Monday, October 28, 2013

Bowlfuls of Light

It was during the Hard Time. She bought herself a pair of earrings, and to an outsider maybe that seemed like a simple act, but to her it was a symbol of who she wanted to be. She bought them because they were beautiful, but also because of their shape: bowl-like—open, fillable, generous. They were small but also bright, capturers and reflectors of light. Circles, and therefore whole, but imperfect—like all things that have life.

For a long time she wore them almost exclusively. She wore them and fought to embody those things. She fought to stay open most of all, and when she could not stay open she fought to see light, and to cup it in her hands, and reflect it outward.

The time came when she tired. Her resolve was still there, but something inside of her went underground. Had to. She did not wear the earrings every day, partly because she was tired of fighting. Partly because she wanted to be more than the fight. At night, in bed, she wished to die. She knew she couldn’t because of the small ones who needed her, but she could not stop from wishing it. During the day she paid careful attention to where the light came from, and moved toward it whenever and however she could.

And then a week of vacation, at a summer camp with her family. She resolved to sing and play and pray and love, but her outsides felt brittle and cold. The rawness inside threatened either to break through the shell and overwhelm everything within ten feet of her or else to shrink down to a cold, hard pellet. Either possibility was destruction.

So what do you do when you are rawness rattling inside a brittle shell, to occupy yourself during Free Time every day when the kids are happily occupied?

She found her way to the Arts and Crafts building. She would make something. It is some kind of wordless prayer, making something and hiding yourself in the process—in form, in color, in watching your fingers shape something new. 

Just being in that place felt safe. Supplies, and music, and people working. On one wall hung examples of possible projects: picture frames, bracelets, a paper-mache bowl. It was the bowl that caught her eye—colorful, translucent. Nobody had instructions for making it, but there was a coffee can full of bright squares of tissue paper, and newspaper and Mod Podge, and an old aluminum bowl to use as a mold. So she experimented. Each day she worked on it, layering newspaper, then tissue paper. Color upon color, layer upon layer. Sticky fingers. Quiet heart and mind. The bowl solved nothing, but there was healing in making it. Something about the color and the transparency of the paper spoke to her about warmth and light. How good to hold that in your hands, to watch them work steadily in such a medium.

This habit of looking for light—it is powerful, habit-forming. And when you are in the dark and trying to find your way out, even the smallest glint will pull you forward. So glint-by-glint you move, gathering as you go, and one day you realize you have bowlfuls.

To an outsider maybe it seemed like a simple bowl, made at camp. To her it was more. She set it on the mantel when they got home, just to set it down. All around it life shifted, the light increased. Miracles ensued. She did not move the bowl.

It is still there on the mantel, a bowlful of light. She cannot imagine it anywhere else. 

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  1. Beautiful. And your last line brought happy tears to my eyes. :)

  2. Love, love, love this post. And that bowl. Sending you light. <3

    - alison

  3. You are all three major sources of light. Janice, Laura, Alison--thank you.

  4. Haunting.

    I read this a few days ago and couldn't find the words, but it hovered in the back of my mind.

    Thankful for light and the bowls that allow us to savor it.

    1. Thank you, Shonya! I'm thankful for the light, too--more than words can say.


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