Monday, March 28, 2016

16 Miles On The Erie Canal

I pulled it old right from the kiln.
So hot I could barely hold it 

But it told a tale of ancient places it had been.

Of 16th century years, of tavern beers
Held in rounded shapes, peasants draped in capes
Landscapes of Renaissance paintings. 

Glazed like later years rolled ‘round and Albany brown
Dug straight from the ground the sound
Of barges down the Erie Canal

Low bridge!  Everybody down!

This mug, brand new
But with a soul so old
It couldn’t have come from my hand.

Maybe it came from my dreams.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Moon's a Flyer


The moon, she has wings that nobody sees
Yet somehow she manages to fly right through trees
I've watched her do that while driving below her
She never snags branches, the limbs never slow her

Maybe her wings retract just like bird's do,
Or they are really small, I mean, who believed bees flew?
Or maybe she can orient them just as she pleases
She can lean back or aim independent of breezes

Questions and Answers About Hope

Since you asked me directly if I think you should keep on trying, I’ll answer.
There's an old analogy of a three-legged table. So it goes that if any one of three legs is taken away, the table falls over.

I think life's different. It's not three-legged. It's one-legged. And that leg is hope.

Without hope, life collapses. It just falls over. It doesn’t contemplate falling over. It doesn’t investigate means of regaining itself. Hopelessness doesn’t inquire as to its relative strength or weakness. Hope may have many degrees…but there is no truly relative hopelessness. Hope and hopelessness are like a rheostat wall switch – you may dial hope up or down, but once you hear that ‘click’ of hopelessness, the lights are out. One has hope or one doesn’t. Remove hope and life just falls of its own lack of raison d'etre.

So, the fact that you’re inquiring tells me you haven’t reached “hopeless”.

Simply aging has a way of diminishing hope. Simply aging has a way of taking away the idols of our dreams. No more possibility of our rock star, superstar athlete, noted writer, famous artist dreams. We combed those dreams out of our heads along with the last of our graying hair.

We survived those dashed dreams of ours. Maybe that even pleasantly humbled us. Bowing to that reality often does. And if we don’t see the humor in our own hubris, some other kindly soul will gladly point it out for us. We might as well laugh along. Those hopes sink into the sea of reality….but that loss doesn’t usually leave us hopeless unless cumulatively added to more concrete concerns. If we’ve lived this long, we’ve probably learned the difference between adolescent dreams and real hope. Probably.

Additionally, you already knew what everyone was going to say before you even asked. If you’re like me, you’ve heard the pat answers all your life. You’ve probably given them. I have. And sometimes a fiction can get us through. Our imaginations are pretty good at bolstering hope – false or real. Maybe. If only. Someday. When.

And the truth is, you asked people who can’t answer. Nobody here has experienced hopelessness. You’re just asking us to opine in the abstract. If we knew what hopelessness actually was, we wouldn’t be around for you to ask.

As a guy whose dad waltzed himself off the dance floor in the middle of the song, I’ve contemplated this hopelessness thing quite a lot. I don’t think hope is something one is talked into and out of. It didn’t work that way with him. He just quietly one morning slipped into the garage and started the car. He didn’t ask anyone whether or not he should. The fact that we’re having this discussion that is essentially about hope is, I think, an indicator that it is still present.

If you’re anything like me, this public inquiry is quite possibly throwing down the gauntlet on God. Many’s the time I’ve felt the urge to try to publicly shame God into taking better care of His children – me or others. Mostly me. And, hey, it has appeared to work. Though I can’t be absolutely sure that correlation equals causation, I’ve seen God snap to it and take care of business.


I just bit the tongue I had tucked in my cheek.

Anyway, yes, the possibility – however remote – that God will fix things does bolster hope. And I’ll go along with the others you've asked and send my own request His way that He might consider offering you that grace. He’s done it for me from time to time. I never deserved it. I’m a nasty, whining, cry-baby of the lineage of Cain, Lot, Gideon and their ilk. God chose to treat me like a Joseph anyway.

Finally (maybe), I’m calling “bullshit” on your “comfortable with my post-life options” (as you describe them) nonsense. Nobody is. The human condition is ignorance. That we live lives of faith is AT THE SAME TIME both a reason for hope AND an admission of ignorance. It humbles us to have to admit that, but faith isn’t the end zone. Knowing is the end zone. We don’t know.
The religious are as good as any human at whistling past the graveyard. Sure, we’ve been given an extremely vague promise of a better life to come, and we believe it. As much as we can, anyway...

What’s that? ….you don’t think the promise is a vague one?

Look it up. It’s hardly a footnote in the Old Testament. It’s barely described in the New Testament. It’s the very end game – the end zone – and yet it’s one of the least known about concepts in the entire Bible.

