Workshop #3 Exercise: A History of Glass

Prompt:

List:
1. Memories associated with glass
2. Facts about glass
3. Feelings you have about glass
4. Questions having to do with glass.

In five minutes, write a piece (whatever form whatever genre) entitled “A History of Glass,”using one from each column.

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7 Responses

  1. “A History of Glass”

    How many layers of history are contained within a glass bottle? Why didn’t they break when they were first heaved into what then was the edge of the forest but now is deep scraggle? We found them in early spring before the new leaves sheltered their traces and the loamy needles sank them deeper into their blanket. When my father and I hunted around between the shallow roots of pine trees, we were like farmers searching for truffles, I suppose, though our treasure was sighted not sniffed: bottles over a century old, clouded and thick, the color of watery sky. Some had slender, sloping shoulders and elegant necks as though modeled after a lovely woman and containing water, elixirs, potions, snake oil remedies but mostly, probably, whiskey, as the house up the field was a tavern from the Revolutionary War until mid 19th century and a trading post before that for trappers from way up the Penobscot, which we could see sparkling through the leafless branches as we worked, hunters, my father for traces of history and me for the scent of stories.

  2. I don’t have feelings about glass. It’s an inanimate object. (That’s a lie.) When I was in fourth grade I brought a friend to our beach house in Olympia. We walked the rock beaches all weekend, looking for sea glass. I don’t know why we were so focused on finding it. Maybe its the sharp edges smoothed, or maybe its the unexpected color that grasps the eye, but sea glass demands physical exploration. My friend discovered she had a knack for finding them, hidden amongst the stones, as if they called to her. I found one all weekend, and it didn’t even count. It was just a broken beer bottle shard. I felt so inadequate. Why couldn’t I find them?

  3. I cheated. I took this home, and spent much longer than five minutes. But here goes:

    A History of Glass

    They are larger than we both expect,
    the glass globes lined up on the slick
    ledge of the house; Ozette Lake,
    the trip we’ve set out upon ending,
    and I am hoping for a telephone.

    The history of glass is the history
    of navigation. First there were the pressed
    hard compasses against that line
    of the horizon, and the cut of portholes
    and the weight of pocket watches.
    Every night in his cabin the captain
    wound this watch. I imagine he thought
    of the way his mother’s dress collected
    about her ankles in his youth, or
    the line of trees along London’s
    South Street, or in less noble moments
    the harsh ugly movement of sex.

    On the beach, working south from
    Shi Shi to Point of the Arches, further
    still to Seafield, we searched these glass globes
    out among the flotsam and jetsam of
    our neighbors across the ocean
    without luck.
    By some trick of the currents, which
    work in this portion of the world like the hands
    of a clock, we handled the old Styrofoam
    and plastic bottles (the characters so unlike
    our own) with curiosity or perhaps disgust.
    But then, these two things are not so different.

    The house is quiet. It is midday,
    the occupants at work, away
    at least from home. On the porch beside
    these glass eyes sits a crate of clementines,
    this being winter after all, and the time
    when few venture for the coast. She rings the bell again.

    Great glass globes like these
    require the pressure of heat
    and the pressure of lungs. The Japanese fishermen
    tied them to their nets, the size and heft at odds
    with the tenuous lines meant for trapping.
    Clementines, like the weights and buoys
    of fishing lines, signal good luck.
    This is in the roundness. We call this luck:
    to cull from the shore the weight
    of glass globes, but what we love best is improbability.
    They’ve traveled now great distances,
    each parceled out first in the business and motions
    of harvesting. They’ve traveled in solitude.
    They’ve fallen out of favor, too, replaced
    by — what?

    Do you see eyes? Do you see bowls?
    They are larger than we imagined, the green
    speckled like skin should be, the hollow
    displacing what would have been oceans.
    These things — the density of glass, the frailness
    of nets and lines — seem suddenly at odds to me.
    Remarkable: that something so fragile
    will travel such distances, will claim
    its wholeness with improbability
    and envy.
    In glass like navigation, the best is forged
    from severity of purpose, the luck that is
    the other side of lust.

  4. Watching her hand, dripping with blood from the shards of what used to be the upper pane of the porch door, I fainted. I “came to” in the car but remained silent, staring out the windshield at open fields which became more apparently transparent as my thoughts and sight became more indistinctly murky. “I understand,” I said to no one in particular as she shivered and looked at me like a fish that had been cruelly tossed out of its bowl, its clear home.

    The next real moment came in the elevator. It had a glass floor which meant it was my turn to tremble. I could overcome anything except for standing on nothing. I clung to any hand within reach and panicked more than that girl lying somewhere under opaque, white sheets, leaking what I heard the doctor refer to as “vital fluids.”

    I once read about a small glass droplet (called a Prince Rupert’s drop) which is formed by a quick cooling of that orange, molten substance; it resists breakage when struck with a hammer but explodes into a cloud of sand-like dust shatters when its fragile end is snapped with pliers (or strong fingers). That’s how I imagine this pressure. This lack of seeing and then — WHAM! – her closed eyes on the opposite side of the glass.

  5. When the rain slips in fat drops down the gray window, it leaves behind tear-trails that evaporate from the outside in. If the window is tinted, the water seems faraway somehow, not really translucent but trying to get there. But sometimes water can’t find its way downward, decides instead to condense on the gritty surface of frosted glass, or freeze into a stinging rime, like when the bus back from Wyoming didn’t have heat and the subzero cold crept in, gathering on the glass. We wrote messages there, meaningless, backwards jokes and phrases meant for the other cars, winding their way through nowhere. Sometimes I wonder why some classrooms don’t have windows.

  6. a history of glass

    age three: I watched as the man in the overalls and scruffy beard at Silver Dollar City molded my soon-to-be-favorite Christmas ornament out of only a blob of orange, molten goo and a metal pipe on a particularly steamy July day.

    age seven: I watched through the living room window as my dog, Chelsea, filled her mouth and intestines with grass. She died a day later.

    age eleven: I hit my little sister after she broke said Christmas ornament. I told her not to shake the tree like that.

    age fifteen: I felt the cold morning breeze whipping across my tanned skin as I skiied across the glassy, smooth surface of Table Rock Lake.

    age twenty-five: I held a glass of champagne and watched “Sleepless in Seattle.” You bought me a cubic zirconium engagement ring?

  7. I first have to say that it was very serendipitous that we chose to write about glass. My unit one project is about windows so naturally glass played a large role. When I heard Katie list it as a potential topic, I voted for it figuring it would be neat and helpful to hear what other people had to write about it but expecting to be the only one raising my hand. To my surprise it won!

    And I really like all of your takes on the subject!

    What is it made out of? Was it always so smooth? Who first thought to use it as a window? What is the effect of watching your whole life from behind glass? It seems transparent, but actually takes some of the light away as it passes through, changes the colors slightly. It reflects but is not mindful of the details. It jumps from gleaming, watery smoothness and wholeness to sharp, shattered disarray instantly. Why do we hide behind it? Rain slides down its smooth hide, but what if we braved the elements? It keeps our fish contained, but what if we were in there with them?

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