Being Green: Loving, Creating, Caring For, and Preserving Rugs (and Memories)

Before I immigrated to the US, I had never heard of the concept of being "green."  Yet it was a philosophy and guiding principle that my family and my community closely followed.  There is perhaps no better material embodiment of this green philosophy than the role that handmade rugs, kilims, cecims, soumaks, and other textiles occupy in our homes, our families, and our culture.

Starting when they are just wool on a sheep's back, the traditional process of rug weaving is one that elevates the use of renewable materials sourced locally, privileges the skills developed by local ancient communities, and virtually eliminates the need for renewal or replacement for generations thereby reducing waste.  Handmade rugs and kilims, intrinsically, are the perfect example of living green.

The rug pictured above was woven by my grandmother for my mother's dowry.   My parents gave it to my wife and me when we married - I suppose it was a part of my own dowry as well.  My grandmother wove it in red to symbolize love; included the traditional flowing water motif around the perimeter to symbolize that just as water holds life, water holds this knotted gift; and decorated the rug with a seven mountain floral motif which symbolizes the mountainous region from where my family originates.  To a casual observer, this beautiful rug looks like it was just cut off the loom.  The colors are still so vibrant, the pile almost as thick as my grandmother knotted it, and the designs as crisp and meaningful well over half a century later.  For sure, as far as rugs go, this piece is not particularly old or rare.  But for our family, it is as precious as anything we have or could ever have.  Style preferences may change with the decades and fashions may tempt us to follow what glossy pages from a magazine tell us are the hottest trends.  But if being green is truly what's in style now, then holding on to our past has never looked more fashionable - or beautiful.