (famous last words!), but we will no longer meet on a monthly basis. As the saying goes, “there is nothing more constant than change,” and we have all made peace in our own way that the Wednesday Group must endure some growing pains. We made plans for smaller groups to meet on an adhoc basis, and for the entire group to convene once or twice a year going forward.
I don’t normally write about my personal experiences with Archie, or the Wednesday Group, but on this occasion I feel very moved to do so. I hope you will indulge me!
Over the past several months we have all been working on an idea that Archie concocted. For the past couple of years we have been staying for a communal Chinese take-out dinner after class on Wednesdays. Archie wanted to recycle the growing number of used chopsticks left over from these dinners, so he made each us of a loom with 15 chopstick warps. He charged us with the assignment to weave a face.
At our last meeting almost everyone had delivered their chopstick portraits. Some of us really enjoyed the challenge and made some chopstick warps of our own so we could do more than one. We were all surprised to see that it was easy to identify who wove each one of these characters! We have all developed a pretty clear individual style! Can you guess which two are Archie’s? There is a wonderful sextet of maneki neko not included here. So, stayed tuned….maybe one day they will have a public appearance!
Archie planned a lovely farewell to us, although most of the group may still be wondering what that message was! On the last day of class he brought in a completed tapestry that all of us had seen at different points during its making. It’s a poem that Archie decided to weave ‘in code.’ It is one of his many explorations of language and meaning. He is fascinated with how easily humans can read many different font styles in printing and many different handwriting styles. He wondered how well anyone could ‘translate’ letters into colors and read his woven message. He brought the tapestry for us to see and for us to decipher.
This challenge brought out the puzzle solver in me, but I did not decipher it before the end of class time. As Archie wrapped up the tapestry I took a photo of part of it in its plastic covering.
Very shortly after class, four of us were sitting together at a lovely spot on the Hudson River, puzzling over the code that would unlock this woven poem. Two of us came up with a possible answer and then all of us began testing the idea. We were right! I’d love to tell you what the poem is, but Archie wants everyone to have the challenge/pleasure/torture of figuring it out for himself.
We were going to meet Archie and Susan for dinner in a matter of moments, and one of us had the brilliant idea of singing our own farewell to Archie at dinner. When we got to the restaurant the four of us surrounded him and sang our own farewell song to him. Not only was it obvious that he knew we had broken the code, he also seemed very touched that we had thought to do it! Yes, it was a bit embarrassing in a busy restaurant on a Thursday evening. Yes, it was corny! The upside was Archie’s wonderful reaction and the applause we got from the other diners!
It’s never easy to say goodbye, and for some of the Wednesday Group, it is a goodbye after more than 20 years. For the four us who had the good fortune to have this last dinner with him, and to wish him our own personal goodbye, well…..it just could not have been any sweeter!