Saturday, December 4, 2010

How Things Talk to Us

In my house there are things I love.  A little silver goblet that once belonged to my grandmother and that she took everyday with her to the bathroom to brush her teeth.  A large sterling silver plate hand hammered that reminds me of my life in Peru and my friend Isabelle.  Three orchids, waiting to bloom, these delicate but sturdy spray of flowers that last a few months; and many handmade objects by artists whose work I love.  Many paintings on the wall, and my books, my brushes and beads, cherished objects that delight me everyday and remind me that this is where I love to be -- this is my home.

Objects have the powerful effect of bringing with them all sorts of memories and enable us to go back in time and relive past moments that once meant a lot to us and maybe still do.  My collection of blue glass was mostly built in Lima, Peru when I once went visiting the studio of a woman artist whose work seemed to bring me back to the Caribbean sea with its vivid colors and shades. I put them in my window and enjoy the warmth of the early morning sun shining through all the blues of my youth.

Why do we enjoy things so much?  What appeal do they have on our psyche and our soul?
Some things have an affinity with us, they call to us and have a certain appeal that is irresistible.  It can last a lifetime or just some months.  It facilitates the exchange of money and feeds the pockets of so many who create such objects or make them in their studio or their factories.

I have some paintings by my friends Deb Komitor, Laura Reilley and Tracy Miller who delight me everyday. Some of my old oil paintings are a constant reminder of the passing of time and the beauty of the past as well as the anticipation of what could happen in the future.  What will these artist create next?  What will happen in their life to make them tackle a piece of clay or ceramic?  My husband and I have some dishes and bowls and cups by the local and much loved artists Tina and Ken Riesterer and every time I touch them, I can see both of their faces laughing or talking to me.  I go back to my time at the artist Co-op and there they are, sitting with me in the group.

Then there are old things that bring people back to us like a gift of the past.  I have a little bonnet hand crocheted by my grandmother that is so tiny it could fit over an orange.  Yet it was my hat when I was just a baby and it reminds me of my roots, my beginnings and the huge trajectory of my life with its turns and bumps and its uniqueness.  My parents are alive in little frames in my studio and look at me from the high shelf.  My poet uncle casts his sad eyes on me and I look back at him with gratefulness.

There is nothing like an album of photos to bring old memories back and faces we recall or have almost forgotten, brought to us by the magic of the camera and the old films now obsolete.  Many of my friends are gone but their photos tells me of their presence on the planet and their place in my heart.  The man who brought me a box of live butterflies is captured in black and white and looks at me from my studio.  My ring collection is a testimony of my travels and the presence of my two husbands ex and new who have given them to me and put me everyday with the choice of wearing one or the other.  And there is the large tapestry from Thailand that I have hanging in the back of my bed.  It is full of life and shines with gold and rust and I remember the trip my daughter and I took to Cambodia and Bangkok and my complete awe at the population's sense of exquisite beauty and incredible, unique craftsmanship.

But of course things can also bring us to materialism; the compulsion to buy and buy just to accumulate more things than we can live with.  Our country here is a good example of this as ahead of every season, the stores fill up with so much goods made in China or any other country.  The store's owners are good at merchandising and tempt us with their goods.  Such a variety of things, of clothes, of household items to entice us to spend our money while we accumulate more objects.  How do we resist?

Could we recycle some of our goods? Send them off to others who might need them?  I am in the process of getting rid of some of my books.  I realize that they have no place in my life anymore.  I have piles of them in my house ready to be given away and make room for the new.  Will I get rid of my cherished objects?  I do not know yet.  The connection is there but can fade away.  It will be time to let go.  I have had to let go of many things in my lifetime.  Having lived in many countries, some things could not be kept.  I hope they made some others happy.  With every move, I have given away some great amount of things and acquired some new ones.  Yet some of my cherished objects still are with me, stimulating memories, they linger and bring me some joy.

Like one of my large paintings that I painted when very young; a composite of the old country with its beauty and symbols it stands now in my living room symbolizing my roots; powerful and bold, an image of what I search for in life.

