Friday, April 20, 2007

Plans of the Heart

I opened the door of my shop, enjoying the quiet scent of sawdust and sunlight and old tools. The east window glowed with the light of dawn. Going to my bench, I picked up my work of several days - a small, hard sculpture intent on bringing to mind the poignance of the human condition. As if poignance was the bitter Water o' Tempus that we must drink, a tolerable taste, and a deadly poison. In gathering it in my hands, the wood seemed to live upon my fingertips. I could smell the old black walnut tree and hear its pungent leaves in the rain and wind.

I opened my eyes and drew a leaf of fine sandpaper from the shelf, beginning to polish the back of the tiny thing - the chuckling rhythm the only sound in the shop. It was a woman, sitting, holding her knees with her head down upon them. She was naked, revealing her indescribable woman's backbone - still the best sculpture in creation as far as I'm concerned. She did not show here face, and her hands were a bit large. It was rather too immediate for Hemingway, but I liked it, and was proud of it. It would sit soon in some old couple's house, bringing to mind the simple pleasures of all things created in our second-hand nature. Or on a young woman's dresser or windowsill, chasing her stricken mind with the epidemic condition of her solitary calamity. It was in my hands, and would soon, a product of my hands, leave to become useful.

So goes always the forming of my plans, like clouds between two meeting fronts, only to be tossed aside by a bold midwest wind. So go the plans of many, and yet when they are interrupted, as plans were during a recent shooting at a stricken campus, we find out that there is no such thing as tomorrow. But, that's a little oversimplified. This time around (and yes, that phrase is quite descriptive of our collective response to such actions), I think the one thing that has frustrated me the most, especially in view of the memory of the dead, has been the commercialization of grief. Grief can now be bought and sold in a ribbon, a donation, and a thirty-second TV spot. So, how are we to view this as believers? How, if it is as trite and shallow and unmeaningful as it feels to simply marvel at news coverage and bear the latest wristband, should we respond?


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