Today’s resolution: Beads. Beans. Beauty.

19 Aug

I start making jewelry on a whim in 2000 after wandering into a bead store in California. The beads, stones and metals dazzled me with their colors, shapes, textures. I loved the look and feel of them. I wanted to take them all home, but ended up with a few inexpensive ones that I used to make my first pieces, stretchy ankle bracelets that my sister and I wore to a pool party.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about the craft and have made more than a thousand pieces of jewelry. The visual and tactile experience is quietly enriching; one in which I lose myself for hours.

I love color, texture, shimmer. (2011/RO)

Every year, I make a pilgrimage to a bead market where there are mountains of glittering, glimmering, shimmering natural and manmade beauties in rich, bright and muted hues. I feel such delight from simply looking at the beads and stones, even the findings and tools, that touching them and choosing what to take home makes me breathlessly dizzy.

The last couple of years, I haven’t been able to work with the stones as much as in the past. For one thing, I started my own writing/editing business, which currently takes up most of my time — start-ups require intense dedication and attention if they’re to ever be more than start-ups, so I’ve had to let some things slide.

A bigger problem has been that I have arthritis in my hands, which makes it impossible to spend long stretches pinching tiny objects between thumb and forefinger. All the typing I have to do for my work wears them out so that I rest them whenever possible. I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is.

My grandmother had the same problem. Like me, she worked with her hands — she gardened, then shelled beans, shucked corn, cored tomatoes and peeled peaches to cook and preserve. She also knitted, crocheted, embroidered and sewed. She went through so many crossword puzzle books that we had a hard time finding new ones for her.

I can see Grandmother stretching her fingers, kneading the air to keep them limber — not easy to do for inflamed joints knotty with calcium deposits.

“I have to keep working them or they’ll be stove up,” she’d say.

It took me a while to realize why she always insisted on washing her dishes herself, even when it got to the point that she had to half-sit on a stool because she could stand for only a few minutes at a time — the hot water was soothing and eased the pain.

I think about her a lot as I stretch my fingers, knead the air, do the dishes. I’ve also got a hot paraffin bath for my hands; some days, I dunk my hands in it three, four times. Keeps the joints moving. Right now, they’re so sore that I keep having to stop typing and give them a break. I’ve gotten used to it.

Like Grandmother, I take a heavy-duty prescription anti-inflammatory drug and natural supplements. If I didn’t, my fingers would be stove up, too stiff to move. As it is, some days they feel like they’re twice as big as they look.

Pinto beans

Grandmother eventually had to quit sewing and crocheting, but she shelled beans to the end of her life at age 86. It was a simple thing, something a lot of people would find boring and tedious, but being able to shell a bowl of pintos was satisfying, fulfilling even. As the bowl filled with beans, she’d sink her hands into them, bring them up and let the beans flow through her fingers. She liked their look and feel.

She found pleasure from their smoothness, their mottled pink and white coloring — an occasional all white, green or red one making its way into the mix. She even liked the shells plump and bumpy in their fullness before being stripped clean.

This wasn’t where I thought I was going when I started writing. I was merely going to mention that I’m setting up the jewelry table this weekend, spreading out my glorious finds from the last bead market so I can start making fall and winter pieces. My hands will hurt and I’ll have to stop often, but I’ll keep doing it. Creating beauty soothes and satisfies.

I’ll run my hands over the stones and beads, pick up a few and hold them warm in my palms before letting them slip slowly from my fingers onto the velvet beading board. I like their look and feel.

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One Response to “Today’s resolution: Beads. Beans. Beauty.”

  1. Donna McGowan August 19, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    I loved reading about your grandmother’s hands. I could picture them in motion.
    And of course I love your jewelry!

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