And if your confidence comes from the perspective of a non-religious materialist, I would only carefully observe that it was the non-religious, not the religious, who postulated the hypothesis that the whole religion thing with its promise of a paradise to come is but the hopeful delusion of those uneducated primitives who in their ignorance constructed a hope (one to answer their fears of the unknown) out of thin air rather than a seeking for truth…

…well, even if that’s true, the observation couldn’t have been observed in the void of the identical fears and ignorance of what’s to come. The materialist is whistling past the same graveyard.

So, again, “bullshit”. If you’re comfortable with your “post-life options”, you may not be paying attention. It might just be that you have to finish your dinner before you get dessert.

So, I guess if I were in your shoes…which I’m obviously not…I would humbly recommend “keep trying until you can’t”.

A Light From Nowhere

I did a double-take. I don't remember paying extra for the kiln with the interior light. (is it like a refrigerator's? Is it still lighted when the door is closed?).

I was walking through the kiln barn on my way to retrieve the lawnmower (it's Springtime!). The interior of the barn was so dark I had to watch my footing as I stepped into that din from the bright outdoors. But there to my left was a bright light. The kiln.

The kiln?

A single ray from the sun and through the nearby window was illuminating only the open kiln. The sun didn't touch anything else in the barn. All else was dark.

I stood there and watched it for a long moment. The oddest things fascinate me.

Iris Bulbs

I live in a 150 year-old house. I've lived here for 25 of those 150 years, but the hundreds and hundreds of irises in my yard have lived here a whole lot longer than I. They were here when I moved in. And those iris are the focal point of my early Summer landscape. I'm anxiously awaiting this year's blooms. At this early point in the year the bulbs have just now sent their first shoots up above the dark brown Spring dirt.

When I pulled this 16 ounce mug out of the kiln -- hot as it was -- my mind immediately went to that patch of iris. The mug is an iris bulb containing the hope of the purple bloom bursting from the golden brown earth.

I threw and carved this large, 16 ounce mug from fine English porcelain -- fired high so it's microwavable and will last a lifetime. The handle, being pulled by hand, has a comfortable feel, and balances well.

Bluer Than Blue

Perhaps my favorite song introduction comes from Joel Mabus when he introduced his famous (and hilarious) "Duct Tape Blues". He said:

"I grew up in East Saint Louis. Now, I'm not going to say the blues were born in East Saint Louis....but that IS where their mother got pregnant."

Whoever coined the word "blue" to refer to a general melancholy never anticipated the day I would pull this mug from the kiln. It's blue, alright. But what a cheerful blue! Azure. Sky Blue. 

(ever noticed that "Blue Skies" is ironically written in a minor key, giving away that its upbeat lyric is actually masking the writer's broken heart? I think about these things.).

Anyway, blue or cheerful, sad or gay, I threw this mug from fine English porcelain and fired it high to ensure you a lifetime of enjoying it. The sides are carved away in a pattern that at once looks very regular, but upon continued inspection reveals my hand-to-eye imperfections. That adds a charm and the ability to see something new every day.

Stripes and Curves

This mug might suggest a somewhat feminine shape. I don't know. It is stripes, and it's curves, and it's round, and it's VERY nice to hold.

I threw this large, 16 ounce mug from fine English China. The next day I sent stripes of liquid slip cascading down the side in regular intervals. The slip followed and accentuated the graceful curves of the mug's profile.

That texture left a PERFECT surface upon which to show off a celadon glaze that breaks up and pools over the slightest texture. It looks alive. It's mostly green with just the hint of blue highlighting the rim and the spiral cut beneath it.

Oak & Acorn

"Your leaf and acorn pottery is SO 'Autumn' ", she said.

"But oak leaves and acorns come on in the Spring just like every other greening thing", I replied.

"Maybe so, but your colors are always so....Autumnal." She returned.

Okay. Maybe so. Maybe I've got a "thing" for Autumn. Guilty as charged.

But no more. Here are those leaves and acorns in their Spring and Summer glory -- before the leaves have gone red and the acorns come drumming at your rooftop.

I threw this large, 16 ounce mug from fine English porcelain. While the clay was yet soft, I deeply impressed some of my bisque porcelain stamps to decorate the front and back of the mug. I then high-fired the piece with celadon glazes (colored with stain) to create a microwavable cup that should last a lifetime.

Over The Waterfall

"Over The Waterfall" is one of the first songs fiddlers and mandolin players learn. It's a simple yet wonderful tune that yields a high return on investment in practice time. That is, it's simple to learn, but sounds surprisingly complex. It's often the first really "showy" tune a youngster can play, but it's also a jam favorite.

Well, here's my "Over The Waterfall" mug. Simple concept, but yields an incredibly high return when you use it. You can use it every day -- enjoy your morning coffee and your evening tea -- and yet never reach the end of its visual mystery. You'll see something new in the surface each day.
The obvious blue waterfall cascades over the not-so-obvious matte blue (so dark it looks black) base glaze.

I threw this large, 16 ounce mug from fine English porcelain. It is high-fired to last a lifetime (and then some).