Yes, I make necklaces out of old soda bottles and credit cards. I could say that my jewelry-making is about good stewardship of the environment, and that might be technically true. If I make a necklace from a soda bottle, it doesn’t go into the landfill as fast. I could say it’s about simplicity because I don’t need to buy anything before creating. But neither of those reasons are why I create out of trash. 

The author in a hat she made with recycled materialsAstonishing streams of new things come from my hands: jewelry and sweaters and hats and bread ovens, baskets and sheds and pots of jam – all from old things discarded by others. I don’t know what it is about material culture that is so compelling to me. While other people write books, make music, start businesses, I am creating a retro pillbox hat out of VCR tape and onion bags.

I am authentically myself as Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold. This is as central to who I am as talking too much, blurting things out, being honest about my emotions even when it costs me socially and professionally; it is as central as caring about justice, loving furry animals, and not really understanding fashion. Living as un-self-consciously as possible, without constantly checking myself to see  if I am fitting into society’s norms, is not
Quakerly per se, but it is a necessary first step toward integrity and openness to Spirit. Simply put, I cannot enter into sacred space while I am posing. I must take off this clothing of social norms, niceties, and normalcy, and enter the river, nakedly, as myself.

Necklace made from old credit cardsI do not know what this purifying experience is like for most people, but for me it is likely to be wacky and embarrassing.  It may be cooking up a pot of a story of “roadkill rabbit stew;” it may be a sequined dress made from old credit cards; it may be crying in front of strangers; but one thing’s sure – it’s always me. Then and only then do I enter sacred space and find myself open to Spirit. Then I am able to experience Integrity, Simplicity, and Peace. Then Way opens for me, if only a little.

The path from old bottle caps to Integrity is not linear, but I have walked it.  In a 1986 article in The Paris Review, E.L. Doctorow said “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Yes, I say, I know that way, I know that process. And I will tread it, with my own lopsided gait.  ~~~

Lisa Grenier lives outside Tucson, Arizona, with her husband, son, and two dogs. For the past 20 years, she has taught basic education  to adults for Pima Community College. She is a member of Pima Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (IMYM).

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