"Teach me to hear mermaids singing"
-- John Donne

Sometimes it is nice to take break from everyday life and relax in the world of my imagination.

On the side of this bead, I used a line from John Donne's poem, "Go and catch a falling star"; "Teach me to hear mermaids singing."

The mandrake is learning the mermaids song from a friendly fish. Perhaps the mandrake root, a creature neither human nor plant, is hoping to be able to meet another creature who exists between two worlds, the mermaid, a creature who is neither human nor fish.
Mandrake roots were traditionally used in spells for transformation and flight, and in love charms. Folklore most often portrays mermaids as unlucky omens of rough weather or storms at sea, but mermaids have been known to offer assistance, gifts, and rewards to those who treat them kindly.


I thought the friendly singing fish and the quotation itself deserved their own beads.

"Kisses kept are wasted, love is to be tasted."
-- Edmund Vance Cook

Still in the realm of imagination… the text on the side of this bead is from a poem by Edmund Vance Cook. The mandrake root tries to taste love in the form of a strawberry, a fruit associated with the Norse goddess of Love, Freyja.

When my sisters and I were small, my mother took us for walks exploring the woods and meadows near our house. We looked for animals, birds, and wild flowers and carried home our treasures - tadpoles and caterpillars to raise, mushrooms, moss, flowers, and seed pods. On rare occasions, we found ripe wild strawberries. I will never forget the intense fragrance and flavor of those berries, warm from the sun.

"Fall seven times, stand up eight."
Japanese proverb

There have been so many distractions lately that I've had a hard time carving. My inability to concentrate has been maddening, but I have finally broken through my mental dithering. I had to persist through numerous failures, until I could relax, focus, and let the ideas flow. In my case, it may have been, fall seventy nine times, get up eighty!

"The great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do."
-- Walter Bagehot

Most of the time, I'm the one telling myself that I can't do something, so the victory is especially sweet when I prove myself wrong. When I've heard it from someone else, my first thought is, "Why not?" and I'm more determined to do whatever it is. Even if I don't succeed, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I tried!

"I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning to sail my ship,"
-- Louisa May Alcott

I'm not quite as dauntless as Louisa May Alcott, but I'm trying to adopt her attitude. When a storm blows into my life, collapsing in fear is not a useful response. I may be angry, bewildered, or sad, and getting through rough weather may be truly miserable, but the experience will teach me new skills to handle treacherous weather.

"Those who look for answers are the ones who love the mystery most."
-- Richard Feynman

This quotation took a circuitous route to a bead. I'm often asked, "Where do you get your quotations?" Just for fun, here's how I found it. I was making beads and listening to an interview of NPR (my constant studio companion) with magician Penn Jillette. He approaches magic from an atypical angle and has said, "The question we want you to ask yourself if not how we do these tricks, but why we do them." In the interview he was speaking about the ending bit of his Broadway show at the time - a monologue about the nature of magic, followed by a fire-eating trick.

The transcript of that portion of the August 1, 2015 interview follows:

" A lot of this is just - even though I'm now 60 - thoughts I had when I was 20. Rebellious thoughts. Conventional wisdom would be, if you're going to eat fire, you have to say you were born with a special skill that allows you to do this - "The Human Salamander" - and you have to do all of this. And I became fascinated by: How much of this still holds up when you tell the truth? How much of showbiz holds up when you tell the truth? How much can you think about De Niro playing Travis Bickle before Taxi Driver dissolves?

Turns out Taxi Driver doesn't dissolve. If I sit next to you and I write on the screen every time De Niro goes on, as Travis Bickle, "This is really De Niro. He doesn't really drive a taxi. He doesn't really care about Jodi Foster," somehow the art kind of takes over.

And the thing - and this is, I'm going to try to segue this in, but it really is nothing more than bragging - the great physicist Richard Feynman, who I got to know toward the end of his life and who is, you know, certainly one of the most brilliant thinkers of the 20th century, came to see that monologue.

He talked to me after it, and then came back to the show later and brought five other Nobel Prize winners with him. And [he] said to me afterwards, "I wanted them to hear that monologue, and I especially want my wife to hear that monologue, because she has never understood how those who look for answers are the ones who love the mystery the most." And he said, "I could never find a way to explain that; your fire-eating monologue explains that."

The phrase, "those who look for answers are the ones who love the mystery the most" stayed in my mind and demanded to be carved on a bead. Later, I looked for more of Richard Feynman's writings and found this in "Astrology" section of "Feynman Lectures on Physics", 1961. I liked what he says about science and art.

"Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars - mere globs of gas atoms. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination - stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one - million - year - old light. A vast pattern - of which I am a part... What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?"