Sunday, July 20, 2014
This is the story of how aesthetics (here in the form of jewelry) can connect people. I’ve never been a diamond jewelry person. I like stones, but I like a stone that’s been around, that has had millions of years of water running over it. Diamonds mean nothing to me. River stones do. So when Bill came back from a trip to Minneapolis, bringing me a pendant with a tiny perfect silver dragonfly on a river stone, with the most gorgeous twirly suspension system, I was over the moon. I’d never seen a pendant I liked better. I wore it all the time, everywhere.
The first year of the Potholes and Prairie Festival was held in 2003 in Jamestown, North Dakota, and a woman named Ann Hoffert invited me and Bill out to speak and lead field trips. It sounded like a cool event. It turned out to be a dream come true. I remember the weather that year being warm and sunny and windy, and we both got a whole bunch of life birds, including Baird’s sparrow, chestnut-collared longspur, and who knows what all else. We fell in love with the place and the people. Ann and Ernie Hoffert are dear friends now. North Dakota feels like another home to me. June 2014 was the eleventh Potholes festival I worked. You couldn’t have kept me away with barbed wire and firehoses.
Well, of course, I wore my dragonfly pendant to that 2003 festival, and of course I left it in a drawer where I’d put it for safekeeping in our hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express, and of course somebody took a liking to it and when I got home and missed it and called the hotel it was gone, gone like the moa is gone. Like my favorite ever denim shirt that disappeared from a hotel room in Wausau…like the fine leather lace up boots I forget where I left…the really nice stuff doesn’t end up in Lost and Found. So Bill called the store in Minneapolis and they said they didn’t have any more dragonfly riverstone necklaces, and they didn’t think the jewelers were making them any more, but they were kind enough to give him the name of the people who’d made it. Barbara Samuelson and Russell Strawn Smith, Scattered Light Jewelry, way down in Denton, Texas.
I thought, well, I won’t bother them, but I mourned that necklace for a couple of years and finally one day I thought, well, that’s enough mourning, I’m going to chase down these folks and see if they’ll make me another.
So I crafted a fan letter to Barbara and Russell asking if I could buy a replacement. And Barbara answered back that they weren’t making this pendant any more, but she liked my letter so much that she and her husband would come out of bug jewelry retirement and make one for me. She thought she still had a nice river stone….
And they made me one special, and it was even more beautiful than the first, and I was happy, so happy to have it back. Well, in perusing their offerings online I saw another of their pendants that I liked just as much, and it was a bleeding heart with a silver clapper that swings when it moves against your throat. Oh me. Oh my. I showed it to Bill and wouldn’t you know on Christmas Eve 2006 he just couldn’t wait and he gave it to me in the foyer on our way out the door to church, because he knew I’d love to wear it that night. And oh, I did, and I bawled and bawled at his thoughtfulness. I’m wearing it AND the dragonfly in this picture but they got cropped off d’oh!!
So here it is. I kind of hate to say it but the bleeding heart moved up in my Hall of Pendant Fame and it’s been my go-to for eight years. It’s simply perfect. I can’t tell you how many people have remarked on it. I always make it a point to wear it to talks. Gardeners and naturalists recognize the flower instantly and want to know where I got it. I scribble Scattered Light Jewelry and Barbara and Russell’s names on little scraps of paper and wonder if the pendant's admirers ever follow up. And hope they do. Because just a little scrap of silver can make you feel so happy, if it’s made right and true and perfect as this one is.
Barbara and Russell have been a little hard to find on the Webs of the Intertubes until just recently, when they opened a physical storefront both in Bastrop Texas, and one online. They're on Facebook, too, as Lark-Spirited Giving. They call their store Lark, and their business is Scattered Light Jewelry, and they have all kinds of lovely things, all of which I want in my house right now. And they have their jewelry for sale there too. They call the plant-inspired pieces Articulated Botanical Pendants. And boy, are they. They have moving parts and they all fit together and work just like they do in nature.
So I’ve quietly lusted after Scattered Light’s Chinese Lantern pendant, knowing it must be something pretty dang wonderful. So imagine my surprise and tearful delight when Bill surprised me again at Christmas with Barbara and Russell’s Chinese Lantern. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is. The silver bracts open up in this swirly spirally naturally overlapping way to reveal this five-pointed star with a butterfly in the middle, and there are these little silver balls at the top…I’m sorry. Words fail me. It’s just incredible. I just can't imagine a human making something that works so perfectly as a flower, and out of sterling silver!! Russell can do that. I want to meet him and Barbara soon.
The Chinese lantern is lovely and weighty and when you wear it it rattles ever so slightly at your throat, reminding you that it’s there and inviting you to reach up and play with it and I do, I do, all the time. I find it hard to believe a person designed and created this perfectly functioning thing out of silver. How do you do that?? Mine is not to know, only to wonder.
And to wear and enjoy and love.
Like anything I write about here, from goat cheese to geraniums, from bougainvilleas to Boston terriers, I write about things because I love them, not because anybody asked me to. I probably get three press releases a week from people asking me to write about stuff they want to publicize, and I say I’m sorry, this is a personal journal, not ad space. It’s not a book review blog nor is it a product endorsement blog. The only ads on it are for the stuff I create. I wanted you to know about Lark and Scattered Light, though, about Barbara and Russell, because they’re so very good and though I still have never met them face to face I love them. Funny and perfect and wonderful friends. When we do meet we will fall into each other's arms. I'm glad I wrote that fan letter, glad they made me another dragonfly, glad I can wear my friends' art around my neck. It makes me happy to think that some of you might also one day know the feeling of perfect scraps of silver clanking ever so gently against your throat.