My Mosaic Wall – Holding Hands Around the World

Since the wall beside my house is getting full, I decided to start adding mosaics to the back wall, at the top of my hill. I knew it was going to be a large project. It would have to be so we could see it from the patio. Here’s my original sketch. I planned to surround the earth with people holding hands. Looking at the finished product every day (we can see it from the couch in the living room if we scrunch down) reminds me that there’s a lot of love and hope in this world.

I wanted the people to be uniform size which I would not be able to accomplish unless I bought pieces already cut. I picked up a few containers of these from Amazon. I never measure anything and was relieved in the end that I had just about enough of the little pieces to complete the people circle. For consistency’s sake I decided to use black penny tiles for the heads since I only had blue, black or silver. I like the uniformity of the black heads.

The first day involved smashing a lot of Dollar Tree green plates. Finding green tile is really hard so I rely on Dollar Tree plates, and sometimes The 99 Cent Only Store. In this case I used up all my plates (1st picture) then had to stop for the day. Carrying tile up and down the hill, and trying to kneel and balance among the cacti and gopher holes was physically taxing. Luckily Granola was there to keep me company.

The next day I smashed some new plates. I finished the land masses and started on the water. I had some Dollar Tree blue plates, some small (about 3 inch) mosiac or subway tile from Lowe’s, and some of my friends’ leftover pool tile. I decided to add in a “love ocean” just because. I’m used to doing a whole project in an hour or two and grout it the next day. This was a much larger project and took four days overall.

Day three I used tile adhesive to glue all the people around the earth. I started on the bottom because I knew I’d be too worn out to sit in that position and stretch all the way up by the end. It was a good decision. This step took four hours (straight). Initially I was going to add the people and put yellow tile all around them. But because of the work involved, and how cute they looked on the tile, I decided against it. One thing I hadn’t considered was that if I put adhesive on the back of the pieces and pressed down, there would be extra goop that I needed to clean off. The pieces were small and hard to maneuver so I used a wooden skewer and had to clean up around all the edges, piece by piece, person by person.

By the end, there were 53 little people around the circle. I started with solid colored people but I ran out of matches and the ones on the top are all different colors. Finished product without the grout.

At night a solar spotlight shines on it. It was a lot of work but this is my favorite mosaic so far. I do feel a little bad that we can probably never sell the house now both because I love the wall too much and also because a new owner may not love it at all. Since I plan to be here until I’m dead, I’m not too worried about it and will keep beautifying the concrete.

Here’s to creativity!


My Mosaic Wall-Beginnings

Welcome back! I should say I’m glad to be back, blogging again. As I posted some (long) time ago, I add posts to my blog here and there, but apart from that have been somewhat living in a creative vacuum. I was really enjoying the peace, not being manic and creative. But alas, I couldn’t contain it forever so in September 2019 I reached my limit of not expressing myself and shifted to “art.” That word is in quotes because it’s not perfect, but it’s been a lot of fun.

The burst of art creativity started when I wanted to paint a living room wall. I saw an ad on Pinterest for a special paint (though I can’t recall now what it was). I searched three hardware stores and online and couldn’t find the (now discontinued) paint. In desperation I searched “wall ideas” on Pinterest. What I stumbled upon instead were posts about how to dress up concrete walls. I was intrigued as I had some UGLY concrete walls, fifty feet of them in the back, and both sides of my yard. Gray, concrete, prison type walls. But there was the magic word,  a solution to a problem I didn’t know until then that I even had. Mosaic. The word excited me.

Mosaic. Years ago I had taken a stained glass class so I knew how to cut glass. My second husband was a tiler and we’d worked on some house projects together so I had the general idea down. And two years ago, with the help of friends and my boyfriend we retiled the kitchen. Once I’d made a large mosaic (on plywood that was too heavy to hang and ended up at the Salvation Army when I moved) to match what a character did in one of my novels (Missing). I suddenly wondered how it was possible I’d never thought to cover the outside walls with mosaic before. It was a brilliant idea!

I went to Home Depot and bought two products which I’ve used each time I’ve tiled since. There are other things you can use, like cheaper grout you need to mix. But for convenience, and since I’m doing small projects at a time, these are my go to favorites.  The Adhesive & Grout mix doesn’t come in big buckets, at least in my Home Depot, but it’s got a nice elastic feel to it. Regular grout can be sandy and grainy. I also bought some floor tile, the kind that looks like wood.IMG_20200616_120114

Next I went to the Dollar Tree and bought some cheap dishes. I went outside, covered them with a towel, and BANG BANG BANG. Before I knew it had lots of material.

This is the first entry about the wall and am not going to repeat all of this each time but bear with me.


I smeared the Acrylpro Professional Tile Adhesive on the wall, a section about a foot long. I wore a rubber glove and carefully added the pieces of the tree truck first. Next I added the light green tile (the only color green Dollar Tree had at the time). I had some colored glass pieces from the craft store (in my garage from another project) so added those in as well. I must say I was pretty impressed with how it all looked.

