Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Of Moths and Jewelry Makers

This summer, I signed up for a silver jewelery making class at a local college. It is an indulgence I cannot easily afford and deliberated quite a bit about the $150 tuition and $23 material fees. But as soon as I entered the classroom, stepping over the enormous human foot sculpture that does double duty as a doorstop, I knew I was in the right place.  

It is a small class, of mostly forty to fifty-somethings, all women: creative and smart and funny and eccentric.  The instructor communicates with swans, believes they swim across ponds to greet her and drop feathers for her as gifts; she races 6 year olds to get to her favorite horse on a boardwalk carousel; tries every imaginable means to rid her ancient car of angry bees before brandishing the flip-flop and swoons over tiger- eye, garnets, and amber. She is great.

I love the company of these women, kindred spirits in many ways.  I get very little time at the torch, and my instructor does have a tendency to take my projects from my hands and finish them herself, but that is ok. I am learning by watching, by listening, and befriending. This is new territory for me, making friends, and surrounding myself even for a few hours, with artists.

When you solder a silver piece it has to sit for awhile in a solution and there is often a waiting period between instruction, during which I make my rounds and admire the works of these woman.  There are prayer beads in the making, brass cuffs and star rings and there are scary, aggressive pieces - large and angular. After I see what everyone is working on, I slip out the backdoor, into the courtyards where flowers abound and sculptures lurk. Here also is where the kiln building stands - its warmth, I am told, attracting a plenitude of moths.  The moths, which don't live long, often fall here and leave a wing or two.  I pick up these sacred offerings.  

Sunday, when I went outside, there, right there, was a Luna moth stretched out on the warm sidewalk. Maybe it is more accurate to say half a Luna moth, since she was missing her long tendrils. I thought for sure she was dead but when I looked closer I saw her shift her weight on her tiny, weary feet. I went to scoop her up, with the intention of putting her on a pink hibiscus to rest comfortably in her final minutes. She surprised me with a flap of her wings. I tried to lift her again, and she took flight, without her tendrils or "tails". She rose above my head and hovered a bit, a showy little air-dance, and then climbed higher, higher, and then out of sight. She was battered. She was bruised. She was broken - but she soared.

I went back into my class so happy about this. My instructor was working on a pendant, for herself, a rare thing, but she has had some tough times recently and needed to create a heartfelt piece.  I came in just in time to see her carefully set a small bit of swan down under glass.

 I watched over her shoulder: learning and understanding - so very worth the price of admission..

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Alter Ego in Excessive Jewelry

A soft cry. I turn my ear. A frantic scamper, windows painted shut. Doorknobs rusted. She pounds now, desperate to get out, tugging, grunting -determined.

" Let me out! " she wails.

" It's too late," I shush her.

" No, No, there's still time..." she pants. 

She is wide-eyed, wild- haired, barefooted, silver earrings swinging. Mostly I neglect her, forget she is there.

" Please..." she begs.

 It's cruel to ignore her much longer.

She pounds again. Her bangles jingling.

I sigh, rocking my sheltered life.

She senses me weakening. Pounces. " I am the longing, you know it. I have your dreams, right here. " She reaches into the deep pockets of her long, flowing skirt.

 I hear the delight, a burst of wind chimes. She drops a small dream; The colors: teal, magenta, yellow, shimmer at her feet.

She sees my eyes glaze. I reach for the dream, but she snatches it and stuffs it back in her pocket. " Not until you let me out. "

I shrug, " I'd only let it wither. "

" But I won't! " She promises. 

" It' not that easy, " I tell her.

" Is THIS easy? This half-life of yours? "

I turn away. Embarrassed.  

She entices. " Your dance, it's ready at my feet, your desires, cling to my hair. "

We both wait, in the silence.

" Let me show you. "

" Not yet, " I say.

" What do you wait for? " she snaps.

 I lower my eyes. 

" Think about what you want. Go ahead. Try it. " 

" I'm afraid, " I tell her. 

