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  45 Mordant For weeks, we combed hillside, creek bank, and fencerow for blossom, root, and husk gathered in burlap and baskets boiled, stirred, simmered with lye, salt, soda ash: mordants that fix beauty and require fibers remember madder red, golden yellow, walnut brown, and Nature’s loveliest prank, pink from lacy, gray-green lichen. The wind bites past the clothesline looped with tangles of yarn and billows of fabric drawn from white enamel pans, black iron kettles, and galvanized tubs perched astraddle three hearth stones each—the Mayan symbol of womanhood. My mountain grandmother knows nothing of the Maya but kens the pragmatics of balance in a three-stone hearth on this day of low skies, brown leaves, and bare limbs, a winter’s work of bright sweaters, socks, and bedclothes waving in the November wind. The author (lower left), her brother (upper left), and their cousins celebrate Christmas, 1957. ...

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