by K.G. Jewell
I first picked up soul weaving at summer camp, when I was 13. At most camps, kids made friendship bracelets and lanyards. At Camp Anima, we made sprites, small ephemeral creatures that flitted overhead for a few minutes before sparkling away into the nether. My last year at camp, I won an award for the longest-lasting sprite of the week, a purple dragonfly that followed me to lunch. It lasted ten minutes, almost a camp record.
I remember that I asked Ms. Linda, the soul-weaving counselor, where they got the souls piled in the baskets on her craft cabin's shelves. She smiled, twinkled her eyes, and said they were collected from the rosebushes in headmistress' garden. They gathered around the blooming flowers, and the headmistress vacuumed them up for camp projects. I think I giggled.
It wasn't until years later, when I ran into a fellow camper at a market, that I learned the headmistress's garden abutted the state cemetery for the criminally insane. That put a new light on what we called the "screamers," sprites that shrieked and howled before exploding in a fiery ball. It was hard to make a screamer, but if you twisted two dark souls together just right, you could usually get one. Screamers didn't last long, but were popular around the Fourth of July.
My kids weren't interested in Camp Anima or soul weaving. They went to computer camp and science camp and space camp and never contemplated the fabric of moral existence as a non-metaphorical feature of life. I tried to teach them once, but they were so wrapped up in modernity they couldn't see the souls to weave, even when I placed them in their hands.