Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reflections on Ring Making

I have always had a strong desire to create. Recently, I decided to take a class on silversmithing in order to learn how to make a ring. Besides the Raku class that I took in high school, and a few rare encounters  with other 3-dimensional art forms, such as glass blowing, most of the art work that I have produced has been 2-dimensional... sketches, drawings, paintings, and the like. Producing a ring was a process unlike any other that I have encountered thus far.

I first sketched out several designs on paper, and chose the one that I liked the best. I took the design proposal to the studio where Brittany Golden began to guide a few students and I through basics of ring making.  Each student received a thick wax ring, and with different tools we began to carve our designs into the wax. We took the wax home to work on it, and returned to the studio when we were ready to begin phase two. Brittany took our wax rings to Salt Lake where they were placed into a mold.  The wax was melted away and the mold was with filled in with silver.

Later, we ground away the small protrusions on the rings using a sanding wheel. We refined, polished and buffed the silver with different tools until our rings were as shiny as mirrors. We washed off the excess grime and polish until we were fully satisfied with the final product. I still have the option of adding color to my ring, as well as a small jewel, perhaps even a diamond.

This process took several days to complete, and I spent several hours at home and in the studio with my ring. Now that it rests comfortably upon my finger, I feel a sense of joy and satisfaction in the work. Another benefit of ring making is that the process afforded me several hours of concentration and undistracted meditation. As I worked with my little ring, I let the solemnities of eternity rest upon my mind.

Although my ring, like any material possessions, will eventually be corrupted by moth and rust, it's shape and design are symbolic of eternity. Unlike rings, our spirits are eternal. We are each unique, and we bear the imprint of God, because we are created in His image, male and female. In order to become complete and finished, the wax, protrusions, rough edges, scratches, bumps, and grime of our lives need to be eliminated. We are all in God's hands, and sometimes carving, melting, grinding, and polishing touches come through adversity. The heat and friction of adversity provide necessary refinement and polishing.  Add to that the various colors of personality, and the precious stones of experience, and the finished product is beautiful...

                                                                                    ... at least I like it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Hello Seattle, I am a Mountaineer..."

For those of you who haven't ever listened to Owl City, here is one song that is fitting for any trip to Seattle.  I like the free flowing and jovial sound, as well as the care-free lyrics.  There is something ethereally enjoyable about the electro-musical style, and every once in a while the somewhat puerile poetry actually makes more sense than any contrived or somber love song. For example, in Vanilla Twilight:
"The silence isn't so bad, 'til I look and my hands and feel sad, 'cause the spaces between my fingers are right where yours fit perfectly." The music video, with cameo appearances from Shaquille O'Neil, is not the worst music video that I have ever seen.

I don't think that I could listen to this all of the time, but there are moments in each day when a catchy Owl City song (such as Galaxies) might appropriately capture a feeling of awe or wonder.  Walking under the bright and vast expanse of stars at night on the beach or in the mountains might kindle an awareness of how we humans are simultaneously both infinitesimally small and infinitely loved. As a wise man once said: "God has no distracting hobbies."

I couldn't quite put my finger on why I was intrigued by this happy go-lucky musical talent until a few lyrics surfaced that satisfied my suspicion that the artist Adam Young may have received personal inspiration to write some of these songs:

"Dear God, I was terribly lost when the galaxies crossed and the sun went dark,
 But dear God, you're the only North Star I would follow this far...
 Hercules, you've got nothing to say to me,
 'Cause you're not the blinding light that I need,
 For He is the saving grace of the galaxies."

Well done. (see also In Christ Alone)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Two scriptures to remember...

19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for apeace, and things wherewith one may bedify another. (Romans 14:19)

32 For behold, this alife is the time for men to bprepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of cthis life is the day for men to perform their dlabors. (Alma 34:32)

The Miracle of Bern

The Miracle of Bern is a movie that I recommend not only because it involves soccer and Switzerland, good acting and spectacular scenery, but because of the insights it provides into family relationships.  The miracle of Germany's victory in the World Cup seems to grow out of the more intimate victory of strengthened family bonds, especially the bond between a father returning from war and his youngest son.  Even if you don't like exciting soccer matches and breathtaking European landscapes, you would have to be a stone not to weep just a little at this beautiful story of reconciliation.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Duck Beach 2012

Our lives at Duck passed away as if it were a dream.  The yearly migration to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, affectionately referred to as Duck, has become a tradition for single members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints LDS from all over the United States, as well as other countries.  Most of the activities take place in Corolla, but since the early LDS vacationers first occupied the town of Duck, the appellation has remained.

