The little ritual seemed to be carved into stone tablets, as the stained glass studio was over one-hundred years old.  Rituals seemed to hold much greater sway in the time of my youth, even greater sway in the time of my father’s youth. His formative years were before that of television, where the family would gather around the radio to listen to the detective series “Gang Busters”.  There is something to envy in that. One does not have to be on board with everything involved in a ritual in order to have reverence and appreciation for it. In fact, does belief matter much so long as one appreciates the founding sentiment and the sense of awe that gave rise to it in the first place?  Perhaps, I might not be the best person to know. Rituals can be made up by a family, they can be as old as the hills, they can be the common language of fond friends or spouses. None of these are mutually exclusive. I am fondest of the latter. What makes a ritual enjoyable? What makes a ritual deep?  The answer to the first is largely based on the second, for if it does not feel deep in some way, it is mostly the killing of time.

I often get rather distracted when I write these stories.  For when I meant to write a little ditty about coffee break in a stained glass studio, I end up writing about everything that has to do with rituals, along with a little about one of its famous artists.

10 AM to 10:15 AM, this was the official time.  However, 10 to 10:30 or 40 was often the reality, it all depended on the quality of the conversation.

Anyway, at ten, we would stop for coffee.  It was written into the union rules you know. The irony being that we had not belonged to the union for many years.  One of our design artists, Russel Kraus, would show up religiously for that stretched out fifteen minutes, even though he was not working with us much of the time.  Russel lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright house that he and his wife had built in the 1950’s only a mile down the road. When Wright accepted the job, towards the end of his now famous career, he told the Krauses in his acceptance letter “you shall have your ‘Little House in the Woods’” which is what it became named.  Shortly before his death Russel sold it to a conservancy and it became “The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park”. It was actually one of the more unusual and beautiful homes Wright had designed. Russel Kraus had a softness, honesty and openness about him that most people might have wanted to hide. Though awkward on occasion, I found it refreshing.  He had the silly playfulness of a child even though he was in his seventies at the time. Every Christmas he would carve and paint brightly colored wooden figurines to give to us. Each one of them came with a whimsical letter introducing itself. “Hi, my name is….the cat. I like to cause mischief by…. My favorite thing to do is….”. Some of the self introductions went on for quite a while.  While we still have the carvings, the letters, sadly, were not kept. 

Kraus self portrait   As you can see, I worked with artists.  This is Russel’s self portrait.  Science is fascinating and was what I turned to when I looked for the how and the why of the universe, but artists like to boil human emotion and observation down to the essence of how our brains interpret the world.  Human emotion might not have much to do with the workings of the universe, but they matter a lot to a human.

Coffee break slowly got phased out.  No time for such nonsense. We simply made ourselves too busy, which was an option that had often been available from the time my Great Grandfather ran the company, over one-hundred twenty years ago.  Many of us are far too busy to bother ourselves with such trivial things these days.  

While I agree that much work needs to get done, I’ve observed that if you don’t delineate between productive times and non productive times, the two often start to get confused and the boundaries get smudged.

Perhaps we need a few more coffee breaks in our time.

Kraus outside
The “Little House in the woods”

Kraus toward kitchen