Some objects become a part of us. They make us recall, they make us revere, they make us admire, or they make us smile or be grateful.  No one can tell us to get rid of them; only a signal from inside that says "It is time now."  Yet there are some people who can live with just what they need everyday and want nothing else to take their attention away.  Monks or nuns, ascetics, or simply people that hold all their life within and need not the constant presence of things.  I am not such a person.  The things in my life are chosen because of a calling from my soul and will stay with me until it will be time to pass them away.  We take nothing with us when we die.  Our cherished things go and delight someone else or leave our heirs in complete indifference.  Life keeps unfolding while more things get acquired..

Indeed, we are of two worlds at the same time and the material is a part of us no matter how spiritual we are.

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre
Edited by Barry Kaplan


  1. Hello Micheline, As I became an older adult I discovered the pleasures of gathering certain material things. It became a sort of game to make collections of silver candlesticks, silver fluted vases from the 1800s, silver bracelets, and silver-topped powder jars. What fun--sometimes I feel like King Midas in his counting room playing with all the "jewels".

    But, like you Micheline, there are pieces around my house that bring my friends and family close. I have paintings/prints from a special water-colorist from Colorado Springs. I have mementos from from my own trips and trips that friends and family have journeyed. They are all stuffed with memories and adventures that age like fine wine. Each tale improves with the telling.

    My most favored treasure is the baby book that my Mom created for me. It is filled with wonders about how I came into this world. There are first words, my first sentence, my childhood friends, my first haircut and many other firsts recorded for all time. I still have some of my first toys: a small baby grand piano, a teddy bear that doubles as a music box (it plays "Twinkle twinkle little star), a rag doll named Miranda made by one of my favorite aunts (Stella), and the list goes on. Sometimes it's fun to reminisce...all the way back to the beginning.

    Right before my Dad passed, he gave me a rifle and a shotgun that he used briefly during hunting season--that's when I knew something was seriously wrong with his health. I was shocked and saddened when he handed them over. Much thought had gone into his gifts. And Mom always promised me her wedding rings--so now I wear her engagement ring. I'm reminded of my parents every single day. I miss them so much. Now my brother and I are orphans in a sense.

    As the Christmas holidays approach I'm trying to get my home decorated. My house turns into a Christmas Fantasyland because it brings back the youthful excitement experienced as a child. It's a way of bringing my family back together...and keeps me from being so lonely for what was.

    Life has many ways to keep us company. If we are so inclined, we never have to be lonely. We can pick up any object around the house and allow it to tell us wonderful stories about people and places and things. All we have to do is LISTEN.

  2. What a sweet entry! I am so honored to create works of art that bring others comfort, joy, peace and ease or inspire in some way. What a wonderful gift we are able to give this world, just as when I put on one of your beautiful
    pieces of jewelry. I am finally seeing that we are in everything we create even after it leaves our hands. We are paying the spirit forward.

  3. "Micheline, you are a heart felt and elegant writer. I enjoyed reading your blog as much as I enjoy the exquisite jewelry and art you create. Your writings speak to me. Ahhh!!!!"

  4. Dear Micheline - I love the title of this blog, and thanks for mentioning my paintings - I am honored! I, too, have a fondness for things - all kinds of things, family heirlooms, works of art and high craft, my kid's plaster handprints from school - an tiny old medicine cabinet that was on a wall in my grandfather's workshop. treasures, every one.

    you are such an elegant and graceful writer - thank you!

  5. Dear Micheline,
    Loved your article, and me too I use to like to keep some things as keep-sakes of a time in my life that was different from what I live now...but when I moved twice to live in a travel trailer, I couldn't keep much of anything because of space restrictions and weight. Since it was a change of life, I did it without being sad about parting with those things. I just kept them in my memory and I really don't miss them since I replace them with other new things that belong to my present life, and it's just fine that way, you really feel like it's a brand new life then. New life, new friends, new keep-sakes brings back the fact that it's important from time to time to clean up closets to make room for the new in our lives and often we discover hidden treasures.
    Micheline in LC