no postcards…

this is a long one…grab a cup of coffee and settle in… ~ Pat

beherenowthere were only 8 of us gathered in the dining room. We all introduced themselves and it turned out that one of the eight was the yoga teacher, one was the clay teacher and one was the director of the clay center.

The clay center was a dream…a huge, like polebarn type structure, that housed 20 wheels of varying kinds, pugmill, slab roller, extruder, electric kilns, numerous worktables…and there was LIGHT! Enormous sliding doors on each side of the barn that they would slide open, so that the whole structure was open to the air and light of the outdoors. A deck the length of the building on one side with tables and awnings overlooked the next building- a shelter over top of a large 3 chamber wood kiln, with wood stacked to dry along the open sides. Further down the hill on the property was another building- this housed the artists-in-residence at the facility, as well as the director’s office and the center’s library. This was all surrounded by the wood of Wisconsin…a gorgeous setting!

adamah

the clay studio at Adamah…a potter’s heaven…

We did clay and yoga thru the next few days, yoga 4 or 5 times a day- each time with a different emphasis. We worked in the clay center when weren’t eating or sleeping or doing yoga. I learned that the other participants had never potted before and that my teacher had apprenticed for a well known potter in North Carolina for 2 years- so a wide variance in skill levels. I learned some things, relaxed, walked, explored, but mostly just breathed and tried to be present in each moment.

bistro

a wonderful bistro called The Cook’s Room in downtown Dodgeville that had the greatest coffee in Wisconsin!

I had left myself 2 days to ‘bum’ at the conclusion of the retreat before I left Wisconsin to spend the 4th with family. I was told by the other retreat participants that there was an art fair in a neighboring town that I might want to check out. So off I went. The town was a tiny town. I wasn’t expecting much. >OMG< It was amazing!! It was the whole length of main street both sides and the work was juried. There was glass, and paintings, and quilts, and drawings, and prints, and mixed media, and fiber, and leather…and yes, there was pottery.

Lots of pottery! Nice handthrown pottery. I was walking back towards my car when I spied what looked like pottery by my all time favorite potter- Tony Winchester. Certain that someone was copying his work, I went in for a closer look. Oh hell yes! It WAS his stuff…and it was breathtaking. I was in awe…when the man himself came over and said ‘hi’. I was going to be so cool- none of this hero-worship stuff…after all, I was a potter too! And he was just a guy…right? Puts his pants on just like me…so when he said, “how are you today?”… all that came out of my mouth, in this strange deep garbled voice, was “I make pots.” I tried to fix it by saying that I admired him, but it was coming out in rushes of words…in the mental health world, we call it “slurred rambling pressured speech”… I bought 2 beautiful cups, and left the booth reluctantly. I almost turned around and went back to try to remedy my earlier gaff, but sadly realized that would appear stalker-like. I thought of emailing, but …really, Pat? Soothing myself by repeating “let it go…just let it go…” over and over, I made my way back to my car, clutching my 2 mugs.

MME

Me and Michaela sharing a moment on the 4th…do we look alike?

The next day I went to another small neighboring town called Mineral Point. What a beautiful town! It is filled with old old stone and brick buildings that have all been made into various shops and galleries. I walked up a street called High St, stopping in each shop and perusing. Johnston Gallery was exquisite- filled to the brim with a multitude of work! There was another shop that had a french name, and had a painting of pears on the sign. It was a double building with a fiber store on one side and an architectural salvage place on the other, just enchanting…in fact it was here that I found a framed chalkboard, with the words “be here now”. I also visited a gallery for potter Helen Story and painter Kate Bausch. Kate was there that day and we spent some time talking – she was one of the special people I met on my journey. I drove out to an old brewery that was a pottery and gallery- connected to Johnston Gallery. Tom Johnston visited with me, showed me the kiln and we talked pots for a bit.

As the sun set on my last day of bumming, I felt refreshed, and inspired. I knew that what had been missing from my life this past year was clay. I had no idea how much time I had been spending thinking and dreaming about clay when I wasn’t actually elbow deep in clay. It came to me that if I wasn’t making pots, I was firing or glazing or trimming or handling…that the cleaning of the studio before beginning a new cycle of work was a meditative activity to me…and that when I wasn’t in the studio, my mind was occupied with how to alter a glaze recipe, a new kiln design, a teapot I wanted to try to make. Being without a studio for a year was not just being without clay, it was taking a huge part of what I do, with my hands and with my creative mind, out of my life. So that was realization #1.

