“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”
– Anais Nin
I have a hard time with words, sometimes; sometimes they get stuck just at the back of my throat, or the tip of my tongue, and the thoughts are so clear in my head, they run over and over in perfect rhythm and phrasing, but won’t come out.
This is probably why I draw so many pictures, take so many photographs, write out so many poems and passages by hand, make so many things to give to people. It’s like if someone can look at something that was crafted by my hands, even if it is the words of someone else, and understand, well, then my own lost words don’t mean as much.
One of the aspects of living in my new, smaller than small town, the town without a restaurant with regular hours, where the grocery store closes at 6 p.m., where the gas station may or may not be open, where the post-woman takes a two-hour lunch, where most of the houses and shops are now empty until early summer, is that I spend much of my time alone, thinking, writing here on my laptop, darning sweaters or hemming trousers or sewing dresses for people, and making jewelry. I count this time as one of the most productive of my life; this quiet time is so powerfully important to me and I can feel elements of myself change with the days as they pass, so quickly.
I am experimental here, and silent. I notice things that used to pass me by: deer in the road, the rustle of the last leaves on the trees, all pale copper against a grey background of tree trunks, blue jays taunting me from ground to branch, the fact that one of my crows (there is a family of 5 that visits me in the mornings) is missing a wing feather or two. I have since learned that this means that she stole food from a smaller, faster bird who pulled out her feathers to stop her from stealing food again. I notice the crunch of gravel under my feet, and the sounds that the boys’ skateboards make as they coast down the streets. Today, at 4 p.m. I noticed a bright sunset descending over Somes Sound: bright orange and pink in stripes against blue clouds, the background. The sun sinks so fast, so early, at this time of year.
Yesterday, I melted down gold for the first time. I prepared my crucible with heat and Borax, added the gold scavenged from my jewelry box, and poured a tiny 14 karat gold ingot.
The process of melting down gold is not complicated, especially if you have melted down silver before and know how it changes from bits and pieces into slumpy, bumpy, almost pocked, shapes before it blobs together into a giant circle of mercury-looking molten metal that sloshes around the crucible as you toss in borax to pull the impurities out, continuously heating the porcelain, before you pour it into the ingot mold, or in this case, the tiny mold carved out of charcoal with an Exacto knife.
The process of living here, of accepting changes, of getting to know people, of understanding a role in such a small place, where outsiders are wondered about, stared at, talked over, is a different one. With jewelry, you can learn a method and follow its steps over and over again. When it comes to people, each of us so individual, you must follow a different path with each new person who crosses the path.
A friend of mine said to me the other day that in a small town, you really learn a lot about what it is to be human, what it is to be a person. This is, I think, because you see each other so often, at multiple times each day, every day, and there are so few of you that you see how people change from morning to afternoon to night. You learn to decipher people’s facial expressions based on what you know about them from days’ past. You learn to forgive people’s indiscretions or flaws because you are dependent on them, because there are so few of you around. You learn to love everyone in their own way for their specialness, for their quirkiness. You learn to play your cards close, to be a smidge mysterious, to be more introverted than perhaps you would be in a larger place. This is, of course, because everyone talks about everyone anyway: it is important to keep most of the information to yourself, to keep them guessing, anyway.
I have learned a lot about people, being here for almost two months. I have learned that I love quirky people, and happen to have landed in the town that is populated with eccentric, kooky, strange, nutty people. A woman I met the other day told me that our town is the “island of misfit toys”, and I think she is almost certainly correct. I have learned that it is all right to be quiet and watch, to seriously commit to listening more and talking less.
I am beginning to learn forgiveness here: forgiveness of myself and forgiveness of others. I am beginning to understand that we all are truly different from one another, and it is a miracle to find even a handful of people who can attempt to understand each other long enough to bond, to care, to spend time together and then be friends. I thought, upon moving here, that I would instantly have a group of friends, and have found that to not exactly not be the case, but that the process is a bit more involved. I am beginning to see relationships as a process of give and take, of letting go and holding on, depending on the moment, of smiling and listening, trusting and reaching out, of risking yourself just…enough.
“There were always in me, two women at least,
one woman desperate and bewildered,
who felt she was drowning and another who
would leap into a scene, as upon a stage,
conceal her true emotions because they
were weaknesses, helplessness, despair,
and present to the world only a smile,
an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest.”
— Anais Nin