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.