The Fifth World

Baskets

By Giulianna Maria Lamanna

Orchid sat back on her haunches and watched the weaving of the basket: over, under, over, under. Her mother’s practiced hands moved so quickly she could barely see the individual strips of bark as they wrapped around each other. All the while, as her hands blurred by, the strips whipping around on their journey to basketdom, Orchid’s mother sang the basket-weaving song:

They go inside, they go inside,
Once they’ve an inside to go in.
We build the sides, we build the sides,
The inside they’ll go in.
We weave it up, we weave it up
From things that didn’t know
They could meet up, they could meet up
And an inside they could grow.

No one knew how long people had sung that song, or how long we’d woven baskets in this style. It felt eternal, probably dating back to the First World, from the first humans — maybe somehow before that. Orchid had never seen a monkey weave a basket, but they had nimble fingers, and she didn’t see them often. Maybe they’d invented basket-weaving, and the basket-weaving song, and passed both down to the first humans, and since then mother to daughter had passed them down, generation to generation, all the way down to Orchid. And someday, to Orchid’s daughter.

Or maybe not. Orchid looked reproachfully at her thick, clumsy fingers. She couldn’t imagine weaving with the grace of her mother — certainly not the swiftness. She did all right pounding and soaking the bark strips until they became soft enough to weave. That didn’t require any dexterity. Maybe this long line of basket-weavers ended with Orchid and her bungling fingers.

“Come weave with me,” her mother said, interrupting her own singing.

“I shouldn’t — I’ll just ruin it,” Orchid said.

“I know you won’t. The bark will tell you how it wants to lay.”

Orchid looked skeptical.

“Talk to the bark with your fingers,” her mother said. “Maybe at the end you’ll have a basket, maybe you won’t. But the bark seems lonely; I think it wants you to help it join its friends.”

Orchid grudgingly complied. Her mother showed her how to get the basket started, and after that, the repetitive movements came easily — not as quickly as her mother’s, but no less accurate. She wove the strips of bark, over, under, over, under, and together she and her mother sang the eternal basket-weaving song:

They go inside, they go inside,
Once they’ve an inside to go in.
We build the sides, we build the sides,
The inside they’ll go in.
We weave it up, we weave it up
From things that didn’t know
They could meet up, they could meet up
And an inside they could grow.