22 Mar

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I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock. — St. Patrick

Sunday night, while sitting in the audience at the Harrison Opera House to see the Chieftains in concert, I had a significant moment.  Saint Patrick’s Day has always been a special day for me, linking into my ethnicity, my past and into my deepest self. The whole day became about reclaiming its celebration, in part, from a prior time, a time when it was shared with a significant other. Sitting in the audience, in anticipation of traditional music I have loved for a long time, I faced a past.

It’s funny, when looking at your own personal history, often you think it’s memories of someone else that you’re afraid to see, afraid to feel. Most times, though, I think it isn’t. It’s facing memories of yourself, memories of who you were before the flame of sweeping change makes you into someone else. A longing for the Irish gal I was will always be with me I suppose, the beautiful handmade champagne satin dress with 200 year old Limerick lace layered upon it. Oceana roses and acorned oak, a mountain country church, three friends chanting St. Patrick’s Lorica. That beautiful lass with innocence and hope is who I look back toward and I miss her grace. I miss her ability to be vulnerable. For now, the mountain lies bare. . . waiting. After a fire, there is only buried strength to bear life from heat. Fire awakens new growth from within.

Earlier in the day, I had stopped at the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio to watch the artisans. Since the Chihuly exhibit, glass art sculpture has been so moving to me. In looking at those pictures, I marvel at their light and beauty, remembering how provoking the color and mood. The Chrysler studio displays art pieces which have been crafted there, but the main focus of the facility is creation. Forges and ovens, tongs and snips, the room is filled with the cinder and cast off glass bits from working art. When I arrived, a class was in session. Safety glass wearing students sat at a long table, blue white flames shooting forth at their work stations while they rolled and twirled clear glass tubes into tiny creations. As I observed, one lady produced a gentle swelling bubble, about two to three inches in diameter. The symmetry of its appearance surprised her and she exclaimed a “wow!” which was echoed by the instructor and other students.

I strolled slowly, taking in the feel of the room. Orange centered forges hummed in the warm quiet corners, behind rows of bright candy red chairs facing the work arena. Soon others in studio t-shirts began to arrive, and they set about stirring and clanking around the arena. Minutes before the onset of fire and creation, the music rolled out . . .

Little darlin, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darlin, it’s been like years since its been here,
Here comes the sun….

A lad with a ponytail and a sort of devil-may-care expression took up a piece of chalk and began to draw on the floor, his mood lively and impish. The process began. Furnaces were pushed higher; hot rushing flames roared within them as they became host to long poles topped by small glass blanks. Two teams worked in the arena, each process a conjunctive one, two or more artisans needed for each piece. The glass start, placed on the end of a long pole and heated, is then worked carefully through rolling, shaping and blowing. The artisans’ movements so fluid and practiced, they made it look easy.  But when one considers the temperature, the timing, the coordination between partners, one realizes it’s not that easy… not at all. It is a dance born of repetitive success and failure, but also of a passion for creation and for beauty. I could have watched them move and shape for hours.

Focusing first on the fiery lad, I couldn’t figure out what he was making. Small cups? A pipe?  But then, as he snipped the end of a central glass rod and its shape began to become recognizable…the understanding of it all came to me.

The amazing thing about glass is that it mends back through heat. Nothing is ever shattered forever; it only awaits transformation into something more beautiful. Every bit of it is a risk, a chance that at any moment it may crack, shatter and be ruined. All that effort and artistry, careful, gentle motion and shaping will be lost.

Unique they are, each heart . . .each relationship we have. When it is broken through chance or carelessness, the only hope is that it can be transformed. And we begin again. As I sat in the audience at the Chieftains concert, I thought of this transformation of glass. With each song, I remembered moments of shaping, and heating…moments of cracking and then beginning again. I recognized Jon and Nathan Pilatzke of Step Crew, who I haven’t seen since summer 2007 at the Dublin Irish Music Festival. In thinking back to that time, I held a beautiful memory in my heart, one that wasn’t broken. And at the end of the show, when Cara Butler led the line of Irish dancers through the audience and invited me to join in, I leapt out at the chance. We joined hands and wound our way through the audience, around the corner and onto the stage. Surrounding me, the high whine of the pipes swelled as the Tidewater Pipe and Band Corps accompanied the Chieftains in song. As stage lights obscured my view, I moved in step and reveled in the moment, but also remembered another one. . . the end of a slow walk down an aisle to the swell of the great pipe,  clothed in the nuptial richness of my heritage. On Saint Patrick’s Day, the looking back brought the best parts forward to join with the joy of who I am right now. That evening in dancing onto the stage my spirit glowed, like new glass. In each moment, I’m becoming my own creation.


One Response to “Shine”

  1. Suzanne March 22, 2013 at 11:00 PM #

    I shall ponder your analogy using the transformation of cracked and broken glass in the upcoming days…I will use it as the lens to process several recent events, including one that happened hours after I met you very recently! It’s speaks so much more the restoration as a new starting point than the usual metaphor of a caterpillar and butterfly, though that one resonates with me in a healing way as well. ~Suzanne

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