Monday, November 26, 2018

Thankful: A Day of Small Moments

My granddaughter, Meyer is curled up, fast asleep tucked in by her baby blankets with her head on her special purple pillow. My sweet new Lab puppy is also curled up on his soft bed, asleep. This is truly a blissful moment. And a moment that can be so easily taken for granted because it’s just a normal, rainy, Monday. 

Thankful surprise. 

About a week and a half ago, I got the call Guide Dogs had a career changer for me! Tears of joy streamed down my face, as I listened to the director’s message. I jumped. I laughed. I almost couldn’t believe it. 

What is a Guide Dog Career Changer? Quite simply, a dog who, for many reasons, would not make a perfect dog to help and guide a blind person. With all the exceptional breeding, puppy raising and training, there are very few puppies now who don’t move on in the program. The ones who are career changed have a wide range of issues from physical to behavioral. They may not fit the Guide Dog program, but they are still wonderful.  

Meet Darby.

Delightful, sleek, strong and sweet, Darby is an 18 month old, black male Labrador Retriever. Born and raised in California, he came up to the Oregon campus a few weeks ago. He was career changed for his difficult ‘home’ habits. 

This means he ‘counter surfs’, ‘dumpster dives’, plays keep away and is very vocal. Now, I’ve dealt with all of these issues with other dogs. But right now, I want to get to know him. 

I now know he loves to walk in the park, jump for balls and eat strawberries. He does not like rain, getting his feet wet or dried off. Geese, ducks, kids and other dogs all distract him. He’s very energetic and needs to be reminded to take it easy going up or down stairs, across the floor or out the door. And he whines, cries, and yowls when he is in his kennel, which  just makes me laugh. 

Progress Already. 

He already knows his new name. When I call him, he comes. When I go around the corner without letting him know, he sees me and follows. Now, instead of pulling, he waits. He walks easily up, down and around. He is learning to ‘settle’ on his blanket or bed.

He does not bark. He is lying here on his bed, listening to new noises: cars and trucks on the street, dogs barking, the furnace and yet, he is quiet. His head goes up with each sound, he looks to me, I tell him it’s ok. He puts his head back down without a sound and does not disturb my sleeping granddaughter’s nap. 

It’s 3:30 now. Today’s rain continues and the dull, cloudy light is fading. But to me, it’s been a beautiful day. Why be thankful for a quiet, rainy Monday?

Because life is all about the small moments filled with giggles, yawns and peace. Thankfully. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

You Just Never Really Know.

One day, you dream of doing or making or being or creating or loving but you don’t see any way that it might work out. You don’t have the skills or the place or the equipment or the time or the opportunity. 

All you have is a dream that’s like steam on a mirror. You can see a vague form. You have a sense of presence and possibility that feels warm and inviting. But you can’t reach out and grab it. Not yet.  

Waiting is not fun. 

Patience is not my strong suit. I get so frustrated when I’m waiting for anything, anywhere, anytime. And yet, I know I can’t push time forward or backward because I am just one element, one blink of the immensity of time. Time is not mine. 

But when I see the future of an idea or a creation, I want to do it and see it now. And yet, at the same time, I know creation is not about the destination, the end point, the result. It’s about the journey. And the journey can take some crazy curves. 

Clay, my teacher. 

I love clay. It’s soft and cool and so wonderfully squishy. You can throw it and mold it and roll it. I can make it into cups, bowls, vases as well as masks, figures, flowers and faces. I can paint it and carve it and enjoy it’s pure, essential color. 

But it will not be rushed or pushed. It will only become in its own time. 

And I have learned to honor that even as I chomp at the bit of time. It’s a life long lesson in patience that is taking me a lifetime to learn. 

And that’s ok. I like all the life in and around me and I hope I get to keep living it for a long time. But since my sweet Jilly died suddenly in March, I’ve been shocked into the reality that time can stop suddenly for anyone at anytime. That fear has been chasing me lately, making me run faster and hurry. Yet at the same time, I’ve found myself holding my breath. 