She puts out her hand, rings on every finger and whispers,  
" So what? "

image from personal antique photo collection

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday's Intention

What to do?  What to do with the free hours of this day? Find ferns? Fringey, wild art sprung straight from earth? Leafy filigree  - categorize, admire? Or instead, befriend a moth? Let bees carry off secrets, released? Maybe play with words? Pliable, abundant, but never enough. Draw? Paint? Create...create. Bow to spirit? Sweep broad strokes - awe across my horizon? Forget the brush. Soak hands in color. Life, so tender. Smooth this. Pat that. Grace in fingerprints, left behind.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dumpster Rat Has Nothing On Me

I have been making trips to the dumpster, throwing out - all through the night. The air is so warm and thick, it feels like velvet. It gives a false sense of safety, out here alone in a parking lot at 2:00 AM.

I carry a box, stuffed with a feather bed that has, at one time or another, kept all of us warm. Inside the box are photos, old, that no one wants. There too, are the three small pillows, hand sewn and embroidered with each of my girls' names. There is the big pot that offered batch after batch of vegetable soup, always eagerly received; and cup cake pans that once held ladybug treats for a classroom of first- graders.

I drop it all in the dumpster, the noise of the pot and pans, muffled by photos, feather
bed and tiny pillows. The history of my life, in a nondescript clankety- clank. I am dizzy from the heat, dizzy from fatigue, heartache.

I wobble a little, backward and look down, seeing that I have stepped on a stripped ear of corn. I think of the rat that had been dining before I interrupted.
"Is this your home?" I whisper into the dumpster where I know she is hiding, corn in her teeth.

There is a soft rustle, a burrowing down. Her answer. I imagine she has lived here all her life. And her mother before that and her mother before that...

"Lucky you," I tell the rat, meaning it.

I walk across the courtyard up the stairs, jealous of a rat, unseen. 

I curl up on the floor of my apartment, furniture all gone, knowing it is one of my last nights here. I am out of tears.

 I steer my thinking away from a decrepit car and a nowhere job. I let my mind wrap around my family, all that I have. I think of my parents, ancient and wonderful.  I see my dad's face, handsome still at 88, pride etched in every crease. I see my mom, and the softness in her gray eyes. My girls' bright smiles, sparkle at me, as if in a dream, but I know I am still awake; sleep doesn't come this easy. I reach for them and their genuine devotion. My grandbaby scampers by in these thoughts, wearing that look, that shows she knows it is her divine right to be adored. 

I am so tired. I find the thin blanket on the floor next to me. I pull it up to my shoulders, tuck it under my chin. It is familiar and welcoming and comfortable, like love itself. It is where I live. I have lived in love my entire life. Lucky me, so very lucky me. I rest my head on the one pillow that hasn't yet hit the dumpster. It is so soft; it cradles my head, like I am somebody.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Oh! Tomato Man!

Sunday was a rare day, all mine.  On days like this, I usually go off to the flea market at 6:00 AM, treasure hunting for vintage costume jewelry or other curiosities.  I didn’t go flea-ing this Sunday because I am moving and haven’t yet figured out how to fit everything I own into a shoe box. Introducing one more object into the mix, great find or not, isn't the brightest of ideas.

So I went to my class at the community college, and ran a few leisurely errands. But by mid-afternoon my need to seek was so great that I found myself pulled, trance-like to the flea market grounds. I knew that all the vendors would be gone by that point. And I really wasn’t going to sniff around with hopes of finding an old brooch, slipped out of its box into the gravel or a fly-away antique photo, forgotten and left behind, honest - I wasn’t. But I was desperate for a discovery.  I set my sights on the antiques center on the complex knowing they would still be open. I just couldn’t get  my mind off the bins and bins of old postcards just sitting there in the air conditioned ambiance. 

