“Don’t we dream impossible dreams?” – TS

So I spent about 2o,ooo words calling to The Muse in October, and in return she graced my first firing of the season. Not that it’s strictly transactional like that, of course, but I’m quite sure it’s related. And it feels like if I keep dancing before dawn every morning and playing at least one song on the guitar at night and writing writing writing, but also pausing to supplicate nature and appreciate the beauty of momentary rays through clouds, or a break of sun on my face as the last row of bricks go into the door;; if feels like if I keep doing all that, then this good harvest will continue.

That’s some whackadoodle mysticism right there, now ain’t it? Good god, what’s happened to me?

So No. 83 was more like a 3rd or 4th firing in the cycle than a 1st. The first ones are usually mediocre; I purposefully fill them with the worst pots, as a test run; a kiln calibration; fodder for all my same old mistakes. But this one had, like, zero jankiness and almost every pot was good — even the few where I overshot in my zeal for that runny amber celadon. (I’ll need to do some careful grinding, because the results of it flowing off the pot were — pretty awesome.) Several other’s were even — I don’t know if I can say this ::: does it irritate The OA to say that her gifts are great, bordering on revelatory? Maybe it jinxes it to be that specific? Or is that the appropriate degree of regard? Am I supposed to heap praise and rend my garments and grow out this beard in gratitude? Hell, no wonder every tribe had a shaman; this shit is complex. Oh, I guess I’m probably just supposed to shut up and make another sacrifice. Words don’t really count. (Too bad words are how I roll.) Got another goat around, Witt?

Anyways, there were like, some serious keepers, dude. (If you have the misfortune to also see my nonsense on Instagram — ‘a.k.a. my micro blog when I’m not macro blogging’ — you’ll have seen a half dozen shots from that load yesterday. And I had to restrain myself to keep it to six. More in the hopper for today. UNFOLLOW!)

{Uhm… I think they’re waiting for you to toss in a “you missed six!” reference. Not gonna do it? Ugh! Such a jerk. Way to set ’em up and then fail to knock ’em down -Ed.}

So. So so so. I think some of my wonder at the results was because the forecast promised buckets of vile, cold rain all day. But at daybreak, after kickstarting the stove, it was clear just long enough to haul the door down, grab all the pots, run them into the studio like a bank heist gone wrong, and then button it back up before my fancy shelves could get a drop of wet on them. (It rained like a bastard all day after that, too, so — timing. As usual, it’s almost everything.)

So then, suddenly and unexpectedly, there were all the results, sitting on my stainless countertop under the hot lights; the first group of new pots in almost half a year, and a reprieve from my terrible plan of having to glaze the next whole load with those pending results still unseen. So good.

Perhaps needless to say, I was doing the “jesus-fuck-wow-oh god-holy crap-no way-too good!” routine through the whole load, as I hurriedly pulled them out. Afterwards — I’m not making this up — I sat in my studio chair — the broken one St. Trox gave me for free — a used $800 Aeron, that took a quarter — literally just a quarter — to fix and make good as new — [OK, now I’m just stalling, because this involves more crying, and I’m being a baby about admitting it… Jesus, suck it up, man!]

[Music recommendation for this next section, if you can get to it: Memories of Home, from the soundtrack to the series The Pacific; Blake Neely, Geoff Zanelli & Hans Zimmer. Instrumental. Orchestral. It’s what I’m listening to now, as I write this.]

…so after I got the pots out, amazed at them, and so happy to have pulled that little stunt off, I sat in my 25¢ studio chair and dripped a few more tears into my hands, cupped over my face; but this time it was pure gratitude, and relief. All the books and blogs and religions say to practice gratitude, but for years I just couldn’t find any; not without faking it. And I knew the difference. And then here it is, like a magic trick. The real thing. ‘Everything has changed.’

This can’t last, can it? It’s too good to be sustainable; it’s got to be an artifact of my rapid ascent from the depths; an emotional bends. But;; maybe;; ?? Or, just go with it and stop trying to anticipate the next disaster, or direct the movie you’re watching?

“And, God, let me enjoy this. Life isn’t just a sequence of waiting for things to be done.” Oh, Ze. Where’d you go, man? I miss you like a brother, lost before he was ever born. “You look like him… Frank.”

So there I am, sitting in my studio on yet another Saturday morning, like a thousand other Saturday mornings, but this time, maybe even for the first time, saying thank you to some force that I do not think actually exists. And yet, saying it anyways. Wondering if, just maybe, I’m coming around to the idea that our selfishness and smallness and venality are all from us — that we are indeed the source of our worst impulses — but that things like love, and generosity, and graciousness, and our capacity to not only appreciate beauty but actually create little patches of it from time to time, might actually come from somewhere else; come through us, rather than from us. For an up-until-right-now hardened atheist, that is one heck of a thought. Not sure what I think about that thought, yet.

