Thursday, December 2, 2010

bent out of shape: lessons in grace and artful living


words hide as thought takes flight
hands reach out
catching 
then telling
with paint or stone
   clay or silver
      wood or fiber
TRUTH that will not be silenced




In 2007, I traveled to Ireland, where I lived in a five hundred year old stone cottage with  my friend, Jane. The seacoast village of Kinsale, south of Cork city, was home for six months.

Three years ago this week, we took a bus to Killarney to visit Father Paddy, an Irish priest who served parishes in Alabama, a dear friend of Jane's cousin, Father John Owen.

Riding to Killarney, past fields littered with ruins and the odd standing stone, we saw the horse.  Not one of the countless thoroughbreds that grazed in green fields, this horse reared its legs over the edge of a stone cliff.  The creature, made of rusted iron, born in a sculptor's mind, rose above us, its Celtic presence as natural as the stone that anchored it.

One afternoon several months later, we stopped to watch a stonemason build a wall.  Jane commented, "You, sir, are an artist."

"No," he replied with a laugh as he continued his work.

Jane persisted.  "Oh, yes, you are.  You have an eye for composition."  He was smiling when we left.

Like time, language is man's invention, an often clumsy attempt to order existence.  Even St. Francis admonished us to "use words only when necessary." Love, art, and music: these require no translation.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


I never felt the ring slip off, never heard it slide into the rarely-used garbage disposal.  Only later, when I slipped my thumb behind my finger to twirl the sterling band, did I discover the loss.  The search continued for weeks as I ransacked closets and drawers to no avail.  I did find the mate to one earring and three other mismatched loops.  The net losses mounted but none so personal as the Irish memento.

Dom, the talented artisan at Kinsale Silver, made the ring, with its slashed lines that spelled "grace" in the Ogham alphabet one sees carved into the standing stones of 4th century A.D. Ireland. I usually wore the simple, inexpensive silver band with its message facing outward. Somedays, though, I turned it toward myself...a reminder that I have to ask for my daily love.

Now the remains sit beside my computer on the breakfast table. Lop-sided, a bit mangled, hoarsely whispering an eternal message nonetheless. At one time, I would have fretted over my carelessness. Today, though, I do not feel loss. I take joy in knowing that, for a season, I wore this ring which triggered lovely memories of six months in Kinsale, Ireland. I wore it unselfconsciously, this talisman that I spun around my finger whenever deep in thought. Fine jewelry never suited me. But this simple, richly personal band pointed me to grace. And still does.

I have an artist friend who owns a kiln. We could melt it down and form it into a charm of sorts. Even stamp GRACE into the molten lump. But I think I will keep this bent, misshapen token by my sink. A reminder of the Celtic prayers that declare the sanctity of daily tasks or the Japanese tea service that refines the ordinary. Yes, this resonates. I am growing into a new season myself, one that treasures the simple. Fatigued by years of traffic jams and corporate politics, by reaching, always reaching to achieve, I am ready to wash up with quiet joy or to cook a consecrated stew.

Here I sit, typing with a southern accent, part Celtic, a bit Zen, with a rosary given to me by the Sisters of Mercy at a going-away party in a pub.

My chassis is dinged and I am a bit worn around the edges myself. I tire more easily and regularly yearn to retire to solitude. I think I'm being pulled to a good place. A centering place. In my autumn, extraneous bits of life are shed like the leaves that pile around my walkway and I revel in the lightness.


Now, if I can bide my time, listen more, love better, bite my tongue when compelled to share some wisdom, maybe...just maybe...I could point to grace occasionally. And then my Irish ring and I would have become bits of accidental art.

1 comment:

RosieJo said...

I want more, please.
RosieJo