After a week of wandering on domestic and foreign soil, observing celestial phenomena, and swimming with sea creatures, it was time to return to a place that’s even more adventurous. Two weeks ago this evening I came home.
Home may be familiar and infinitely more comfortable than the places we choose to wander, but that doesn’t mean it’s predictable or risk-free. Although most of us equate home with stability, others view it as more fragile. Some even claim that if you leave home for long enough, you can’t ever go back.
Having returned to many “homes” on varied occasions, I’ve had the pleasure of returning to the comforts of things known, even as I have learned to embrace the uncertainties of interacting within the dynamic, changing, environments in which we live. I’ve thought a lot about home today, as I have reflected on two very different homes to which I recently returned.
This morning my husband and I returned to our home church to participate in the congregation’s annual Homecoming Day. Our history at that church spans nearly eighteen years, including the cumulative six that passed the two times we left—once in the nineties, for complicated reasons, and again three years ago because attending a new church was best for our kids. Still, this place is home—a place where people have seen me at my best and at my worst, a place where I’ve grown, learned, laughed, and loved. It’s a place, now, to which I am able to return in the same way a grown child heads home for family celebrations, knowing that there’ll be hugs, kisses, newsy updates, and lots of good wishes. It’s a place where I choose to keep a bit of my heart, not sure where, or when, or if, I will ever again be a part of the daily happenings, but choosing to leave open the possibility that I might.
This afternoon I spent my time inside another type of “home” to which I’ve returned of late. Mosaic art has been a huge part of my life for the past nine years, including the nearly three that passed after an accident with a certain piece drove my interest in the craft into deep underground. Prior to the accident—which claimed a mirror I had made as a wedding gift for my friend, Jen, and her husband—working with tile was an integral part of my existence. It was a medium in which I operated in full confidence—believing that my grasp on the craft was as invincible as the tile with which I worked. That ended the day that I learned that tile was not invincible, that it was possible for damage other than that of my own, strategic design to destroy everything for which I’d worked. I learned this hard lesson at the worst possible moment—during what I thought was the final polishing. As I buffed the surfaces with my glass cloth, I discovered, to my horror, that they weren’t “coming clean.” It was then that I realized that the surface of each piece of tile was badly scratched. To this day, I have no idea how this was even possible—a fact that created a reticence to rebuild. Being, as I was, then, in the midst of graduate school, it was easier just to leave, to quit inhabiting this domain that I thought I ruled. If I didn’t know what went wrong, then it could happen again. I couldn’t control the outcome, which made it too scary to invest.
It’s a good thing I don’t view my real life home the same way. Because, life is the magical experience that it is for the very reason that we can’t ever really control it. We can learn, choose, practice, and act, to the best of our ability, what we think we know, but we are never guaranteed an outcome. Which is why, four months ago, I was brave enough to respond to the urge I felt to try again, to break tile and remake it into something beautiful and unexpected. I made something small—and even though I held my breath during the final grouting and subsequently shining, things went exactly as they did during the dozens of groutings and shinings that transpired before the damaged mirror—just as they should.
So in March, when I was presented with the opportunity to designed pieces for a gallery, I decided to take a big risk and return in a bigger way to craft which used to be my artistic home. I painted tiles, fired and smashed them. I arranged the broken bits on a wooden pattern I designed. I grouted those little bits, one by one, into place. And today, after returning home from the Homecoming, it was time to grout and shine.
Although I did not perform this task with my former confidence, I completed it all the same—slowly, carefully, with long breaks for deep, unnecessary breaths. Unnecessary, because the piece is fine—as, in reality, the next several dozen or more pieces will likely be. What happened on that fateful day that took me far away from my comfortable realm was “one of those things,” a random, unexplained happening of the kind that should evoke respect rather than fear.
Yes ,home is fragile--in the same way a priceless piece art, or a common mosaic, is fragile—for its beauty, for the joy and shelter it provides, and even, perhaps especially, for the mysteries embedded within the unknown parts of those places we know so well.
It is good to be home. In every sense of the word.
In Other News:
Look for The Big Reveal on the Seahorse long about Wednesday. He's basically finished, but I needs some finishing touches before I do a photo shoot.
Jen, I still owe you a mirror. Let's talk.
For those of you who have asked about my pieces: Yes, I am taking orders, particularly for those who aren't in a big hurry for a speedy delivery. More details will follow about my future plans.