When I woke up Saturday morning, knowing that it was the day I had set aside to assemble my dragon, my nerves were all set to high alert. It was kind of like first-day-of-school jitters, full of excitement and anticipation, tinged with the instinctive fear of the unknown.
For several hours I lingered in the house. I don’t know now whether the dominant force behind my hesitation was my penchant for delayed gratification or if it was my anxiety about what lay waiting outside the gate. Faith suggested that rather than worrying about documenting this part of the process, she wanted to give me the space and time to just be with my dragon. When she suggested it, I felt suddenly a bit shy and anxious about being alone with it, but I am so grateful now that she suggested this. A little after 1:00 I finally gathered my tools and made my way out to the driveway.
I pulled the trailer out of its corner to a position where I could open and unload it, and began taking out all of the carefully labeled boxes and parcels. Piece by piece she came together. I worked slowly, wanting to be careful not to miss anything, and committing each component to memory so that once they were free of their labeled packages I would still know what was what. Around 3:00 I stepped back and realized that I was standing in a hot shop. Despite knowing that all of the same equipment has been sitting in the trailer since the unboxing, it had somehow still not been fully real to me. Standing there, with a fully assembled furnace, annealer, marver table, and bench was cathartic. For the first time, I was standing in the center of my very own hot shop.
The day was perfect—cool but with bright, warm Southern California sun shining down from a cloudless blue sky. As I sat at my bench for the first time I noticed that a hummingbird kept perching nearby. As he flew off, I turned my gaze upwards to the brilliant sky above, and was amazed to see a flock of huge pelicans soaring in two opposing spirals immediately overhead. For several reasons, these sightings caught my attention.
My art lineage has always provided a sense of grounding and possibility to me in my pursuit of art (I am at least a 4th generation artist). When I was 18 I learned from my grandfather that my grandmother, whom I had never known, had shared her love of birds with my mother; which she in turn passed on to me. To have been visited by one of the smallest and one of the largest birds on the continent within moments, while sitting for the first time at the bench in my mobile glass studio made me feel like I was being prompted to take notice, to feel a part of something greater than myself. Like ripples intersecting and bending light into brighter focus, each appearance focused and brightened my awareness of those I’ve come from and whose joys I have shared.
On a whim, I googled the meaning of each of these birds, to see what they have meant to other people. While I am not attached to them as absolutes, the things that came up felt particularly in tune with my experience at that moment. Symbolic meaning of hummingbirds include:
Everything had gone smoothly, all the parts and hardware were easy to identify and assemble. I itched to light her up, but there wasn’t enough daylight left to light up, cool down, and pack everything back into the trailer for the night. After I had had my time alone with the dragon, Faith came down and shared the moment with me. As exciting as it was to have assembled everything alone, sharing my joy and excitement was even better. Seeing her response to the assembled shop—slightly overwhelmed and surprised at its full scale—and seeing that shock overtaken by the reflection of my joy was everything I could have hoped for.
Before packing the shop back into the trailer, I took a few moments to FaceTime with my parents, reveling in the capability of modern technology to shrink the distance and share this day with them in such an immediate way.
Thursday, I will be lighting up for the first time, letting the empty furnace cook as instructed in preparation for next weekend’s first glass melt.