I used to have a bag of clay in the corner of my atelier here at the house. Which didn’t make much sense since the room was set up for bookbinding. For a year maybe -as a form of meditation – I made tiny begging bowls that I would return to the bag of clay each day.
The bag of clay dried out before long.
I haven’t really worked with clay since I was 13. I had an art teacher then who let me use the kick-wheel during lunch breaks. Mr. Shannon didn’t teach or instruct me that year. He was my mentor.
Once he gave me a set of watercolors and a salt shaker and said, Get at it.
Once he made a blind so I couldn’t see the paper while I drew my own hand, and I have been fascinated by the tactile quality of lines ever since.
Later I learned that Edouard Manet said there are no lines in nature. That is because line is a language. And, like my grasp of Norwegian, here my comprehension far exceeds my composition skills.
Another time, Mr. Shannon asked me to describe all the colors I could see in a white hat – worn by a cowboy in a Marlboro ad in a Smithsonian magazine – if I remember correctly.
Not even black and white are black & white.
At the end of that year, my life was uprooted (again), and I lost whatever I was connecting to then. But the desire remains even now.
When I experience nostalgia, it is like this: small moments of half-discoveries. And nostalgia’s inherent fear of the unmet potentials.
Still, everytime I hold a rough piece of ceramic I am flooded with a calming and full ambivalence. There are days I wonder why I’ve not thrown out all of the dishes and settled with a few scratchy, glazed bowls and a few wooden spoons.
I suppose this really is the very definition of nostalgia? If I ever won the lottery, I would have a second, tiny home made of roughly-hewn cedar – and I would fill it with wool and beeswax.
Cinder block frightens me.
But so does snow.
Paper can make me weep with grief.
Handling old books is cathartic. And I cannot – and don’t want to – explain it.
I trace marginalia with my finger.
Last year I asked E. to give me Play Doh for Christmas. Now I have a small plastic box on my desk. It smells like my childhood: plastic.
I suppose my experience is more associative than it is synaesthetic.
I hold the Play doh. I squeeze it like a stress ball.
I make ephemeral, unnaturally green begging bowls.
Truth be told: I am still too timid to leave a begging bowl – of any kind – in the world.
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I love this, Ren. I, too, get these drifting moments of nostalgia. And I think of all the begging bowls I’ve made, not of clay, and left in the world. Tempting peril.
Thank you, as always, from New Hampshire, USA. Your words travel…
They help me live.
Katherine, thank you so much – again – for the confirmation that I am not alone!