As in years past, Duck has attracted some of the best and the brightest of the East Coast graduate students, young professionals, entrepreneurs, and other movers and shakers, as well as their Western and Mid-Western peers.  Others arrive from as far aways as Europe, Brazil and Australia, seeking respite, relaxation, and possibly romance.  The Memorial Day weekend is jam packed with parties, beach games, and socializing, interrupted only briefly on Sunday morning by LDS worship services.  This year the congregation held a sacrament meeting at a middle school in Kitty Hawk in order to accommodate the large number of vacationers.

As a somewhat reluctant but now fully satisfied third year veteran, my experience at Duck may not be uncommon, but it is unique in that I did not sleep in the party houses, and I had the opportunity to spend quality time with a few close family members, as well as with friends both old and new.  The Outer Banks feels like home to me because my ancestors and my paternal grandfather hailed from Harker's Island, a small community located several miles south of Duck Beach and Corolla.  My ancestors made their living by fishing and whaling in the Atlantic Ocean, and my grandfather did the same until he met a pair of LDS missionaries who promptly baptized him and inspired him to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where he met his wife, my grandmother.

Over the years my family has travelled many times to the Outer Banks, and it is to this region of the earth that many of my fondest memories can be traced.  When I discovered that there was a Mormon migration to Duck Beach, I was as much drawn to my ancestral roots as I was to the exciting prospect of meeting beautiful and eligible LDS girls.

This year my father, sister and I visited my grandmother in the Greenville hospital.  My father also organized a fireside and mini-conference at Duck Beach for the John Adam's Center, an educational institution designed to encourage people of traditional morality in their quest for truth, and to support the voices of people of faith in the public square.  Distinguished scholars and authors participated in the conference and panel discussion on topics such as religion, the so-called "Mormon moment" and politics.  With these good incentives to spend memorial day weekend on the Outer Banks (faith, family and fun), I embarked on yet another adventure to Duck.

Of course, like most who flock to Duck, there remained a glimmer of hope in my heart to meet that special someone and to kindle a relationship to last forever.  The swimming, dancing and socializing provide ample opportunities for single adults to meet new and interesting people, but not every encounter results in marriage.  In fact, I suspect that most return to real life without a new romance, but at least having formed new friendships and created good memories.

Although I had time to rest and to enjoy the beauties of nature (including the beautiful Mormons), this year at Duck was more eventful than I would have imagined it to be.  One night after driving back to the Beach house from an excursion to find wild horses, a deer bounded out of the bushes and onto our rental car windshield, and then hopped away on the other side of the road.  Fortunately, no one was injured (except perhaps the deer), but the vehicle sustained serious damage to the windshield and one of the windshield wipers.  It could have been a lot worse.  We were very fortunate indeed.

The next day I had the car towed back to the rental store, and a few of my friends and I headed to the nearest beach for a dip in the ocean.  After a swim and a conversation with a friend, a young man alerted us that two of our other friends seemed to be swimming out too far into the ocean.  We turned around to look for them, and away in the distance we saw two small heads bobbing up and down, and a hand waving.  We couldn't tell if they were in distress, so rather than risk their drowning, we decided to call 911.  Within minutes emergency responders were on the scene, and a couple of life guards with floating devices swam out to save them.  They had ventured quite far out into the ocean, but as it turns out, they were not in distress.  In fact, they were perhaps more distressed to have their romantic swim in the Atlantic broken up by the life guards.  Several people had gathered to watch the would-be rescue, and still others observed the spectacle from their beach houses.

In spite of the dare devil deer and the dangers of drowning, most of the Duck experience was relatively calm.  There was the usual dancing, music and partying.  There was beach volleyball and beach flirting in the mornings, followed by more parties and excursions to historical sites such as Kitty Hawk (where Wilbur and Orville Wright launched their first successful flights) and trips to the lighthouses, such as the Currituck lighthouse.

Late one night, a group of friends and I brought flying lanterns out to the beach.  We lit them and released the glowing miniature hot-air balloons into the starry night over the ocean.  The brightness of the stars over the ocean was spectacular, and the breeze carried the flying lanterns even further out over the ocean than our friends had swum, until the flames were extinguished or until we could see them no longer.  It was a beautiful sight: candles under the bright stars soaring out over the ocean like so many luminescent birds in flight.  These lanterns did not return, but I suspect that many LDS singles will return to Duck again next year, with bright hopes and great expectations.

All in all Duck 2012 was a great experience.  I had the privilege of meeting many fun and interesting people.  I wasn’t disappointed at all that many of the fun and interesting people that I met also happened to be intelligent, articulate, and beautiful young ladies, any one of whom would make a more than suitable match for marriage.  Whether I would make a suitable match has yet to be determined, but at least I can admire the ladies for their commendable qualities.

Will I return to Duck next year?  Perhaps like most of those who embark on the adventure, I certainly wouldn’t mind returning to Duck, although it would be preferable to do so accompanied by a spouse.  Some may call it quackery, but in the future, I believe it would be even more fun to bring along some cute little ducklings.