You Can Close Your Eyes

Ten years ago I designed and helped construct a 1500 square foot mosaic. The project included a sidewalk, fireplace, chimney, and welcome sign at a new housing development. I was entrusted with this project by Metropolitan Homes.

When they hired me, I had no idea what I was doing.

I literally had NO idea. I was an artist, yes, but at that point I had only painted. I had never done a single thing with a tile, and I had no idea how to design something so big.

The company bought me some cheap tiles, a bag of thin-set mortar, and a tool. I still don’t even know what that tool is called. They set aside an under-construction garage for me and gave me a slab of wood on which to practice.

I got a bucket, poured in 50 pounds of thin-set powder (whatever that was), and added some water. Clearly not enough. The tool barely mixed it, and I was left with lumpy, dry-ish goo. No matter to me—I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like, so I assumed it was fine.

9 hours, 3 sobbing phone calls to my father, and a sunset later, I sat in the garage, looking at the ugliest, sloppiest, most poorly-designed piece of art I had ever crafted (quite frankly, it was probably amongst the ugliest thing anyone has ever created). Knowing I had 1500 square feet in front of me, starting like, tomorrow, I was deeply discouraged.

But I got started. It turned out that no one on site or at the company had ever done anything like this, so I was officially the most knowledgeable person on the job.

So much happened in the duration of that project that I imagine I earned a PhD in Mosaic Arts. (I could seriously write a small book about what not to do when installing a mosaic. I could also write a book about what to do.)

Each and every moment of each and every day, I was in the unknown. Being there meant that I faced constant failure and breakthrough. From dawn until dusk, 7 days a week, for five weeks straight (which began only after we had spent months failing in and refining our approach), I inhaled and exhaled dust and disorientation.

But in those moments, I experienced extreme beauty and satisfaction.

I’ll never forget the feeling of arriving on site when it was still dark, me and my bucket, under the moon. I’ll never forget the three men from Poland, hired to help me lay each of the thousands of pieces, teaching me, laughing with me, and celebrating with me. I’ll never forget the secret memorial I built into the mosaic for the man who had died before he could move into his home. That sidewalk, in part, belongs to him.

I’ll never forget the day that my dear friend’s mom died. I left the construction site for a while to say goodbye to her and to support him and his family. I’ll never forget returning that night, after everyone had gone home, and lovingly laying each tile in her name. That sidewalk, in part, belongs to her, for now, and for always.

I’ll never forget the day that I threw out my back, got metal in my eye, and had to replace one single tile 16,000 times because it never seemed to want to stick. I’ll never forget the times when Sam, a resident in the complex, brought me tea and sandwiches. I’ll never forget the conversations I had with strangers and construction workers about my work, the art, and their lives. I’ll never forget the dream that I had that told me exactly what to do in the last 10 feet of space with the odd tiles that didn’t seem to go together. I’ll never forget the words that I put into the sidewalk that can only be seen from above. I’ll never forget the tiny Polish flag we placed at the beginning of the sidewalk.

I’ll never forget the sights, the smells, the feelings.

I’ll never forget that the owner of Metropolitan Homes believed in me and gave me a chance. He was crazy, really. He invested tens of thousands of dollars into an artist who had no idea what she was doing. I’ll never, ever, forget that.

I’ll never forget that one day when we were done. The tiles were set. The grout was dry. The sidewalk was washed and clean. The landscaping grew in, people moved in, and the sidewalk was open for feet.

Beauty resides in the liminal space—in doing what we don’t know how to do and being willing to stay with the process.

I cried so often during that project. It was so incredibly hard. I had no idea how it would turn out or if it would turn out. But people were depending on me, and I was working with three tilers who had also put their hearts in the project. I had to keep going, and I had to be resilient.

In the middle of the project, I went to a James Taylor concert. He sang the song, “You Can Close Your Eyes.” Here are the lyrics:

Well the sun is surely sinking down
But the moon is slowly rising
And this old world must still be spinning ’round
And I still love you

So close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it’s all right
I don’t know no love songs
And I can’t sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I’m gone

Well it won’t be long before another day
We’re gonna have a good time
And no one’s gonna take that time away
You can stay as long as you like

So close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it’s all right
I don’t know no love songs
And I can’t sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I’m gone

I realized, as I listened to his words, that I was safe and that I was creating something larger than myself and certainly larger than anything I was thinking or feeling.

It is safe for all of us to close our eyes. It is safe for all of us to be in the unknown. The world will still move. You will still be loved. Your song will still be sung. You are a part of a process, and a process is a part of you.

Together, we can embrace and enjoy the ride. (And boy, we do know, it is a ride).

In love and liminality,

Annie Rose

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9 thoughts on “You Can Close Your Eyes

  1. You are a creator and I am moved by your passion and not knowing and creating community wherever you are. Keep writing and adventuring and creating. You are healing the world by who you are. ❤️❤️❤️

  2. A wonderful beginning to a conversation about commitment. How often do we say “yes” without the commitment behind it? It’s important to be mindful of what we say yes to.

    I question my level of commitment when the pain comes up, or the frustration, or one more challenge when you already are tired by it all! And that’s a good conversation to have with myself and my community. And love always pops up in the equation.

    Annie, it seems if your commitment was made stronger by the love and honoring you had for your Polish masons/tilers, your love and appreciation and honoring you felt for the owner of Metro Homes, and all the other people and memories you honored throughout your process. Thank you for expressing that so beautifully and remind me to ask myself, what is it I love about my commitment? So, I’m exploring that now – in the liminal space.

  3. Anne has the soul and spirit shared with all of us. Life has opportunities every day….we have a chance to share those same opportunities with others with passion. Love you anne

  4. Thank you for this insightful
    And beautiful message. The mosaic is exquisite and peaceful. Blessed by reading this and seeing the finished art.

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