It was a plate for decoration, not eating. Made of pink Depression glass, to be hung on a wall and passed to succeeding generations.
I found my mother examining it one day, and since I didn’t remember seeing it before, stopped, mildly curious, to inquire about it. I still don’t know whom it originally belonged to, but I do remember my mother saying that there was “no one to leave it to,” because: “We’re dying out.”
She was referring to a certain small section of our family tree—the one with three solitary limbs. Two of them middle-aged, unmarried and childless. My brother and me.
And that pretty pink plate that I held in my hands for just a few moments sparked some unexpected thought: about harvests, of all things.
I not only had no one to leave something to, I wasn’t sure I had something to leave, period.
Yet there in my mother’s dining room, after a rather barren minute, I felt a small, ever so quiet answer to the question I did not speak out loud.
“I gave you poems.”
Well, that’s how I recalled it later, along with other things, such as a certain famous character in a beloved book, who furiously penned stories in a drafty attic and sold them to help her family pay the bills (much like her real-life counterpart):
“An old maid, that’s what I’m to be. A literary spinster, with a pen for a spouse, a family of stories for children, and twenty years hence, a morsel of fame, perhaps…” 1
And another artistic spinster, a Victorian governess rescued from a profession she detested by a poet friend, painting prolifically but not successfully—at least not in the financial sense:
“…I feel strong in the trust that my Maker will see and forgive all, and will make better use hereafter of my capacities – great and here unwanted and unused – for love and for creative Work. It has indeed been borne in upon me that here I am a superfluous creature. There I shall know and be known.” 2
Two women, two gifts. One foresaw a harvest, and lived. One did not, and died.
* * *
How many times have you wondered who will read your book, your blog, your story? Who will buy it, share it, prove that it was not in vain?
That was the question posed by a pink plate of Depression glass in my mother’s dining room.
For me, at least, the answer was complicated by the belief that artistic talent is a gift from God. Why would He bestow it if it was only to end up “wasted”?
I had to rethink my definition of harvest. I had to realize that:
For some, like me, harvest is reaped in words. For others, like my brother, it’s in melodies and musical notes.
And while we’ve both enjoyed a small measure of success and praise, sometimes—for all of us—
No doubt I’ll have to remind myself of this again in the future. But each time I do, that pretty pink plate will remain exactly what it was designed to be: just a decorative piece of glass.
* * *
How about you? Do you have a talent or gift that you feel has been unappreciated, or that you fear will be? How do you measure “harvest” in your life? Please tell us in the comments or say hello.
1* Jo March, Little Women
2** Blanche Glover, Possession
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- Do You Want More People to Read Your Writing? I Am an Editor - July 1, 2016
- What If There’s No Harvest? - November 14, 2015
- Lucie Winborne Speaks Out - October 16, 2015