jjme

Journi and I taking a selfie 🙂

Realization # 2 was that I can’t live in town. I have been trying to live in town, because I love historic houses…and there are a lot of them here…in town. But I am a country girl…raised in the country, and have lived outside of town most of my life, in one place or another. Being in the woods of Wisconsin made it clear that I need space to spread out, to build a wood kiln, to dream… so a hunt for a place outside of town, with an older house and an acre or two has commenced.I think of all I learned about myself on this journey…the people I met, the work I saw, the freedom and joy of traveling alone…and i know that just like the ragtag collection of tools I took with me, I am bringing home scattered memories of a place, a flash of thought, or an idea I had…they aren’t the standard vacation souvenirs, but I am not your typical traveler…

…breathe…

ImageOne of the things they will put on my gravestone (if I believed in them), would be “take a breath”.  No matter how urgent the situation, no matter how upset you are, you have a moment to pause and take a breath- and while you are at it, make it a good breath, from your belly, close your eyes, and pause for a moment…stretching out the word BREEEEEEEATHE in your mind, as breathe in, and breathe out. Be present – not in the situation, not in your emotion, but present in your body and breathe. 

Raising three girls, I handed these words out like chewing gum, as they were sorting amongst the debris of a challenging situation or a bad day…”take a breath…”.  They were good words and did seem to make them slow down a moment.  Being a counselor, and being one who taught others to problem solve, to understand their own behavior, to pause and to weigh the consequences of their anger, meant that I taught my own daughters this as well, from birth.  In the midst of their crisis, I was often reminded to ‘stop doing the counselor-thing’…but i did notice that they kept breathing, even if they said they weren’t listening.

This past year, I did a particularly difficult presentation for a harsh audience. I knew it was going to be hard, and in preparation- to remind myself not to talk too fast, to be mindful- I artfully wrote the word “breathe” on my wrist. I quite liked it…and it did the trick. The presentation was still labored, but I made my way through and felt accomplished at the conclusion.

There was something about having that reminder there, on my wrist…a few days later, I wrote it there again.  After the third time I wrote ‘breathe’ on my wrist, I made the surprising decision that I wanted it tattooed there…in Jane Austen handwriting font- because Jane Austen is my mother’s favorite author.

I am not really a “tattoo person”.  All my daughters have tattoos, Tasha has Beatles’ lyrics, Michaela has Journi’s footprint with “love you to the moon and back” and also a quote from a piece I wrote, Justina has too many to name, ladybugs, and dragonflies among them.  When I hesitantly told them that I was planning to do “breathe” on my wrist, they quickly adopted the idea of doing the same.

And so it is, all of us have the word “breathe” on our wrists…all in our own style, as it should be…because, as I have noticed…they are all still breathing, even if they said they weren’t listening.

home again…

i have been out of reach for a few weeks- my laptop’s battery and charger both died in the same 24 hour period and i was without a computer…omg. it was like being without my car, or away from home for an extended length of time.  I was kyping Michaela’s laptop when i could, but it felt awkward, like i was a guest in someone’s home, and I couldn’t relax, couldn’t write… thank god my charger came in the mail today, and I am home again on my Mac.

So i have been taking an online class this month, its called Emerge.  I registered for it months ago, when i realized i was turning 50 this year.  Its about navigating a transition in your creative life.  Every day there are assignments to do that challenge you.  One day there was one about breathing, another day there was one that assigned you the task to take 3 photos – one of something beautiful, one of something wild and one of something changing.  There is discussion with the other members of the class.  Amazing strong women…   Transition takes many forms.  There are those who are going thru a divorce, or an empty nest, a child being born, buying a home, starting a business, ending a business.

Today our assignment is LISTS.  We are to make 3 lists:

Obsessions and preoccupations:

  • books
  • old letters and postage,
  • handwriting,
  • fonts,
  • maps,
  • voyages,
  • beautiful handblown glass- clear with color running thru it,
  • beads,
  • layers and layers of things showing history,
  • time travel,
  • artifacts,
  • untold stories,
  • keys,
  • true love,
  • portholes,
  • old houses,
  • anything with a story

What I know:
i know how to

  • handle a crisis,
  • friend someone,
  • listen,
  • look thru someone,
  • make a master schedule,
  • throw a pot,
  • fire a kiln,
  • clean the fridge,
  • raise a child,
  • be flexible,
  • let go of someone,
  • make bread and chocolate chip cookies,
  • live on a $1 for a month,
  • change a fuel pump,
  • spin yarn from wool,
  • build a webpage

What I don’t know:
I don’t know how to

  • split firewood,
  • make it rain,
  • grow a garden,
  • eat less,
  • build a deck,
  • program a universal remote or hook up stereo speakers,
  • make cotton candy,
  • write a book,
  • put the ‘tab’ key-top back on my keyboard,
  • make you hurt less.

My lists surprised me… well, part of it- i knew my obsessions 🙂  But the ‘what i know’ and ‘what i don’t know’… those were interesting.  I felt that the things i didn’t know were inadequacies in me (even tho that I would say to someone else that these are ‘opportunities to learn’)

What are your lists? I would love to hear about them!