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There’s always room for a crayon

6 May

Maybe he used them for work. Highlighters weren’t invented until 1963 you know, and he may have been attached to his crayons by then. All I know is that my grandfather had a box of crayons on his desk, even after he had essentially retired, even when he was well into his 90’s. I know that, and I know that if he ever colored a picture, I did not get to see it.

“Will it break your heart,” Anne Lamott asked in a Facebook post one day last week, “if it turns out that you never got around to it?  If you wake up one day at eighty, will you feel nonchalant that something always took precedence over a daily commitment to discovering your creative spirit?” “Funny you should ask,” I thought. Not so much about the daily commitment: In a one-flat-tire sort of way, that has been in place for several years.  Just the day before, I had jbeen wondering if I was giving it as much space as I could, as much space I would wish that I would have, using the space in the best way possible. I don’t know.

“I’d rather be here, sitting on a bench, feeding the ducks with you,” Joyce said to her husband, choosing that over the community college art classes her grown daughter had urged her to take. The recently discovered sketchbook of drawings from Joyce’s pre-motherhood days were “just a part of her past,” she said. The writers of the sitcom “Mike and Molly” created something believable, but I would also have believed them if they had written that Joyce set her easel up by the bench, and drew while Vince fed the ducks. I promise, I would have.

In rapid succession this week, three of my grandbabies received recognition for their writing and artwork. All three are on the cusp of choosing their careers. My crystal ball has been sent out for repair. It is not for me to choose among the things they love, and/or the things at which I see them excel. It is not for me to urge a particular career path. But I do have something to say.

I want to say, “If you love to run, run. If you love to swim, color, draw, write, fish, sing, paint, knit, play basketball or piano, then make room for those things.” It is true that sometimes over the course of our life what we love to do changes. We tire of one thing and discover another. It is also true that the creepy-crawly do-list will eat your heart out if you let it.

I haven’t come to any earth-shaking conclusions about my writing, about today and tomorrow, but I can tell you what I think about yesterday: I had ten minutes. On any given day, there is at least one thing that can wait for ten minutes. There is at least ten minutes worth of stuff that can go in the “never” pile.

There’s always room on your desk for a crayon.

Turnip Bowl, with a Heart

28 Apr

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Use a cantaloupe as a hump mold, make a bowl that looked liked a cantaloupe half, inscribe the inside with a cantaloupe soup recipe, and contribute it to the “Empty Bowls” project at the Alabama Clay Conference. There were a couple of problems with that, not the least of which is that I don’t own the copyright for  a cantaloupe soup recipe. I set that pesky problem aside, which is when I discovered the other — issues that stood between me and completion of my idea.

Turnip Bow, With a HeartFirst, the obvious, after I had careful pressed my clay to the cantaloupe, evened the thickness and smoothed the  surface: The texture of the outside of the cantaloupe was going to be on the inside of the bowl.

Then there was the tiny matter of clay shrinking as it dries, leaving my poor bowl with no choice to but to develop a huge crack.

Tried again, missed the perfect time (if there is one) for removing the cantaloupe from the clay.   Out of cantaloupe. Spied a soup-bowl sized turnip in the garden. Wondered about turnip soup recipes. Had fun using a new texture tool to shape the outside. Bust, although I’ve forgotten why.  All of the turnips left were small, and kind of boring….except for one. An anonymous artist had gnawed a heart shape on it, so back to the pottery barn we went.

We have a bowl. It looks nothing like a turnip. There’s barely room to write “turnip,” much less a turnip soup recipe. It has the heart shape created by the anonymous artist. For some reason, that is enough to tickle me.

All this time, I could have been worrying about Charybdis, but I didn’t know she was there.

26 Apr

All this time, I could have been worrying about Charybdis, but I didn’t know she was there. Reasonable people will suggest that she isn’t there, that she is mythological, just as reasonable people have suggested that perhaps I worry too much.

Would I have stayed away from the sea if I had heard the story of a ship-swallowing sea monster? It is 2013. Even I am skeptical about sea monsters. A whirlpool on the other hand — I might require a little bit more information about that.

In A Writer’s Life, Gay Talese says, “And so did I grow up along the Atlantic Ocean, instilled with my father’s boyhood fear of the Mediterranean Sea.”  It wasn’t that his father warned him about Charybdis, or suggested that she might travel back and forth between Maida and Ocean City, it was that a fear of the water had settled in and become a part of who his father was.

