In metal-smithing, the process of “raising” is turning a flat sheet of metal (usually circular) into a vessel. It is achieved by first annealing (or heating) the sheet of metal, and then quenching it in cold water (the quenching happens with non-ferrous metal; iron is worked while it’s hot). Then you have to clean all of the fire-scale off of the metal in a “pickle” solution (not something you want to eat) and rinse thoroughly before you begin hammering. The hammering is accomplished by working in concentric rings around the piece, beginning at the center and working outwards. After each round, back to the torch for the next heating, then quenching, washing, and finally more hammering. Each blow of the hammer needs to be precise or the finished piece is likely to have wobbles that are hard to buff away. When, finally, you have the piece to the general shape you desire the planishing can begin. With planishing you graduate to a finer hammer and basically start going around your circles again, but with a more delicate hand. Round and round and round. Over and over again. Then the finishing can begin. By this I mean lots of sanding (especially if your hammer strikes were not accurate), buffing, and polishing. It’s an ear-splitting, body-rattling, long-winded process that few have the patience for.
This process is much like parenting.
Yes, this process is much like parenting and I am that sheet of metal. My children are raising me. Every day, I am put under the torch. Every day I am quenched with cool water. Every day, I am hammered and hammered and hammered. The flat sheet of metal that I started out as is slowly taking shape. Slowly becoming more voluminous. Enduring the heat and the shaping, yet not cracking. My children are the hammer wielders. They mean me no harm, don’t get me wrong. They are simply being the beautiful souls that have turned me from something rigid and unworked into something surprisingly pliable and capable of holding more. Something that can withstand blow after blow without breaking. There have been moments that the breaking point has been close at hand, but the torch would return to bring back my flexibility just in the nick of time. And then, ahhhhh, the cool water… maybe a smile or a hand-picked bouquet of flowers.
The shaping has been a lovely process. Metal and metal-smith(s) dancing harmoniously, intuitively, rhythmically together. My children have started at my center, my heart, and worked outwards. They are helping to build my capacity… to shape my soul in ways that I never imagined possible. We’ve made a few errors along the way, but with a little extra attention have been able to repair the ripples and inconsistencies. But I am nowhere near completion. Just when I feel like I have “arrived” and have this parenting thing down, a little one moves to a new phase of development and I am left baffled and perplexed, keenly aware of my own need for more shaping and growth… that my cup of wisdom does not runneth over!
While I am enjoying my current stage in this process, I am completely hopeful that more hammering and shaping will take place as the years pass. In fact, I welcome the continued change. We can’t fully live without also growing. In the end, I hope to be transformed into a shapely vessel with amazing capacity. Polished and brightly shining. Full to the brim and overflowing… with love.