Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Craft (as in handcraft) (02/08/07)
TITLE: Beyond the Roses
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Kay’s mother-in-law stared straight ahead with vacant eyes as if gazing beyond the oil paintings on the wall and into another dimension.
“Grandma had a stroke last summer,” Kay whispered to me as we tip-toed past the room where the wilted figure sat in an overstuffed recliner. “And we sold her farmhouse so she could come live with us.”
It was currently late October. Crisp autumn winds moaned in the windows, sweeping away all reminders of summer and the everyday routine Grandma so recently left behind.
“See, look over here. She was a very talented artist who excelled in different mediums – but particularly porcelain. Each of these plates and vases is an original work of art.”
I found myself staring at the rows of china on display. Every piece demanded my attention because of a special uniqueness mirroring the intensity of its designer. Each soft flower petal and leaf stood at attention as if brought to life in three dimensions.
“How … when did she learn how to do all this?” In my own mind, Grandma must have studied long and hard to perfect such intricacy.
“You won’t believe it, but she taught herself, actually, many years ago.”
We stood quietly as my eyes absorbed the colors, lines, and shadows before me. I wondered at the delicacy and charm of each piece and then glanced over my shoulder at Grandma, sitting so very quietly in the adjoining room. “Can she communicate?”
“Oh yes, she’s coherent, just a little slow and not very animated. Want to go meet her?”
I nodded; Kay and I walked together toward the recliner.
“Grandma, this is my friend Beth – she’s been looking at your porcelain.”
What could I say to this failing woman? How could I convey my respect? My thoughts tied themselves in knots, and yet a few words tumbled out involuntarily in an attempt to honor Grandma in the midst of her loss. “Your work … it’s beautiful! I’ve never seen anything quite like it … ever. How did you do it … paint like that?”
Grandma’s silvery head of tight curls turned slowly until a pair of blue eyes sought mine. She didn’t smile. Perhaps she couldn’t; I didn’t know. “It was … a hobby … like my other crafts …” She gestured toward paintings on the wall and a crocheted afghan hanging on the back of a nearby rocking chair. “ But I loved my porcelain best … lost myself in it … tried to do another vase about a month ago … it’s sitting in there …” With that, she waved me back into the other room with the back of her hand.
“Thanks … I’ll go take a look.”
As Kay and I slipped back into the dining room I realized something: Grandma’s deepest heart was on display there, as well as her artwork. The various pieces collectively represented a detailed and almost haunting appreciation of beauty. I had to wonder at the mystery of the Creator’s hand that had inspired Grandma’s.
“This is the one she’s talking about,” Kay said. A small bud vase showcasing a one-dimensional, white rose stood on a crocheted doily in a place of honor on a small table. If I hadn’t known differently, I might have thought it a child’s 4-H project. The rose petals seemed flat; they lacked the magnetic attraction of a blossom supposedly in full bloom. And yet I sensed a remnant of the old artist’s style peeking from within this diminished work. The Creator had guided Grandma’s practiced hand, even in her weakened state.
“She says she might try again sometime later. If she gets better.”
Yes, I reasoned to myself, she will paint again with a heavenly palette and stunning designs – soon perhaps? She will paint from a perspective beyond the roses before me; she will paint beyond the autumn chill with its hint of death. She will paint as a vessel of God’s infinite, creative inspiration.
Emotion swelled in my throat as I pictured that new display standing forever in a permanent gallery to glorify Grandma’s Lord and Savior throughout eternity.
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