Afternoon visit to the ancestral grave

The sky was so high and perfectly clear. It was a fine and peaceful afternoon of an autumn day when my wife, my daughter and I visited the grave of my ancestors on the outskirts of Murano Island. We walked beneath a row of huge poplar trees which had by then already turned gold, and continued on for a quite long distance toward the endmost area of the cemetery where the tombstone awaited us.

In Venice, every tombstone has a ceramic photo of the person buried, so you can easily tell whose grave it is. As we walked along and saw these graves, I began to feel so depressed.

Since I started to live on this island in 1994, many people have helped me create glasswork. It was extremely sad to recognize that the number of their graves was increasing year after year. I told my daughter, “He is the Maestro who taught me glassblowing.” “This is the one from whom I learned polishing technique.” “I learned a lot about colors from him…” She was listening quietly. An expert of mosaic work, an artisan with great knowledge of glass ingredient, a Maestro who lectured me on the history of the Murano glass…, they are all so small now in their graves. I couldn’t help missing them and thanking them.

Numerous unknown people have disappeared into the huge waves of 1000-year Venetian glass history. They are now sleeping here. They fought and struggled in the inherited rigorous tradition just by their own hands and creativities. They fulfilled their careers and got old. But I was almost envious to find that every face on each tombstone was filled with their pride of craftsmanship. Death could be a part of life, rather than the opposition of it. And life is a part of the history, which we may call tradition.

Their gentle Murano dialect and the sound of the flame in the kiln echoed for a while in my mind. To the small hand of my daughter, I held it softly, trying to tell her something. And in the background of my wife’s prayer to my family’s ancestors, the dry tombstones were exposed to the wind of early winter.

In Murano.
Winter of 2011
Yasuhiko Tsuchida