Lydia Vassar, Luiseño, wraps her Juncus textilis bundle, bottom ends up, with the 12-15 inches of rich red-browns basketweavers love using to create patterns in their baskets. An expert in open-weave baskets, Lydia teaches basket weaving to children at the Pechanga Indian Reservation school in Riverside County. She describes her special affinity with Juncus textilis:
I’m very sensitive to poison oak, but it’s a companion plant and I’ve found that the juncus where poison oak grows nearby or around them actually have better color. So even though I know I’m going to get poison oak, I’m going to pick those. I go for the color. And I love the satiny feel. I love the way my hands glide along on the materials. When I’m weaving with them, or cleaning them, just the feel of the plant bending and changing, it just feels so good, it’s so soothing. Even now, I take my green-weave baskets, and if I’m stressed, I can just slide my hand along the outside of the basket and move around the basket, and the way that it feels on my hand is just so calming. It’s as if the basket is stroking my hand more than my hands are stroking the basket. It really is such a good feeling. I can just feel nature, right there.
Lydia continues to speak about the intimate and reciprocal nature of her relationship with juncus.
I’ll just sit at home and stroke a piece of it. It has such a good feel under my fingers. It has a good feeling like petting a dog. I’m running my hands along the plants and I can feel the plants’s energies. I just feel the plant coming to life in my hands. And it brings me more to life. I’m taking its energies and it’s taking mine.