June 19, 2012 § 3 Comments
By Tara Deal
An information packet has arrived from the glass blowing studio, and it sounds fantastic. I am ready to learn a new skill, craft a vessel, appreciate my materials, and feel some mastery over my situation. (This is why I’ve already paid for the class.) Then I read the safety instructions and wonder about danger. Perhaps I shouldn’t have signed up so quickly. But I continue.
And arrive early to fill out the emergency contact forms. Posters show the nearest hospital. There is a bright red sign for firemen, with warnings.
The instructor’s name is something odd, and I never quite catch it, but that’s all right, because there’s no time for small talk. The studio is loud, with the background roar of fire, and so he yells out his explanation of the furnace, where we will gather our glass. It won’t be like anything you’ve ever encountered. Not a promise—a warning. The white-hot furnace shimmers inside with a pool of liquid glass, with the consistency of honey.
Look for the slight shadow of the glass horizon against the background bricks. Because there will be no time to think about it when the furnace door slides open, just a bit, and you have to reach in with a pole and twirl some glass around the tip. The heat is so intense that it activates the fight-or-flight response.
But we have to do it. And get used to it.
The glass is heavy and I’m sweating, but I lift the pole out, all the while twirling so that the glass doesn’t drip onto the floor or, worse, myself.
Clear spider webs of glass crack on the concrete near the furnace door. Where people have gone before me.
I twirl my hot pole back to the workbench. Work a few minutes, then heat the glass again. Always twirling. Without stopping, without comment. Otherwise the glass falls off-center and becomes misshapen.
Glass is always flowing, about to fall.
Concentration is the only option.
You must be both balanced and balancing. The art and fact of glass blowing.
“Acquiring this knowledge is the work of a lifetime, ” wrote the high-wire walker Philippe Petit about balancing on ropes.
My first gather of glass becomes a small fish. It looks like something a shark started to eat, then forgot about. Something slightly mangled, discarded among the conchs.
Leaving the studio in winter, I don’t put on my coat. I want only cold food for dinner. I wait for sushi and close my eyes. Remembering twirling. Doing what was necessary, almost with grace under pressure. Concentrating on the object of my affection. I have by now learned how to blow a bubble into glass and create a container, a goblet (not quite). Somewhat lopsided, with a navel on the bottom, like those cheap glasses in Mexico I bought once and hauled home, long ago.
And isn’t this what I wanted? Something to have, to hold.
I pick up a glass sake cup and kiss its paper-thin lips.
Tara Deal is the author of the poetry chapbook Wander Luster (Finishing Line Press) and the novella Palms Are Not Trees After All, which won the 2007 Clay Reynolds Novella Prize from Texas Review Press. Her shortest story appears in Hint Fiction (Norton).