The other day my beloved was showing off his new ipad and shared a video from The New Yorker illustrating the September 7 story about Theo Jansen‘s beach creatures, or Strandbeests, wind-powered sculptures that walk on the beach. You all may be familiar with Jansen’s work, but maybe I haven’t gotten out much lately. Or, more likely, I’ve been coming across adventure and delight and beauty in other places. Here they’re all rolled into one. Take a look and enjoy!
For years, I’ve worn a cross whenever I fly. A superstitious ritual, perhaps, since I rarely wear a cross on the ground. When I fly I wear a cross to reassure myself that faith (not necessarily mine, some days) is stronger than my chronic travel anxiety.
Most recently, instead of a cross, I’ve flown wearing a necklace my new friend Nikki. made. She makes jewelry out of junk: others’ cast-off jewelry, hardware, children’s toys, and other small items. the tag line of her business is “everything is beautiful in its time, even nuts, bolts, and washers.” Every time I see Nikki, she is wearing a new creation: a pendant made of a small metal plate with a piece of a vintage earring dangling from it, a ring made from a doll’s teacup, a pair of earrings from light-catching dashboard fuses. Take a look. I’ve learned not to gush too much over Nikki’s jewelry, because she is prone to take it off and give it to me. She won’t take my money, and I know she depends on jewelry sales as a portion of her income. I keep my mouth shut so she can sell it to someone else later on.
Over coffee she told me about how she was prostituted by her mother as a child, and subsequently abused by her stepfather. In the same paragraph she talked about her life in the suburbs, her wonderful husband and two small children, and her jewelry-making, how the ability to see beauty in odd objects and discarded broken things came to her as an unexpected gift.
The necklace I wear whenever I fly these days is the one she wore that day. It’s made of nuts and washers, pieces of something else that were formerly left for dead. It has become my talisman for survival, for the triumph of life and hope over fear and death. The hex-nuts hang down like a bunch of perfectly ripe grapes and are irresistible to play with mid-flight, their satisfying weight and shape as reassuring to hold onto as any cross.
In 1996 I visited the Oregon College of Art & Craft gallery because Shu-Ju Wang, a woman I’d worked with briefly, back when she was a software engineer and I was a technical writer, was having her first solo exhibit of drawings and mixed media work. My husband and I were anticipating the birth of our soon-to-be-son, and were in that strange, antsy, nesting-and-yet-not-nesting place that only someone who has been a prospective adoptive parent can understand. Going to Shu-Ju’s opening was a necessary distraction more than anything else. I don’t remember the actual work on display, except that it was eclectic and varied, something I always like. What I remember is that when I saw this print I knew I had to have it, before I even saw its apt title: Delirious with Anticipation. I may have asked someone at the gallery to set it aside for me before I even finished looking at the rest of the show.
I always say I can’t even draw a straight line on the computer, at which point my long-suffering artist friends remind me that making art has nothing to do with straight lines. There are lots of wildly creative people in my family and circle of friends, and I never count myself among them. Instead, the creative impulse grabs me from the outside and says: you, too, get to have this beautiful thing, this [fill-in-the-blank] with enough beauty and creativity inside of it to go around. Gorgeous wool from Uruguay, some magical-feeling notebook paper, a jar of glass beads from the neighborhood consignment shop, an amazing purse made by Judee Moonbeam, Shu-Ju’s print.
What about you? What beautiful thing has leapt onto your wall or into your life, unexpected and unbidden?
When my son was little and in that maddeningly wonderful phase of never tiring of hearing the same book read over and over and over and over and over again, one of our favorites was “Cook-a-doodle-doo,” by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel, about the baking adventures of Big Brown Rooster, the great-grandson of the Little Red Hen. The story is filled with colorful characters all living and life lessons about community and cooperation, failure and redemption. These characters remind me of some of my friends and relations. There are also cooking lessons along the way, for the inquiring three- or four- or five-year-old mind. But the strawberry shortcake itself….to die for. The best ever.
I made that shortcake tonight, using the recipe from the back of the book. Simply delicious. I took it to our friends’ house, and she and I cleaned about 5 cups of strawberries to go on top, strawberries fresh from their weekend farm, real Oregon berries with bits of straw, still clinging on. They tasted like the sun and the mountains.
Even more delicious was the time with dear friends sharing good food and our own stories of the colorful characters in our lives.