Sunday, September 15, 2019

Letter From Doug

Hi John,

I remember you once used the metaphor that your life so often seems like one of those tile puzzles that moms give their kids to keep them quiet and awake in church.

I get it now. Really, I do. I've been years now trying to pick a tile to start with, assuming that perhaps there is one right beginning move that will spare me the regret and consequences of wrong moves. I'm now guessing that's not the case.

Life doesn't really seem to allow ample time to sort the puzzle tiles into proper sequence at my convenience. The clock is running. And the tiles are coming flying at me more like a game of tetris.
But (I think, anyway) sometimes a fella just has to start moving the tiles around until some sort of order starts to appear. Then it's work from there in hopes that you don't come to what seems like the end, only to realize there are two tiles that need to be reversed --- but that reversal can only happen by disrupting at least two finished rows.

...and you're not sitting in church...
...and the tiles are, you know, something of great consequence.

I think I finally figured out that I only have one first move: I have to sell the house and shop. Until that happens, I don't know what I have left to work with. I can make contingency plans out the wazoo, but the reality is that those plans are always based on moving targets themselves...

(I could buy this other small house if it's still on the market and I have enough from the sale of my house to complete the sale AND rebuild the kiln and shop....

....Or I could move into a mobile home if I have nothing left but Social Security and a grocery store shelf stocking job available to make ends meet).

White Christmas opens with that treacly song "What Do You Do With A General (When He Stops Being A General)?" I'm facing a reality that the romantic in me had never really supposed would happen, though I should have been adult enough all along to have allowed my inner William James to beat back my inner Walt Disney, and drag me back to the real world.

What do you do with a potter when he stops being a potter?

I always thought that someone as accomplished in his field as I have had the good fortune to become would be able to trade somewhat on his notoriety as the prospects of survival on sheer, brute productivity naturally waned with youth. I was wrong.

Reputation, skill, and experience don't count for anything if they aren't reputation, skill, and experience in a field that matters.

The clay world has been a wonderful, rewarding world in which to make a living. It is, however, largely anachronistic at its core, demanding in its production, and has a value that is ultimately tied to notions of both function and its inherently humble raw materials.

Maggie and I will figure it out because that's what people do. People figure things out. The instinct to survive is strong right up until it isn't.

I don't know if it's my inner Walt Disney or a modicum of grace from the graceless James, but I will not be selling my pottery equipment, no matter where I end up. It may end up in storage, but I will hold onto it so that I might allow myself the conceit that I am still a potter ( even if I am on a sabbatical of indeterminate length). I think that's called "hope" (I've always had trouble distinguishing "hopes" from "wishes". Perhaps that's how I ended up where I am today).

Thanks for the mix CD you sent. The music is great. For forty years we've shared those two constants -- music and pots.

Give my best to Dar, Breeze, and Crush,