For the third night in a row tonight, I find myself in my garage, working on a mosaic I had started – and stopped -- more than a year ago. I had stowed the project away, with no real plans to resume anytime soon. But on this past Sunday, June 12, 2016, I wandered into the garage, laid out my tools, and dragged out my hoarded bags of broken tile. I inventoried them, studied my design plans, and dove in. I put Fernando Ortega’s Kyrie Elieson on iTunes, hit the “repeat” button, and stood there for hours putting pieces together, listening to the Kyrie over and over.
It’s a busy time for me, not a time for hobbies right now. So, tonight, when I find myself here for the third night in a row, I wonder what on earth I am doing. And then I realize that this is how I mourn. After my marriage fell apart in 2012, I spent hours in my tiny loft working on a huge mosaic for the entry way of our home – a home I may never live in or enjoy again. People asked me why I was doing this favor for my departed love, and I said, “I’m not doing it for him.” Mosaics are just how I make sense of my life, how I assuage grief, and, how I bless every single person who crosses the threshold of that home – with my prayerful, thoughtful representation of the vibrancy of southwestern days and nights in the finished piece.
Making mosaic art is tedious. There’s nothing glamourous about it. I take one little tiny insignificant piece and find a home for it. I search out the right color, the right size, the right shape. One of the things I enjoy most about mosaic art is recycling old stuff. I try to never buy new tile, and prefer to find it in dumpsters or at Bud’s Warehouse or the Habitat Re-Store. The search is part of the joy – the victory of finding old discarded and broken things, giving each piece a new home in a fresh setting, and making them beautiful again. The bottom line is, I take broken things and put them together in a new way. I make art out of what others deem useless; I take the discarded, give it a home, and love it again.
And as I analyze why I am in the garage again tonight, I realize that I am mourning the Orlando victims in the best way I know how – quietly and alone -- putting broken things back together again.
I begin to think about how many of my friends are out chopping weeds, and planting seeds in gardens in their quiet way of making order in the world. Those who are stitching quilt scraps together, writing poems, tooling leather, or furiously sanding an old dresser to bring new life to it. Because we grieve.
This quiet work of grief is generative. It may be silent and unnoticed, but it is how some of us work to make the world new. I never question what the Spirit suggests when it comes to creativity. If standing in my garage, alone, listening to music is how I grieve and how I bring order to the world, then I’m confident that this generative work counts for something.
To my LGBTQ friends, I love you. I’m sorry I’m not more vocal. But I mourn with you and for all of us in the best way that I know how: creating something new, breathing life into something that didn’t exist, praying for each victim and their family in the long tedious hours of putting the broken pieces together.
As Eugene Peterson says, “Life is the end [purpose, meaning] of life: life, life, and more life.”
(c) 2016 Sharon Cairns Mann