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.