Thursday, September 25, 2008

Broken Glass

For some reason these days of early autumn I have been thinking of glass. Bits of glass. Broken glass.

All my life I've had a fascination with glass; there is something about the way light comes through it, something about the colors, something about the odd feeling that glass has, being solid and liquid and air and fire all together, all in one.

The second scar I acquired in my life came from a bit of glass, shining in the sunlight, so beautiful, so translucent, so enticing. And at the bottom of the broken bottle, some sweet liquid. Of course I had to drink it. The scar sits as a little half moon, hiding in the line of my smile. I still remember the sweetness, and the amazement at the sudden cut. I could not have been more than...oh, maybe nearing 3 years old.

The first scar, since I can't leave you all wondering, is at my left eyebrow. That one I do not remember, though my mother told me how I nearly lost the eye. You know how you aren't supposed to run with sticks, let alone scissors? In my case, according to family report, it was a wooden handled flyswatter. I hope I wasn't dashing about as a murderous two year old, intent on destroying the poor insects, but I don't know. I fell, the handle snapped, the wood went into my face above my eye. My godfather--conveniently enough, he was a doctor--was visiting. Every so often through my childhood my mother would bring out the story, in which she lamented my brush with certain blindness and the intervention of the doctor, and my early rashness of spirit.

But glass. When I was 11, reading the book of Revelations, mourning my transplanting to a desert air force base where I had few friends, my school class had a mosaic project. Other, far more sensible students made their mosaic portraits of their dogs or stylized owls or whatnot with easily obtained dry beans and popcorn glued to a thick sheet of cardboard.

Beans and popcorn never crossed my mind. I wanted glass. I wanted the colors to shine, and the edges to be jagged and the world to come together from fragments to something beautiful.

It's still something I want.

So at 11 years I wandered the vacant desert lots of the air base where sonic booms shook the air, and I picked up pieces of glass. Blue, olive green, amber brown, dark green, CocaCola blue gray, milk white.
And I glued them to a board, painted white. I would have loved to glue them to a sheet of glass, but I didn't have one; my mother, perplexed, provided the board.

The pattern was of a wandering vine, and flowers. I cut my hands a lot working on it. I loved the way the tiny bits of blue worked against the green.

It must have been thrown away the next time we moved. I still recall, however, the thrill of the glint of tossed away, broken glass, gathered to make flowers and vines.

Ten years later I'd take some classes in stained glass, and true to form, working on a shag carpet in my grandmother's home, I'd end up bleeding. I'm not sure which numbered scar that is, but it marks the top of my left foot and took several stitches to close.

But I loved the light through that many colored glass. It was well worth the blood.

And why was broken glass on my mind these days? I don't know. Maybe it's that I've been carefully placing my cobalt bottles on my shelves, and the one small yellow medicine bottle brought to me by one of my street friends, dug up somewhere in the desert, carried in a pack through a winter and a summer in thanks for a small kindness I'd forgotten.

And maybe it's that I keep thinking that someone needs to love the broken bits purely, and see the patterns of vines and flowers and stars and moons that are there, just scattered a bit.

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Blogger Anil P said...

My fascination with glass comes from seeing stained glass work in churches. I like the way the light comes through the glass to light up the pews.

10:10 PM, September 26, 2008  
Blogger Granny J said...

I am convinced that broken glass belongs at the seashore, where it can be sanded into pretty little translucent green, blue, white and amber stones.

11:13 PM, September 26, 2008  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

anil p--you have a most fascinating blog; I just wandered over to take a look. And yes, I love the way light shines through stained glass windows in churches, though oddly around here we don't have churches with much stained glass. In Europe--ah, there it is different.

grannyj--you'd love the beach down in the next county. It's the site of an old dump, and piles of old bottles and dishes and such have been worn down into beachglass, all smooth and beautiful. I have some handfulls of that beachglass edging the little square outside my shop, where there is a faucet and traveling folks come to fill their bottles or give water to their dogs. It's so pretty.

11:44 PM, September 26, 2008  
Anonymous marly said...

Hello, jarvenpa--

I've been neglectful...

We have lake glass here, rather similar to sea glass, and also lots of lake china, worn pieces of flow blue and transferware.

My major scar is a long one at my ankle from age 3. I suppose it was just after we moved to Louisiana.

7:56 PM, October 10, 2008  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Scars and beautiful light. I've been bumping into things written by Abbe Suger, and thought you might enjoy learning more. [traumwerk_stanford_edu]

7:12 AM, October 12, 2008  
Blogger Gleno said...

I feel this way about stone...

6:52 AM, December 09, 2008  

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