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..