Who do you think you are?

30-something mother, wife, lawyer, writer, design junkie, craftaholic, cook

likes: clever tools, snazzy colors, working for justice, kid wrangling, Meyer lemons

dislikes: inefficiency, civil discovery, most shades of purple, Tori Amos

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Three Birds

Three Birds © 2009 Cameron Blazer
Some people have a vision in their minds eye of a drawing or a design, and they can sit down with pen and paper and produce what's in their heads. I have spent most of my life wishing I had that gift.

Instead, I design and draw the way wind and water carve channels and figures out of rock—through relentless effort. And more often than not, what I set out deliberately to create gets left behind in favor of what has serendipitously taken shape.

I guess that's a metaphor for the way I live my life, too. I've been known to strike out intentionally on a nutty path, only to wind up, miraculously, more or less unscathed on a different route, accidentally doing what more or less always made sense. My life is a catalogue of dubious decisions that have turned out unreasonably well.

When I signed up for the silversmithing class I took last month, I was determined that I would try things I have read about for years but never been able to try. But by the time the class started I had fixated on the idea of the ginkgo leaf. And, really, there was absolutely nothing about making that leaf that was on my list of gotta-tries. On the last night of the class, with about an hour to go, I finished up my leaf (having worked about 5 hours total on it), and I still had a half a sheet of silver left. I started cutting out leaf and petal shapes with my saw, thinking I could make some components to use in earrings. But after I'd cut the first three of them, I realized I hadn't soldered a flipping thing, which was the whole reason I had wanted to take the class in the first place. So I quickly changed plans, cut out a base rectangle shape, filed and sanded feverishly, and took the pieces to my slightly annoyed instructor.

As I set the pieces into place, I knew that when I heated the flux (which is a wet paste that helps the solder flow), they would probably move out of position a bit, but I fiddled and tinkered to get them just right anyway. Sure enough, as soon as the flux heated up, two of the pieces started sliding around. I poked the first one back into place, but the second one looked better where accident had made it land than where I had planned, so I left it.

It was only as I was sanding and polishing my little piece that I realized that it's a metaphor for my life, too. There weren't any petals or leaves in the end. Just three birds, each flying a little off-center,* together.

And it's a reminder, too, that though I am not the gifted artist I have often wished I were, I do have a talent for making do with what the talents and skills I do have and letting serendipity do the rest. I'm okay with that.

*If you know my husband and my son, you know who the other two off-kilter birds are in this equation.

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Reader Comments (5)

Cameron, love your essay and your off kilter birds.

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShiloh

Making do with the talents and skills you have and letting serendipity do the rest is brilliant. Be more than okay with it -- be proud of it!

What a lovely post and lovely piece of jewelry. You did good.

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSacha

OH MAN - I love this accidental result!! Just glorious - and I wholly understand your narrative! (I could have signed my own name to it!) Knowing this about myself, it's the primary reason why I've never written a business plan. I need to be on a charted course to some degree (for accountability's sake), but not so narrow that it leaves me unable to experiment or capitalize on "aha" ideas! I feel my desire to do something well (regardless of my lack of inherent raw talent) will always preside, and what I don't know, I'll figure out! So nice getting to know you, Cameron - nice, too, to know someone else's life doesn't fit into a neat little package! :)

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdaisy janie

What a great metaphor! Embrace the way you are, it obviously works for you...it is your gift. There are, most likely, others out there who design and perfectly execute their creations who wish to do as you...have the courage and faith to make dubious decisions that turn out decidedly well!

July 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Wow. Wow! What a great post.

I heard once somewhere (in reference to yoga, which I always wish I was better at) that "just by doing it, you are getting better." And I like to think of creativity and art, that way.

People who are really great artists and creatives also have a lot of patience. It's so cool to read that rather than feeling bad about what you had made, you saw beauty and a new inspiration revealed in it! Congratulations!! : )

September 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersusy

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