I am sure the current WP writing challenge will spark a shower of poignant stories on family heirlooms, balding teddies, gifts from lost loves, and other memorabilia. Which possessions do I most treasure? An album of childhood photos with my mother’s drawings in it, perhaps? A flying wooden seagull my sister gave me years ago?

It dawns on me that, sitting on my coffee table, I have a little bird sculpture. Perhaps this bird and its cousin, the broken fish, are my favourite possessions. They were my first experiments with soapstone – opus n°4 and opus n°1, respectively – and they made me understand the truth of the old story:

The famous artist <insert name here> is asked how to create beautiful sculptures, like this lion here. The artist replies, “It’s easy. You take a block of stone and chip away everything that’s not part of the lion.”

When I made these figurines, I did indeed puzzle over what could be hidden in the stone. And carving these creatures did feel strangely like setting them free.

But their status as favourites probably isn’t due to these memories. Rather, they are two of only very few pieces I’ve created in any medium that I’m truly happy with. (Well, the fish was a bit fragile. Lesson learnt: make soapstone figurines have a minimum thickness of 1cm everywhere.) I wonder how “real” artists deal with this. Do they keep their secret favourites? Or can they let them go because they are confident of being able to produce more work as good, or even better?

We need to let things go, to make room for the new. Not just in our homes, but in our heads. Yet we hang on to the old because it holds our identity. I know that the self and identity are fictions. Yet they feel so real. I know that by defining myself through my past, I am holding myself back. Nevertheless I’m proud of having carved this bird. I know we need to learn to loosen our bonds to this world and to everthing in it, if we are to die at peace. But the love of life and all it contains pulls at our heartstrings. Relentlessly.


We are drops of spray
Cast up by the surf.

We fly through the air
In the sunlight,
Meeting other droplets,
Mingling waters,
And parting again.

We revel in our freedom
Look at me:
My shape, my path,
Look, how fast I am going,
How high I can fly!

And as we are
To the ocean below,
We fear losing
Our unique self,

We will become
Once again one
With the deep blue sea.

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I like blue.

7 thoughts on “Airborne”

    1. Thank-you so much. The fishes tail has bits broken off…but it was my first, and I still love it.

      Soapstone is lovely to work with, as you can sand it so well it gives very organic shapes.

  1. The sculptures are beautiful. You captured perfectly that aero-dynamic shape of the bird and the curve of the fish. Just wow.

    I don’t think we can ever really let go of our past, our roots. We can change and move on to wider spaces, but we have to embrace and accept our past to do that. Like your sculptures. 😉 They were chunks of soapstone before you “freed” them, and without the attributes of their medium you couldn’t have done so.

    1. How very kind of you. As I say, these are the pieces I am truly happy with.

      Accepting the past is certainly good, but we do need to learn to let it go. We can’t take it with us, as they say.

    1. It’s really more black and white: blue would be nice, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen blue soapstone. It’s meant to be a generic bird, so everyone can choose their own type of bird. Well, maybe not an ostrich ;-).

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