In May, I bought a pair of silver earrings while I was on pilgrimage in Iona, Scotland. It’s a small island in the Inner Hebrides. Beautiful place; serene and natural. So when I found zoomorphic earrings in the silversmith shop, I bought them. Silver is a bit pricey but this was a memorable trip, I believe in supporting the work of artists, and I like nice things.
Fast forward five months to the Art & Theology conference at the Church of the Transfiguration on Cape Cod. Fabulous event but after one of the afternoon sessions, with horror, I discovered that I was only wearing one of my zoomorphic earrings. I had no idea when during that day I had lost it. This was October, it was cold, and I had been pulling up the collar of my warm fuzzy coat around my ears. I guessed the earring must have gotten snagged in my scarf and worked its way out of the hole. I searched my coat and clothes. I searched the floor of the conference room. I searched my room in the guest house. I re-walked several miles and multiple buildings on the campus of the monastery, on crushed shell pathways, down the streets, at the pier, on the beach. I had little hope of finding such a tiny thing when it could be anywhere in such an enormous area. I found someone else’s earring, but not mine. I left word with the Community, who assured me that the children find lots of things people lose – keep hope – and I sadly left for home.
I felt terrible losing that earring. One: I don’t like to lose things. Two: it was f-ing expensive! and I won’t wear one without the other. I thought the chances of anyone finding it (considering it was about to become winter) were awfully slim and I resigned myself to the loss. Loss hurts and I grieved. The earrings are part of a set of symbolic talisman pieces I put on every day as a personal ritual for this particular project I’m working on, so every time I put on the necklace without the earrings, I grieved again. Each day dressing for work, when I led the retreat in Chicago, even if just fingering the necklace as I walked around our neighborhood, and certainly when I’d open the jewelry box at night to put the necklace away and there was that single earring without its mate, I would lament the loss of that earring.
Recently I made a decision to make sure I don’t work on Sundays so I can observe a day of rest (if from nothing other than self-deprecation for not doing work). So I spent the afternoon today doing some online Christmas shopping for my kids. My son wants components to build his own gaming machine. I have a dear friend who was been awesome in helping pick out the best prices and bang for the buck. Love that guy! Feeling guilty at spending so much on my son, I turned to the internet to look for something equally precious for my daughter. Since I am an artist and believe strongly in fair trade and supporting artists, I looked at some artisan-supporting organizations that include these elements in their offerings of products. I found some carved wood pieces and a necklace that I knew my daughter would like, so I agonized over the cost, but ultimately ordered them.
I talk a lot about the theological importance of handmade art pieces that are a lifestyle choice – a lifestyle of art, not art as some esoteric category, but as skilled work requiring knowledge. I prefer to avoid mass-produced sweat-shop trinkets, but seek skilled work by a human who imbued the piece with life and love for their work. I spent more than I’d like, but I felt good about my choice to put my money where my mouth is. Handcrafted pieces are much more expensive than mass produced trinkets. I believe they are worth the cost, but sometimes it hurts the pocketbook to pay it out. I get that. But it’s Christmas. In this case, everybody wins.
This afternoon, I put on my coat for my daily walk with my husband, stuck my hands in the pockets (as I always do) and I felt this sharp thing poking me. Thinking it was a stick or a bent paper clip, I dug out the pocket. There was nothing in there. So I flipped the coat open and checked the interior pocket. I pulled out this thing that my eyes said “silver color – it’s a paper clip” but it wasn’t. I was so unprepared to see it, it took me a few seconds for the actuality of the object to register in my brain. It was the mate to my missing zoomorphic earring. I gasped and tried to think – “I did put the one I have in the jewelry box, didn’t I?” (yes, of course I did). I ran inside and there in the box was the lonely mate. I cried I was so happy to have found what was with me the whole time. I had grieved something that I didn’t even lose, except that I didn’t know where it was – yet it was centimeters away from my body every day for six weeks.
I could say something profound about being lost without being lost, but in this case, in my joy at having both of my zoomorphic back, I am thanking the Universe that my support of an artist in Mexico and an artist in Indonesia resulted in my re-ability to make use of the purchase that was in support of the artist in Scotland. I struggled a lot with the decision to purchase the art pieces for my daughter: should I get one, the other or both? In the end, I got both; it’s good for everyone. Part of me would like to think that the earring wasn’t actually in my pocket until that moment.