Whenever I have a long meeting, I always need to be doing something with my hands. With work things, that usually means I’m taking minutes or notes, but with non-work meetings, I’m often knitting socks. I find when I’m just listening to a speaker that it’s tough to keep my attention on them. I also find it difficult to keep my attention going when I’m trying to meditate on something or when I’m praying. I end up making to-do lists. When I have a small task to do with my hands, my ability to concentrate on the speaker or prayer intention is much improved.
A couple of weeks ago, there was an article in the Episcopal News Service about a group of Episcopalians in Indiana learning the art of pysanky as a means of hands-on prayer for Ukrainians. This sparked my interest immediately. I have been holding the people of Ukraine in prayer and want to continue to do so. Also, I had tried creating Ukrainian Easter eggs before and still had the wax and special stylus (called a kitska) in my attic. I just needed some new dyes.
Last weekend I set everything up, mixed the new dyes, and invited a couple of my neighbors over to make them with me. The kit that I have shows you step-by-step how to do some of the designs. You put some beeswax in the stylus and heat it over a candle. Then you use the stylus to apply wax to the eggs. We learned quickly that it’s not easy to draw straight lines on an egg. We drew the first images on the eggs, then dipped them into a light-colored dye. Then we applied the next stage of the design and dipped the egg into a slightly darker dye. You keep repeating the process until you complete the design. It’s a craft that takes some practice to get the wax to go where you intend it to go. Most of the designs you put on the egg symbolize something different. For example, a deer means prosperity, a circle or continuous line around the egg symbolizes eternity, a triangle means the Trinity, and a fish symbolizes Christ.
When you finish dyeing the eggs, you heat them to melt the wax and then you wipe off the wax. The beeswax I have gets black from soot after holding the stylus over a candle, so the image is quite hard to see before you melt off the wax. That also means that it’s quite something to wipe away the wax and see the brightly colored symbols come to life.
After my neighbors left, I spent some time alone making a couple more pysanky while praying for peace in Ukraine, for the people who are fleeing Ukraine, and for those who are responding with help to the crisis. It might be a couple of weeks early to be making Easter eggs, but I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.