December 10, 2008 § Leave a comment

There was an middle-aged woman who lived just like you
But with many beads she didn’t know what to do

I have pearls. I have turquoise. I have lapis, amethyst, opal, and agate. Rounds, squares, diamonds and oblongs. Chips and bits. I have crystals, new and vintage (the vintage are like kaleidoscopes and the stars when I was eight), and Venetian glass, sometimes with roses painted under the faintly cloudy surface, or zigzags of gold dust on the outside. If I hadn’t bought these beads, I could pay off my credit card debt, which has now leapt from 2.99% to 29.99 %, due to some confusion over the meaning of the phrase, “For the life of the loan.” What they meant was, “For the life, until we change our minds.” Oh. Like marriage. I’m still married, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish—how about you? We just live apart and love others. We can’t let go. We’re sticky. (Hot new word, ‘sticky’. Ideas and trends are sticky or not. Coined by someone who never cleaned up after children.) My debt is sticky, but my beads aren’t. They roll off the tables and under the furniture, vanish into the vacuum cleaner, are stolen by the mice. Mice had my wedding ring for years. It was hung on a hook in the throne room of the King of the Wallkill Smaller Rodents where hundreds gathered to feast before their nightly Olympic games. They only gave it back when I was preparing to move, sliding it back out from under the baseboards in thanks for the cookie crumbs and lack of cat.

Mice and debt are always with us, but beads can be strung prettily and sold. I’m trying. I stay up late making jewelry and feel like those mothers in fairytales who work all night to sew clothing for their children. (Not like real mothers who do such things, because I am not actually suffering, except from insomnia.) I wouldn’t like to calculate how many necklaces I’ll have to make to use up all these beads. Nor to divide that number by the days and weeks left in my life, assuming I live to be 99, which is not the plan. In the beginning I excused my extravagance by saying that as a writer, I was used to having every word in the language at my disposal. My creativity had been nourished on abundance: to choose among too-many-to-count was the craft I learned. And it’s true that my best necklaces are made from combinations I couldn’t have imagined in advance, wouldn’t have shopped for. But it’s also true that one of my favorite children’s books is called “Millions of Cats” and is about an old man and woman who go looking for a cat…the prettiest cat…with results you can guess. At the book’s end, the millions have dispersed and they have only one gray kitten, but I never cared for that ending. The mice were right to thank me.

I know. Ladies with too many cats live in stinky apartments, die alone and are eaten by pets gone feral from sheer numbers. Which is why I bought polished rocks. It would be hard to kill me with them, even if an army of Lilliputians decided I needed it. Guinness World Record holder Michael Lotito, a performer also known as Monsieur Mangetout, ate bicycles, televisions, and an entire airplane (a Cessna 150, over a two year period). You can’t even do that with beads because to say, “I am an artist and I’m going to eat 10,000 beads,” would be as if some timid hippie crawled out of the cave she’d been living in for decades and thought to be provocative. There are bead artist yes, like Lisa Lou* but she uses the tiny ones as pointillist color. For me the only solution is to buy millions more (fast, before Visa comes calling), to buy until I am crowded into a tiny corner of the bedroom by the open window, unable to reach the kitchen or the front door, hearing the words of my friends distorted into growls through the shifting walls of stones, and thinking Beauty! Art! Death! just as I did at 14 when my favorite activities were getting stoned, reading Yeats, and walking anywhere in my smelly, fleece-trimmed Afghan coat with the tiny mirrors sewn all over it.

*Liza Lou, bead artist extraordinaire
Lapis Carnelian Necklace


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