There is a whirlpool trying, and sometimes succeeding, in pulling me down, down down. I resist. I persist. But sometimes, the force feels too strong. I look for a savior, grasp for a life raft and I finally find it in mud.
It seems odd, really, that clay is my sanity.
While I prepare to throw by filling the tub of hot water and carrying it out to the garage, my mind chatters away about the dirt of the day. The political presidential poop, the scandals, the greed, the incredible wrongs done to all of us. The personal fears that arise. The family stress that I can't solve and the problems I think I can. It leaks from all those little corners of the mind and threatens to overwhelm.
Slam. Turn. Slam again.
Wedging clay is a completely physical task. If you've never done it, let me tell you it can be violent and wonderful and totally therapeutic. I cut off my clay from a big 25 pound sack of porcelain. After it's cut into 2.5 and 5 pound chunks, I wedge it. Well at least, that's the technical term. What I really do? I slam it onto a canvas covered board from a height of at least 2 feet. It hits the board and I pick it up, turn it and slam it again. I slam it over and over and over and over until it's compressed into a block about 1/4 the size of the original slab I cut off.
Turn up the music. Now it's time to throw.
Once my clay is wedged, slammed and ready to roll. I get on my wheel to throw. I always have music playing when I'm working. It's essential to my process and I choose different types of music for different studio days. Under glazing days flow to the tunes from mellow rock to Broadway. Throwing days need instrumental either classical or new age but it's the rhythms that create the oasis I need to be centered enough to center the clay on the wheel.
Centering is key to everything.
If the clay is off center, the mug, bowl, vase wobbles and tilts and eventually falls apart. Throwing a bowl, vase, mug all requires balance, a stable center, an axis with no tilt. So, for me, music provides a beat to follow, a breathe of balance, uplifting notes to help me rise above the push and pull around me and find that stable core within.
I need to connect with my core but also the core in the earth. The grounding that keeps us all from spinning out of our orbits. Even when the earth tilts on its axis, the core remains grounded, stable to keep it all together. I need that too.
Mud saves me. Every time.
When I'm at the wheel and I'm throwing, nothing else exists. My hands go around the gooey gob and press inward and upward and down. Again and again. I repeat the process until at last, I feel it. The clay is centered. I exhale a sigh. And begin to form whatever shape the clay will take. I'd like to say I control that process or, any of the process, but I don't. The clay leads me and if I'm willing to be saved that day, I make a really good bowl, vase or mug. If I fight for control or dominance or some need for profit, I create a cold, wet blob of dirt.
What saves you?
In this turbulent sea of political and personal and physical change in my world; my clay, my wheel, my hands covered up to the elbow in soft, gooey porcelain saves me. But it could be something quite different for you and you don't even have to know for sure.
You just have to do something. Crochet or knit. Bake or barbecue. Plant a tree, flower or zucchini. Splash some paint around a canvas, paper or your bedroom walls. Go for a swim. Do yoga. Listen or play music. Run. Walk. Dance.
Save yourself. Save the world. Create sanity.