I noticed it across the room when I first came in. It’s extraordinary – deep red that flows into violet, a play of black and purple lines. So simple and so complex. I could contemplate this rug for hours.
I didn’t come here to buy a rug. In fact, I’ve never cared much about rugs. But this rug…. Why?
And purple? Green could be my color or blue or red….but purple?
It’s like a new color showed up in my life, a color I’ve never been.
The weaver of the rug walks over. Marjorie tells me that she made the rug several years ago, how it won a prize in a competition but that it has never sold. “It costs more than most people would expect to spend at a show like this”, she says.
And yet, here I am seriously thinking, “I could buy this rug. I would be very happy to have this rug on the wall in my office. Happier than anything else I could imagine doing with that money.”
I tell her my mom is a weaver. I know all it takes to make a rug like this. I tell her that if my mom was standing here she would tell me that artists rarely charge what they should, that this rug is a bargain, and worth every penny.
Marjorie tells me that she started weaving when she retired. “I look at this rug now”, she says, “And I think, ‘Wow. I made that. I can’t believe I made something as beautiful as that.'”
I tell her I know exactly where I would hang the rug. How I would rearrange my office so I could hang it in a place where I could look at it every day.
I tell her that I’m going to dream tonight about the rug.
She thanks me for the conversation. Says that no matter what I decide, my joy in her rug has been a gift.
I tell her our conversation has been a gift.
She tells that she hopes I have good dreams.
I wake the next morning thinking about the rug. I have a full day and no time to go by the sale. The next day, I also have a very full day. But by chance, my day opens up for a couple of hours in the afternoon, just before the sale closes.
I return to look at the rug.
“I don’t know why I love this rug”, I tell the woman who is working at the sale.
She’s very kind and listens to me talk about the rug and all it’s colors and how I can’t believe I like this purple rug. I tell her, yes, I do have a place in mind for it and know exactly where I’d hang it. I tell her again that I don’t know why I like it, but I do so much.
She shares a story with me about regret. About things she has loved, only to come back to discover that they have been sold. She wonders how I would have felt if I had found out the rug had been sold.
She encourages me to walk around the parking lot.
I come back in.
“You came back”, she said.
“Yes”, I said, “Will you help me buy a rug?”
She helps me take it down and wrap it up. Shows me how to hang it.
I tell everyone at the sales table, and the people in line beside me, how very happy I am to have this rug.
I drive to church. Find a hammer and nail. Take down so many things I have had on the walls in my office for so many years.
Stand on a chair, measure and mark, hammer a nail, and hang my rug.
Sit at my desk. Contemplate my rug.
Write Marjorie a note. Tell her I bought her gorgeous purple rug. Tell her I couldn’t imagine being happier than sitting here looking at it.
As true of all our stories, this story, too, could be a justification, or occasion for criticism or critique. Or it could be simply as it is, a celebration of beauty and its importance in our lives. How beauty surprises us. Elevates and enlivens us. Stirs us to wonder. Restores us to contemplation and grace.
There’s a beautiful principle in Judaism called, “hiddur mitzvah”. It’s the idea that one doesn’t just simply “do” the commandments, (like one more thing to pick up on our shopping list), but one “beautifies” them. “This is my God and I will beautify God with praises,” Moses sings. (Exodus 15:2)
It’s why God doesn’t simply say to Israel, “build a tabernacle” but goes on for 18 chapters describing exactly what the tabernacle shall look like. It’s why you set the table every night with a placemat and hand woven napkins. Place a vase of flowers on the table. Why even when you eat alone, you put on a clean shirt.
No, I don’t understand all that it means. But I do know this: that God is revealed in beauty, if only we take the time to linger there.
Which is what I’m doing now, contemplating my purple rug.
And what I might well be doing, when you wander by, as I hope you will, to see my purple rug.