The Spirit Books at the Arnold Arboretum – Part 2

by Jon Hetman, Director of External Relations & Communications
June 11, 2018


The Spirit Books at the Arnold Arboretum – Part 2


Spirit Book #27: Absorbed Prayer greets you in the lobby of the Hunnewell Building and provides of preview of the exhibition in Visitors Center. Created in 2001, it is still one of my favorites. The cradle is made from the stems that hold the chestnut blossoms and then the conkers to the spire. In the autumn, they fall to the ground along with the conkers that my kids used to carry home every year. I gathered them along High Street in Newburyport during one of my walks.

The pages are made from Lokta paper from Nepal and the cover of Mashamba paper from Africa. The stitching is done with gold metallic thread. Glass seed beads are at the center of the spirals. At the exhibition, the Spirit Books are all in cases but there are sample papers on binder rings so you can feel the textures of the papers.


My favorite part of the Spirit Books is the stitching and my favorite patterns are spirals. I find stitching to be a kind of meditation. I draw the pattern on back of the pages and then poke holes for the stitches. When I am sewing, I know exactly where to put the needle and can relax into the slow up and down movement of my hand.


The name “Absorbed Prayer” comes from the book, Time Sanctified: The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life where the author, Roger S. Wieck, wrote: “Books of Hours reveal something about the medieval experience of absorbed prayer.” I like to think the Spirit Books reveal the same about my experience.

See the Spirit Books on display in the Hunnewell Visitor Center from May 4–July 22, 2018.

Visitor Center Hours: 10 AM–5 PM, closed Wednesdays

This post was originally published on Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord’s blog, and was reprinted with her permission.

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