In a Perfect World: Gratitude


Abacus is my final piece for the In a Perfect World series I created for Advent.


I have been keeping a journal for several years now. At least the last dozen. I have been fairly faithful to writing morning pages, a concept attributed to Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. It took me several times to complete The Artist’s Way. But with my very first attempt, the morning pages stuck. That is one of the harder practices for people to follow. You write three pages everyday. It can be nothing special. Just non-stop writing. We also practiced a writing time in Mr. Johnson’s class beginning in the third grade through the sixth grade. Maybe that early practice helped me pick it up once again.

Somewhere along the way, I added a fourth page of two lists. I simply write Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! across the top of the page, number one to ten, and then Help Me! Help Me! Help Me!, followed by one to ten again. Then I sit there and try to fill both lists in no particular order. Sometimes I abandon the list, but I try really hard to finish the lists no matter how trivial the items.


Rolling strips of paper is nothing new to me. I have rolled thousands of fortunehearts beginning in 1997. I gave up that practice to people who want to personalize, print, cut and roll their own fortunehearts. But something keeps drawing me back to simple strips of paper. In fact, one of my very first art projects in college was a pillow stuffed with small fortunes of my dreams that had come true. My mom got tired of finding pillows all over house and sewed up the open pillow. But it is there somewhere, stuffed full of little snippets from my dreams.


Once I realized I wasn’t going to need to weld my own abacus together, I bought a Melissa & Doug Classic Wooden Abacus. I dismantled it, removed the beads and started creating my own. I intended to create one hundred beads like the original toy, but the strips were becoming a little unwieldy. So I opted for seventy beads based on a Chinese abacus.


I don’t necessarily have a linear way that I think about this piece. But I like how the elements blend together: accounting paper, abacus, blessings, little things, multiplication, fortune, luck, remembering, reading, sharing.


The rolls of paper jump out at you and you are invited to read the statement on the bead. Like I said before, I wrote the beads as I created them. I wish that they were a little more profound than they are. But the exercise was not unlike my daily practice.


Several of the beads are left blank. Instead they display the numbered edge of the accounting paper. Instead of writing something over top of the numbers, I liked the idea of leaving them blank. It reminded me of how an empty fortune cookie is actually good luck. Here it is a list of numerous blessings, too many to count. The Bible is full of references to doing something 70 x 7, or some other multiplied set of numbers, illustrating that it is too difficult to count. And in this case, it is also fairly difficult to use the abacus for a counting method.


Some version of the sanded and shaped accounting beads may come to pass. I have a new-to-me belt sander thanks to Bradley. I consulted him on my various projects a few months ago. The next thing you know, he found two belt sanders at an auction. It helps to be well connected. And for small things like that, I am very grateful.

PS – My next auction request: a Dremel set.


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Abacus is the sixth piece I created for In a Perfect World, a series celebrating the 2010 Advent Season. These are the six words for which I created work: Justice, Peace, Wholeness, Salvation, Grace, and Gratitude.

Here is a post from this piece in process.

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