Grasshoppers, Ants, and a Blue Moon (or, the Art of Practical Alchemy: Transforming Gold into Gold?)

Have you ever wanted something so badly it keeps you up at night? 

Although I’ve admittedly gained a more materialistic side as a byproduct of living in Orange County, I’ve generally always valued experiences (i.e., travel) over possessions and spent my money accordingly.*

* OK, Hubby is probably suffocating in sarcasm right now.  According to him, I’m clearly a champion “Spender” who is quite accomplished at throwing large sums of money at both travel and frivolous things.  (My retort: Someone has to save the economy?)

But I still contend that it’s rare for me to obsess over an object for months on end like I have been since even before this blog was born.

Maybe it’s the moon?

In case you missed it, this is what Friday’s Blue Moon looked like from our driveway:

Blue Moon on August 31, 2012

Assuming that 12/21/12 isn’t really the End-of-the-World, there won’t be another Blue Moon until July 31, 2015.**  (Of course if 12/21/12 really is THE END, then I really hope you saw that moon!)

** This is using the common definition of Blue Moon, meaning the second full moon in any month, rather than the Farmer’s Almanac definition referring to the third full moon in any season with an unusual four full moons — we’ll see another one of those moons on August 21 next year.

But back to my object of desire.

Remember Aesop’s Fables?  Lately I’ve been pondering the story of The Grasshopper and the Ant.  (Maybe this has something to do with Mitt Romney’s “pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps/create-your-own-success-in-life” rhetoric we can’t seem to get away from on TV these days.)

In any case, here’s a quick recap of Aesop’s version of the tale:

All spring and summer through the time of planting and reaping, an industrious Ant toils all day while a lazy (but artistic) Grasshopper kicks back and relaxes, not caring to plan for the future. Winter comes and the Grasshopper finds himself in dire need. He begs the now prosperous Ant for help, but is turned away.

The Grasshopper and the Ant - Aesop's Fables

The lazy Grasshopper quickly freezes and/or starves to death.

But somehow, the childhood version of the story I recall must have been Disney-fied, because I distinctly remember the ant in that tale did NOT let the grasshopper freeze and starve, but invited him into his home to share his hard earned wealth.

I am a Grasshopper.

Poor Hubby is the Ant.

Apparently men have known this about women for a very long time.  Just look at this painting by Jules-Joseph Lefebvre called “La Cigale” (the Grasshopper), first displayed in 1872:

La Cigale (the grasshopper) - by Jules-Joseph Lefebvre, 1872

Will she starve when winter comes?

I don’t think my grasshopper tendencies are my fault.  With all these online Goddesses and Queens (especially those purportedly blogging from exotic locales around the world) enticing us to “become more feminine” and simply “get better at receiving” in order to allow our “true prosperity” to arrive as result of our “higher vibration,”  who’s to blame us women for wanting to take a few grasshopper shortcuts?

But I digress, yet again.  What I’m trying to get at here is my mindset leading up to my big splurge last Friday on the night of the Blue Moon.  So just what is this object that has been keeping me awake all week?  A piece called “Gold” by magical realism artist Michael Parkes:

"Gold" by Michael Parkes

The unusual thing is not that I invested in a piece of art, but that I did so not as an impulse buy, and not by adding to my (often alarmingly growing) credit card balance. Like Scarlett O’Hara transforming her silk drapery into a gown, I plan to trade in some of my much worn gold for this “gold.”

I call it practical alchemy.

You see, last week I took this gold necklace and bracelet into Tiffany’s for repairs:

Tiffany & Co. 18K Gold Multiwire Necklace and Bracelet

Hubby gave these to me back in 2005 for our first anniversary.  Sentimental?  For sure.  Reparable?  Sadly, no.  I wore both pieces nearly every day of my litigation career, and I’m pretty sure the stress of that profession translated into the kinks and frayed, unraveling gold that make the jewelry almost unwearable today.

Don’t get my wrong: I truly love gold jewelry and always will.  But I love the “Gold” picture more.  I first came across Parkes’ work eleven years ago in 2001, when I moved to California from Australia in the midst of a failed marriage, right before 9/11.  The work that captured my imagination at that time was Parkes’ The Last Lion — a very sad piece that fit my mood perfectly at the time.  (You can read a previous blog about that artwork here.)

Yawn.  Yes, okay, I know people trade in jewelry for stuff every day.  But for me this is a breakthrough: letting go of something valuable to me in the past to make room for something valuable to me now It almost seems as if the Universe was conspiring to make sure I acquired this art: the gallery where I bought it was closing on the night of the Blue Moon (thus offering a hefty discount) and the price of recycled gold was where it needed to be.

The melt price of the gold is substantially more than the “Gold” artwork cost.

But it’s more than that.  The “Gold” picture represents my journey from the broken, scared girl I was in 2001 (as in “The Last Lion”), to the abundant, loving, and (more or less) healed woman I am now.

And like my litigation career, my stressed out, frayed, overworn and abused jewelry has been retired.

Hopefully to serve a higher purpose.

At the risk of sounding, guru-esque, I believe we need to combine the traits of both grasshopper and ant to live well.  True prosperity is something we create within, but in the best of circumstances also shows on the outside in the objects we care most about.  The things we find beauty in.  The things that keep us up at night.


What about you?  Are there objects in your life that symbolize something greater than mere materialism?  Things that demonstrate your love of beauty or another value you hold dear?  Would buy the same item again at double the price?

5 thoughts on “Grasshoppers, Ants, and a Blue Moon (or, the Art of Practical Alchemy: Transforming Gold into Gold?)

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