“Sacred Mark”


Today I had a moment of surprise that turned into exhilaration. I was purchasing a hand-made card made out of beautiful paper in a store that sells things from around the world. I caught some color out of the corner of my eye and was drawn to textiles that were folded on a shelf. A man came over, unfurled one of them and said, “Aren’t these beautiful? They are made by young women who have broken away from the sex trade in the red light district in Bangladesh, and are now making their living  making handicrafts. The name of the beautiful textiles? “Sacred Mark,” inspired by the Nobel Prize winning Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore.

The textiles were made from re-cycled silk saris. Saris are the traditional clothing for women in India. They are  made from a very long rectangle of cloth. When my hands felt each mark on the cloth, I felt as if I was a part of the room where hands had sewn and created together. Colorful pieces carefully stitched with great intention and direction made me feel as if the world did not need words at all. Everything was conveyed through the cloth, and stitches. Thread traveled from one end of the cloth to the other like a road of hope. How is it that a piece of cloth, thread, and a needle can convey the power of love and belonging in ways that words cannot reach?  Cloth is forgiving. In these textiles where brightly colored thread traveled above and below two very different surfaces, I thought of these young women who were trying to make their way home again. I felt it in the cloth. Their messages were encoded in every sacred mark, every long and short stitch.   How is it possible that thread and cloth can communicate vast amounts of information about love, beauty and possibility in a single moment? I do not know the answer, but I walked out of that store with two small textiles that represented  home, community, connection and love in a deep and profound way; stitch by stitch. This is my definition of arts in medicine. Here is a poem by Rabindranath Tagore called “Closed Path.”


Closed Path

I thought that my voyage had come to its end

at the last limit of my power,—that the path before me was closed,

that provisions were exhausted

and the time come to take shelter in a silent obscurity.

But I find that thy will knows no end in me.

And when old words die out on the tongue,

new melodies break forth from the heart;

and where the old tracks are lost,

new country is revealed with its wonders.

Rabindranath Tagore