But then day two happened. I excitedly smeared a whole lot of Simple Fix Pre-mixed adhesive and grout. I covered the whole tree trunk section all at once.

Lessons learned:

  • For one, September in Southern California is hot. I also hadn’t tiled in a long time and forgot how quickly grout dries in the sun. Actually I’d never tiled outside so should have given that some thought.
  • White grout on light green “leaves” would make it look more like a cotton puff.
  • Floor tile that looks like wood is crazy porous and sucks wet grout deep into the grooves.
  • You need a sponge and a bucket of water to immediately wipe off the grout as you go. Not baby wipes. How did I forget that?
  • When you grout, gloves are cumbersome. If you take the gloves off and wipe grout over jagged broken dishes you can cut your fingers, even if you’re careful.
  • A wire brush and hot water will get dried grout off tile and when it doesn’t, you have to sit in the really hot sun with a razor blade.
  • Those little glass beads were coated so when I scrubbed them with a wire brush some of the coating went away.firsttree2

I am happy to report that though my first item on the wall was a little bit of a disaster, I got better as time went on. I’m writing this in July, ten months from that first tree. I hope you will join in on my journey from blank wall to a permanent happy place in my yard.


The Gift of Silence

By Tracy L. Carbone

There’s a line from the Desiderata by Max Ehrmann that says, “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” This was never demonstrated better than on, oddly enough, one of my early morning subway rides a couple of weeks ago.

The morning started when my commuter rail a/k/a Purple Line arrived twenty minutes late to my town. Surprisingly, no one seemed all that bothered by the delay. It was a very cold day, in the teens, and until the train came most of us waited patiently in our cars. I blasted the thermostat in my Mini Cooper, cranked my heated seats to high, and was happy for the extra time to dry my hair with the vents, and put my makeup on. Once the train came, we boarded and  the ride after that was uneventful.

As is my custom, I took a nap for most of the commute and stared out the window and contemplated my day with the rest of it. Most people on the morning train are pretty quiet, including that baby girl who commutes with her mom to the city. A lot of times I feel like it’s Nursery School nap time and we all can’t help but succumb to it: this morning mediation “Quiet TIme.”

About an hour later, I was off the commuter rail and on the Green Line on the way to my office in Boston. I only go two stops which takes about three minutes. In warm weather I just walk, but as I said, that day was brutally cold. We arrived at the first stop then left for the second, but the train halted. It wasn’t an abrupt stop, just a pause.

A good five minutes went by before it hit me that the car was completely still. Most everyone else seemed oblivious too, caught up in their own thoughts.  No one said a word. Some people fell asleep standing up, seemed grateful for the extra few minutes of the delay. Others behaved as I did, just sort of looked around the car, made eye contact, nodded and smiled. Finally, the conductor made an announcement that the car ahead was disabled and we’d be holding a few more minutes.

I awaited the barrage of complaints, the whines of stranded commuters, the calls to bosses or secretaries in the LOUD voice that, damn the MBTA, they were going to be late. But none came, no one said anything. There was no grumbling, or even talking. Just total and contented silence. The only sounds at all, from that very crowded subway car, was the muffled but loud beat emanating from someone’s IPOD speakers, and the occasional rustle of another’s corduroy pants. I drank in the silence and peace.

The only other time I’ve been in a large crowd where everyone was collectively mellow, was when I took my daughter to see the Dalai Lama a bunch of years ago when he came to Boston. That time I expected it, but on a stranded rush hour subway train? Not in a million years.

I thought of the Desiderata then, specifically that one line. “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.” We all did it, without realizing. Waited calmly and contentedly for the train to move again, taking in the quiet and the calm, cherishing it, like a hot bath, like that old Calgon commercial.

On one hand, our willingness and determination to strive for peace renewed my sense of humanity. On the other, I worried that perhaps the non-reaction was due to the fact we’ve (as a society) become somewhat numb, too focused on all the business in our heads to even notice that the train had stopped, that there were people around us, that we were in a packed, stopped subway car with no idea how long we’d be there.

Or possibly, we are all so busy, that the extra unexpected ten minutes of non-scheduled time was too precious to curdle with conversation. Ten minutes of utter silence, and calm and peace. When else, really, in our busy lives do we get that?

Appreciate the pauses life gives you, the downtime. Take a lesson from the people on the Green Line and savor the quiet; use it to center yourself. Next time you’re stuck in traffic, or on a train, or in an airport, savor the break from routine.

I’ll close with another great line from the Desiderata. “…in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.”

Tracy L. Carbone is a freelance fiction writer from Massachusetts. Her middle grade paranormal, The Man of Mystery Hill is available at Amazon.  Please visit her website for details about her writing life.