I have been polishing silver in preparation for our New Year's Day party. I don't do this often, which explains why some of the items have turned black. The blessing part, small as it is, comes from the way the glowing silver blooms out of the tarnish as I work. I like the patina of old silver - the nooks and crannies where the tarnish remains giving depth to the silversmith's art. I like the white glow of freshly-polished silver.
My father was an ardent polisher of things. It must be, or have been, an English trait, for I have known other Englishmen who liked to polish. My father shined his shoes every Sunday morning before church, while waiting for us womenfolk declare ourselves fully dressed and ready to go. He liked to polish brass doorknobs, the brass parts on his model steamship, any bits of brass he could get his hands on. (I once visited a pub in Yorkshire filled with brass objects, all gleaming. The owner polished every day, working his way from one end to the other, then beginning over.) My father kept silver gleaming.
His biggest polishing project was his telescope mirror. He made it when I was four years old, and let me help. It involved repeatedly pushing one glass disk across another with water and rouge abrasive between. The lower glass disk gradually assumed a parabolic shape. As we worked, he would check the disk periodically on an improvised optical bench, to see how well it was focusing light. When it was finished, he polished the surface to perfection and silvered the back to make it reflective. This involved gently heating the mirror while sluicing it with a silver-nitrate solution. The silver precipitated onto the mirror forming a thin, perfect layer of pure silver. My dad experimented several times with silvering various objects, until he managed to cover the kitchen counter with permanent black blotches. My mother was annoyed and the kitchen was no longer used for chemistry experiments.