Charybdis. An unrealistic fear by any other name remains the same, don’t you think? (The ongoing puzzle, of course, is parsing the real whirlpool and mythological monster.)

And a time to let go

14 Mar

Somebody’s rocking the boat. It happens to us all, I know –sometimes with discouraging frequency.

One employee has had a headache for two weeks. Is she coming back? How do I adjust for the increased work load? I would just cancel my walk on the beach, except that I didn’t have one scheduled.

Another employee dropped the hint that she might be taking a position elsewhere. And so she might. We’ve done as well for her as we can.

That tauntingly elusive siren song sadist of a calm and well-ordered life is at it again.

And so, since lying awake in bed at night is so productive, I get up and finish the hourly payroll, except for the one employee who didn’t turn her time sheet in. It is the loose ends that scare me.

The loose ends. The unknowns. Back in bed, trying again, I remember the little pinch pot I made last week, the one inspired by

“…for inevitably we will come up against something we can not control. The attempt to control the future and the demand to be in charge of everything in our lives sentences us to a daily existence obsessed with life-numbing worry.” (The Spirituality of Imperfection, Kurtz & Ketcham)

I say it is a pinch pot, because I made it by pinching and slapping, but it is really more like a plate. I draped pieces of yarn across the top and over sides, and covered them with slip. I incised “And a time to” on the top of the plate and “to let go,” on the bottom.

There is a time to let go of the need to control the outcome. And the middle of the night, when my action options seemed limited, was a pretty good time to do that.

I went to sleep.

Alabama Clay Conference

25 Feb

Before we get knee-deep into the worries of the day, let’s start here, with a recap of the weekend, framed as a thank you note to the presenters and organizers of the Alabama Clay Conference.


It looked like a nipple, and I left it that way. My (modesty or prudishness, depending on your point of view) was already at work, directing the piece, switching gears from my intended repetition of the movement I had just made in my clay to doing something else. But what? And while I sorted through, “What?” I remembered Gerit’s “A Day at the Pool”, and I just settled down. I left it alone. I did not change course. 

After I finished my pinch pot (my pottery cross-over application of the “shitty little first draft” Anne Lamott describes in her book “Bird by Bird”) I went to the turnip garden. It was a silly quest, an attempt to recapture a lost love/work, as all the turnips left are much smaller than the one I used before. Back in the barn, with a fist-sized turnip with a shape that I liked (and a heart-shaped scar, of all things), I was about to drape my slab over it when I stopped. Ah yes, circular things. Dirk’s demonstration. I have to say it went much better this time around, although the jury is still out on just how well the whole idea is going to shape up. 

About 35 years ago, I made some homemade flash cards so that I could begin to teach Andrew, my four-year-old, the alphabet. A friend who stopped by that evening, spying my work, asked, “Did Andrew draw that!?” Nothing doing though, but that my fingers are itching to buy some china paint, and “move it around until it looks like a duck.” 

I was fingers-a-flying when I came back to the hotel Friday night, posting quotes and notes on Facebook. Normally, I would have put them in Evernote, but I was too excited to tuck it all away in a notebook. My niece, who rarely comments on my posts, said “Look what I found!” My granddaughter said, “I love your status updates.” My daughter responded, “I think I would like your teachers/classmates.” 

And she would. I told my husband that I would get into pottery just to take your classes. (Not that that, deep sigh, is ever likely to really happen, but if I get a chance to take another workshop, and beginners are welcome, you can count me in. We’ll probably need to have a dumpster close by.) 😉 

I have no other conference with which to compare this one, but I have to say that I think the format, with the three artists working together, communicating with each other, and bouncing off of one another, was a part of the magic. If you had three artists  who didn’t like each other, that might not work so well, but this was wonderful. The conference had great bones, and that is no small thing. 

I am a-swirl with little snippets of words, of ideas about how to approach and apply this new-to-me creative endeavor. I am tempted to “tell all” so that you will grasp the impact of your teaching, and my appreciation of it. I think though, that it will be more appreciative to respect your time and not send you a massive missive. To just, instead, close with

Thank you. 

A Daily Ray of Hope – Taking time to be

21 Feb

A Daily Ray of Hope – Taking time to be.

A Daily Ray of Hope – Look what happens with a love like that

20 Feb

A Daily Ray of Hope – Look what happens with a love like that.