I’ve been waiting for the Writer, the Poet to appear, but she hides, mocking any attempts I might make to seem clever or well versed. Who am I to talk about grace? Who am I to imagine anything greater than what I know here and now? Some days I doubt the ability to truly forgive. Some days pain seems like a jaded story spoken in every language. It is an equation that only equals zero. It goes nowhere. It means nothing. Yet here I am, and I dare to tell a story about grace. Because I finally know that faith is not something I choose, it is water and air, earth and sky. It is essential to my being. My faith tells me that God, as unimaginable as it can be sometimes, loves us, forgives us, inhabits every one of us. So I dare to speak a word like God, and on the internet, a word we understand in so many different ways - because the story of the last year means nothing without my understanding, my reconciliation with that word. I dare to write about grace, something that came to me as an image, after a prayer for the ability to forgive and to love. I bring this to you because I believe there might be someone who needs to hear this. To you, it is my offering and my comfort.
I’ve spent a lot of time considering how to reach you; how to find my angle, refine my story, reveal exactly what you want and need to hear. We are at the beginning of a new journey together, not quite sure yet if we want to be here. Sometimes I get distracted, sometimes my story seems far less important than the salt of stars in a predawn sky. Does your own story ever bore you? As if your life, your voice, what you’ve experienced rests around your shoulders as a yoke? As a writer, a poet, my voice tired me, my art bored me, because it had become too rehearsed, too ready to appease. Like a mouthful of Karo syrup. A year ago what I knew of myself and my life seemed a heavy burden. Over the summer I had turned 40 and that number seemed like an ending. That, along with a great deal of personal turmoil, had left me angry, cynical and hopeless. In August I challenged myself to create a work for my dad’s 70th birthday. He had expressed interest in the shadowbox projects I had been making, but they did not seem like something he would want to hang in the living room. Without knowing it, I had just opened a door in the wall I had built around myself.
The idea for his gift began with the desire to find an image that would transmit peace. Believing that the best raw material would be pictures of previous vacation spots, the project began as a collage. However, that quickly seemed trite if I were going for a deeper meaning to the gift. The image of a descending dove had been a symbol that held special meaning to both my dad and I, so I decided to use the pictures to construct a mosaic. After using books like Basic Neurochemistry and The Riverside Shakespeare to press down the pictures, the appearance startled me. It looked like stained glass, even more appropriate as my parents are both retired pastors.
The next problem that presented itself was how to separate the images, give them definition and create the black framework of a stained glass window. As I began my first expeditions to the local craft stores, questions like “what kind of glue would you use to affix photographs to wood?” and “what happens when you paint on a photograph?” kept the sales people annoyed, and probably a little frightened. While wandering the jewelry section, possibly muttering to myself, I found a clearance rack with a container of black Czech glass beads. The cylindrical beads were approximately 3 millimeters long. The solution to my problem also presented a wealth of anxiety. I knew I would need to use fast acting adhesive, most likely the clear superglue that advertised it would dry in ten seconds. Each bead would need to be secured before the next one could be put down, otherwise they would not form a continuous line to mimic the “frame.” But how would I glue them down in a way that prevented me from gluing, say, my fingers to my forehead, or the beads to my kitchen table?
After spreading out old newspapers, I put on my purple rubber cleaning gloves and sat down with the glue, beads and shadowbox. I carefully applied the superglue to the thin gap I had left between images. Using my forefinger and thumb I put the bead down. Perfect. After inadvertently gluing my gloved hand into an OK gesture, I freed myself and decided: “that wasn’t too bad.” It was a long night. The next night I decided, “I have two pairs of tweezers, I can sacrifice one to the glue.” The next night was a bit of a blur, possibly due to the inhalation of toxic fumes. But, finally I had finished it. The title: The view from here.
Every narrative is a dialogue; the story lives where two perspectives meet. The place where we converge creates the opportunity for grace. You are as real to me as I am to you. When I came up with the idea for Grace, I could “see” the centerpiece, the concentric circles, the background and color scheme; I even knew which pictures I would use for the heart. Yet it also seemed hazy, in that corridor between image and idea. It was a mystery. An open space. I distinctly remember thinking about the beads, the hours of work: it seemed impossible, so it should go into the closet with abandoned beginnings of stories, sketches of half a dying fall leaf, or sea shells. Immediately the idea reasserted itself, became more important. What separates a passing moment of somewhat crazy inspiration and an idea that changes the direction of someone’s life? The prospect of beginning something with the size and scope of Grace seemed a little like dancing on the edge of a cliff, with those breathless moments of fear. You are real, because Grace is real. Behind glass, finished, ready to hang, the piece you will learn about has already come into being and so, has ended. Our path has just begun.
All Rights Reserved (C) 2016 Andrea Thorsen
The view from here, 2015