Settling in, savoring the smell of mildew and history, I sat on a stool, while Sinatra sang from someplace, immortal. Ghosts of yesteryear, peered down approvingly from their ornate frames. The patina-ed furniture, welcomed like church pews.  I could hear other customers talking to the dealers about their furniture and jewelry purchases. “Can you do better? Is that a firm price? Is it oak, is it silver?" 

 I loved sitting there in collectible heaven, filing through the postcards.  There were thousands, mostly of the souvenir variety, not my favorite, which made the dig for art cards, all the more challenging.  After an hour and a half, yes an hour and a half, ( I left no card unturned )I narrowed my purchase down to seven – a select few Christmas postcards for a dollar each.  How much space can a postcard (or seven) take up anyway?

As I was leaving, I saw a dark-haired, burly man, an owner I guessed. He was eating a late lunch at the check-out counter  - a fresh Jersey beefsteak tomato (no doubt from the farm right down the road) served up in Tupperware bowl. He ate this neatly, merely this and nothing more.

“It doesn’t get much better than that,” I told him as I was leaving the store. He looked up in complete understanding. (If you have ever eaten a Jersey tomato, warm from the vine, then you, no doubt, understand too). The man smiled as I opened the door. He looked so sweet, almost vulnerable, sitting there enjoying his "tomada".

The bell clanked behind me. I took a step or two onto the sidewalk, and walked, without warning, right into a wall of loneliness. I suddenly ached for company. I ached to cut up a tomato for a man.

I dropped my postcards and ran back into the store. I rushed behind the counter where he sat and knelt next to the big man with the tomato. I didn't hug him, I merely rested my head on his chest, listening to the heart beat of a real man.

Come on. (Did you really think I would drop my postcards?)

But as I felt the sidewalk beneath my feet again, and my legs continued to take me toward my car, I couldn’t help entertaining that scenario. What if I had run back in? I pictured the man’s startled expression, his paw automatically patting my back in comfort; he and the other workers stunned by the surprise violation of  his personal space. Who was this woman, resting her weary head on his chest, breathing in his imagined chivalry?

 I laughed at the thought of it, and laughing when you are alone does have a tendency to send off alarm bells of lunacy. I saw a couple of other treasure- hunters hesitate, assessing the degree of  danger that I posed; a fifty-something woman, alone and laughing quietly to herself with no Bluetooth discernible. But, I must have seemed harmless enough, because they cautiously continued on. So did I, enjoying my day alone, doing things that I enjoy.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Wisp of Progress

People often tell me "how far I've come".  And I look behind me and I look ahead, and I say, "Really?"  At work I hear it often. "You are not the same scared rabbit that came in here. " Gee thanks. I think.

I am still scared. And I have a long, long way to go. Mostly for practical purposes. Like earning enough to make a little nest for myself and my daughter, and figuring out a way to do it.

I am learning to believe that this will all be revealed to me. And this does not mean in a majestic moment where the clouds part and the answers are hanging there, glistening. It is not an idle revelation, but one that comes from keeping my eyes open, my hands working and my heart receptive.

So how far have I come, really? I still break out into a true, heart-pounding sweat every time I have to open an email from the ex or his lawyer. Is this being a scared rabbit, or just being a real human not yet immune to betrayal? If it didn't bother me, maybe that would be true cause for worry, and not progress at all, but a loss of my own sensitivity. Still, this sure doesn't look or feel like progress.

And I still weep, often, over not having a nest of my own, no kitchen to make tea for my flock when they are sick or weary. But I will find other ways to nurture. It is what I do best. I carry it inside and to know that I still have the strength and desire to use it, is something to be proud of. But progress? Eh, not so much; still the same in that regard.

But this morning, as I lit my incense, I said a prayer, as always for peace for my family, and the rest of the world. For three and a half years no matter how hard I tried, I knew that this meant, the rest of the world, except he and she.  But today, when I blew out the match and whispered the words, " I light this incense with a prayer for peace for my family and everyone else" - I knew that I meant them too. What a revelation. For me to wish them peace and to really mean it - is progress immeasurable. 

Monday, July 23, 2012