It’s like the combination of realizing finally! that I’d been overfiring the whole load just to flux liners on the top shelf, and stopping doing that, and finally! figuring out how to get salt cups into the dry zones without them turning into lava and puddling all over the shelves; it’s like those two in combination solved 85% of the problems I’ve had in the previous 82 firings. (Well, that and adding the chimney, which was a massive improvement in the actual firing cycle itself.) And so, yes, sure, that’s just trial and error and an idiot trying to get to salvation so with the wrong tools and a poor understanding of the scientific method, and randomness, etc. But… But but but. Isn’t it also, arguably, “the sacred geometry of chance?” I mean, I look at the results on a couple of these surfaces that were just random shots in the dark; experiments with brand new tools, whose magnificence I’ve hardly earned yet, and the layering of texture and my intentional marks with color and then running glaze, seeking the path of least resistance back to ground, and blasts of salt and heat and love and it’s just kinda fucking staggering. Like, “Who made this and where did it come from?” Because it sure doesn’t feel like it came from only me. I dunno; maybe it’s just an illusion; a byproduct of this hot new brain.

Oh — and you know the kiln gods are on your side when you haven’t fired in literally six months, and yet the thing follows the previous firing log like minute for minute, all the way down the last four hours to the end. Crazy good.

So, as predicted, I feel vastly better about pulling off the sale, not just because my big rock is now rolling, but because this tiny batch of 25 or 30 pots not only adds more to the shelves in the showroom, but is also better than almost all of it. A new crop of the freshest, best stuff… And this wasn’t even close to the finest of the bisqueware, still stacked around the studio. Oh my.

Oh — and the firing went easy, and I found the energy to keep prepping the next one, even though I got up in the four o’clock hour to start bumping the gas, and… Whew.

Two more like that and I’ll be in good shape. Not great shape, but good enough. Good enough to invite all my previous customers with confidence. Good enough to not get swamped in regrets about how I should have/would have/could have just knuckled down more in August or September or October. [Because, note to self: August and September and October were insane. And November’s not been without it’s share of drama and incredulity, either. You did pretty well, considering.]

(Oh dear; I see what’s happening here. Look, I AM NOT counting the pots from those future firings yet. I know they still have to go to hell and back! Yes, that’s the deal! I get it! I wouldn’t try to skirt the deal; Oh no! Not me. And I’m gonna keep dancing and playing and singing and crying and writing and staring that beautiful terrifying polar bear dead between the eyes, until the burner goes off for the last time. (Hopefully at twentyonehundredandfiftyfivedegrees.) I’m an idiot, but I’m not stupid.)


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Hmm.. Let’s see. There was something else…

Oh, right! I had a long, nighttime phone call with that old friend. It was great. Good to hear he’s doing well, especially considering last week’s news. Fun to feel that conversational bubble appear out of nowhere, yet again, like another magic trick; despite something like three years in between us talking. When you’ve spent night after night, for almost an entire year, lying on your respective sides of a dorm loft, talking in the dark before sleep, noses inches from the ceiling, so there’s room for a couch down below, well… I think that sets a conversational pattern in place that you can lean on, now almost 30 years later, pretty much as hard as you want. I feel like, for all our wild differences, that guy’s been in my mind, and I’ve been in his, enough that we can just synch any damn time we might want to. Pretty great. More like a brother than a former roommate; more like an unexpected herald of The Muse, since he first lead me to clay, and without him I doubt I’d have ever found it, than just an old friend.

I also took that field trip to U-town, and met up with Aunt Nell for the first time, and it was amazing. Two world class conversations on back to back days — when do I ever do that? [Spoiler alert: never.][OK, not I’m just pantomiming my own schtick. Ugh.] Anyways, her show was wonderful — so many impressions and surprises than I’d ever expected from the photographs, and, since I built her website by hand back in the day, I think I know her photos (and the photo version of her work) pretty damn well. Score another one for seeing art with you own damn eyes, instead of on a screen.

And the rest — walking around a town with a cultural heart, the best bowl of soup I’ve ever had, browsing and splurging at an honest-to-Zeus art supply store, [I didn’t get around to shopping for pants,] listening to TS most of the hour and a quarter there — in between a few long bouts of talking to myself;at myself;for myself — another paean to The OA — and again most of the way back. Crazy.

And Aunt Nell is the bomb. I love back-to-the-land hippies who are now closing in on retiring age. They are pretty much the best. Thanks, Aunt Nell. Especially for listening. So weird to look around and discover people who actually seem to get me. Can’t wait to do that again.

So, yeah. When have I ever unloaded a kiln with a new OS Patch on my brain? It’s been so long. Or made a drive like that and instead of a mild torture, kind of an adventure? Or woken up each day excited about at least one thing, if not several — even if it’s just this dumb blog or an idea for a photo to shoot to further feed my Instagram addiction? So long. So weird.

And now it’s Sunday afternoon, and somehow I talked my way into getting the next batch loaded [Always helps to let The Admiral loose on IKEA every once in a while]. So No. 84 is sitting ready, out in the deep cold, where it will wait for my two-day stint as a “normal” at the U to end, then I’ll try to blast it through a little hole in the predicted weather between Tuesday night and all the familial obligations of giving thanks in a proscribed, ritualize manner. (No thanks, I’m good. I’ve got The OA on my side now; one rambling, excessive blog post and one more playthrough of Call It What You Want at a time. That’s my religion.) (Well, that and slaughtering the occasional hapless Georgia goat. Honestly, we just fucking make it up as we go along.)

I haven’t tallied up my word count for this month so far — was thinking that’d be a good bookend to this whale of a post. I bet it’s a lot, but feels like bad luck to look, now, in the middle. Also, expecting it to fall quickly as the sale approaches… But then again, I never expected to write any of this in the first place, so who knows? It might keep going up.

Not me. I don’t know a damn thing.

Lucky you.

“Like we’re made of starlight, starlight.”