On occassion, my parents used to take us kids out to lunch after church. After praising the Lord, we consumed the glory of fast food cuisine. When we were younger, my parents took us to Caspar’s hotdogs which was just down the street from our church. The neatly dressed women in their fifties served up freshly steamed hotdogs on warm buns and hot chocolate squirted into a cup during the winter.
When I became a teenager, my parents took us to Fudrucker’s Hamburgers in the Willow Pass Mall. Fudrucker’s offered the very best of instant satisfaction. They had baked their own buns, ground their own beef, provided charts for how the burger should be cooked, had a cascading selection of vegetables, and even had a smorgisborg of pots containing melted cheese food and hot chili. Everything you’d want from the casual dining version of American fast food.
A small artisan shop lay around the corner from Fudrucker’s. Full of french fries, cheeseburgers and milk shakes, we used to go into the store and admire the wonderful objects of art there. I saw handblown glass objects of amazing variety and detail. They appeared as little more than expensive paperweights to most people, but I saw a whole world in them. When I peered into one of these objects, I felt as if I were peering into the mysteries of the ocean and all of its depths.
Being thirteen or fourteen at the most, I couldn’t afford such an object and I knew that I couldn’t justify such an object to my parents. They seemed out of place in the mall right next to a gourmet burger shop and they seemed out of place in my life as a teenager. Yet, I felt strtangely attracted to them. Over time, these beautiful peices of art drifted from my mind, the shop closed, and my desire for the beauty of the glass art remained quiet in my heart.
Several years ago, my wife Jill and I visited one of America’s oldest glassblowing sites in America. A small park in south Jersey preserves the memory of the original site and provides a place for glass blowers to practice their art.
Glassblowers and early glassmakers used to create objects for industrial purposes. Glassblowers created everything from dinnerware to insulators. Jill has collected a number of early glass bottles from the New Jersey area. Although glassbottles may seem simple, they have beauty and complexity all of their own.
Some glassblowers loved the art. They decided to create artistic peices after hours and sell them. Many glassblowers created glass objects in order to put food on the table, yet a number of glassblowers longed to create an object of beeauty with their unique medium.
When we visited this museum, I saw a number of exquisite peices. The peices I enjoyed most cost over a thousand dollars. Needless to say, I couldn’t justify buying such a peice to myself. I didn’t see a peice that appealed both to my sense of wonder and my sense of reason. I didn’t find the desire of both my heart and my head. I didn’t find the perfect peice.
Jill and I took a vacation in Maine a couple of years ago. We stayed in a fun town called Bar Harbor that perserved much of its past but also catered to visitors. On an unusually hot day, we ducked into the Eclipse Gallery across the town square. The power grid buckeled under the huge demand for airconditioning, but the gallery remained cool.
I looked into a case and I saw a dozen peices of glass art. My heart leapt. I asked the store keeper if I could see the objects. I picked one and rolled it in my hand so that I could peer into it. I noticed that as I rolled it away from me, I felt like I was traversing a great distance as if the mystery of the world and its oceans were moving underneath me.
These objects captured the sense of perspect that I remembered seeing some twenty years ago in a small artisan shop. I looked at nearly a dozen of them until I found one that most accurately matched my internal sense of what felt beautiful. With a nod from Jill, I bought the small object.
It’s not merely something pretty to put on a shelf with the words ‘Bar Habor’ on it and a corny plastic starfish so that it can collect dust. This peice of art holds within it a thousand points of color. It has shapes that bend, move and twist as you shift its position in relationship to yourself. It captures a sense of wonder and beauty.
The artist, Josh Simpson, first started creating glass art back in 1970. He heard an astronaut talk about seeing earth from orbit. The astronaut said that he could cover the earth with his thumb. Even though the earth appears gigantic to us on our scale, as we walk around the earth, the earth appears small from the perspective of the universe. He intended the object to represent the earth from outerspace. It even has whisp of color to represent an astronaut capsule circling the earth.
So often, the desires of our heart seem so far away. We give up hope. We loose a sense of connection to that moment of experiencing beauty and wonder. Advertisers would like us to believe that we can experience the magic of life for the price of admission to their theme park or for the price of their newest automobile. We can have it now. Yet we long for an enduring sense of satisfaction when the thrill of the moment dissipates as quickly as the lie was told.
If we seek to fulfill the desires of our hearts, we may have to wait a long time. We may need to hold onto our dream in the face of adversity or even in the midst of our own forgetfulness. I may have waited twenty years to find the right peice of glass art, but I can live now with the joy of having waited to find an object of beauty and wonder.