Carved from butternut wood, the design for this piece is from a small drawing I did a number of years ago of my dog, named Pearl. The title of this blog post, which is also the title of the carving, comes from a familiar parable about a merchant seeking to buy pearls: “Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matthew 13:46).
When I had Pearl in my life, I would think of her as my “pearl of great price,” and like the parable, I would tell her that I would sell all that I had to buy her. She was a mutt, a mixture of Terrier and Italian Greyhound and possibly a few other things thrown in – she was small and sleek and sweet, and I loved her like a child. When she was five years old I left an unhealthy relationship, and Pearl became an unfortunate focal point of the power dynamic of that ending. The result was that I left and I never saw Pearl again. It broke my heart, more than I could have imagined. Through processing that loss, Pearl became a symbol of sacrifice – I paid a great price for freedom, and I essentially sold all the emotional capital I had to gain it. So the title of this carving is really about the inverse of the original meaning of the parable, where instead, the Pearl is what is given up to gain the spiritual prize – in my case, my personal freedom and emotional well-being.
When I decided to create this carving a few months ago – which was over ten years after I last saw Pearl – I thought I had recovered from the emotional price of that loss. One thing about carving is that it gives you lots of time to think while your hands are busy, and I was surprised to find that the act of shaping her form out of wood exercised the remaining sorrow tucked away in the recesses of my memory. It was a good process, a healthy one, and in the end was very therapeutic. It also resulted in me having this carving of Pearl hanging in my home, my happy and healthy home, in a place where she can greet me as I come in the door – much as she did when she knew me and loved me as only a dog can.