But without breath, there is no life. 

And so clay, once again teaches me slowly to be here, in each roll, slab, turn of the wheel to be in each minute, each day, in each breath. That what I dreamed but never thought I could do, I can. What I thought would never happen, does. And an opportunity I’d given up on, comes to me. 

Breathe. Because you just never know. 

And that’s a good thing. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Time to Go High not Low.

Photo by NASA Apollo Astronauts 12/7/72

I was sitting staring at my TV with my mind cluttered with dark thoughts when up on the screen popped a view of the Earth from the Space Station. There before my eyes was a soft, white swirl of downy clouds topping planet Earth. 

My mind stopped. My eyes relaxed. I actually smiled down at all of us who live here. Birds, otters, whales, dogs, cats, horses, elk, deer, bears, fish and yes, even, insects all eat and sleep here. And yes, most of us will die here. Many of us much too soon. 

The fear and pain and horror is not to be denied. Many sad realities of now need changing and the weight is hard for all of us. Even more so for the mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers who have lost their lives and loved ones. So many wrongs need to be righted in this topsy-turvy time.

But it’s way too easy to get caught up in the hate and fear and violence. And doing so helps no one. And stops nothing. At this low point in our life in this country and on this planet, I found some comfort in these beautiful and wise words from Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama on going high.  

“I absolutely still believe that we’ve got to go high-always and without exception. It’s the only way we can keep our dignity. Because if we lose our dignity, what do we have left?”

“When someone’s trying to pull you down into the mud, it takes a lot less effort to give in and join them in the muck than to keep yourself upright, standing tall. If you allow yourself to play on their terms, they win. It’s what they want you to do. You can’t give them the satisfaction.”

“Now, going high doesn’t mean giving up or ignoring reality. It doesn’t mean you shoe away from the fight or weaken your principles. It means you lead with your whole heart and your whole soul -your whole value system - and not just whatever happens to be your stance on a given issue. Going high isn’t just about the fight you want to win, but it’s also about the person you want to be -the kind of country you want to have.”

“Barack and I have always tried to do this: When the haters come our way, we don’t let them distract us from our purpose. We brush them off when we can, and we deal with them when we need to. But we never lose sight of our goal. We never stop working. And we never stop trying to set a good example for the next generation - not just for our two daughters but for everyone’s kids. Do we want the next generation to be angry? Do we want them to be spiteful and petty? Or do we want them to live by the values that our parents taught us - values like honesty and generosity and respect?”

“I think the answer is easy enough. And it’s an answer that always applies, not just when it’s easy.”

Saturday, November 3, 2018

As the Wheel Turns: Home Stretch

Sometimes, I feel I’ll never get it all done. Yes, I do love creating. And art, is all about the process whether I’m working with paint, copper, window screening or clay. I love layers and textures and colors. Oh my.

But working with clay as I do, there are times when I just want to look up and magically see all my pieces perfectly glazed and sitting on my shelves.

There are a lot of stages in the art of making porcelain pieces. Some I love. Some I don’t. 

Throwing =Love. The smooth clay is lucious. The spinning wheel is meditation in motion. 
Handbuilding = Love.  Slapping, rolling, texture, cutting, pinching, shaping are all wonderful. 
Underglazing = Love. Layering color after color is pure play. 

Glazing = Don’t Love. Messy, tedious and a logistical nightmare.

My studio is in three different places in my house. In the garage, I throw and fire and store glaze buckets. In the home office/studio, I handbuild, paint and glaze. In the utility room, I get water for throwing, building or painting, set up for glazing, mix and clean up brushes and glazes. 

Glazing day set up: 1 1/2 hours. Bring in glazing buckets from garage. Get glaze from studio. In the utility room, open and mix glaze in each gallon bucket. Carry bucket from utility room to studio(opposite sides of my house). Bring in more water to mix more glaze to fill bucket(because it’s too heavy for me to carry from utility room) in studio.

Dipping bowls into the glaze bucket = 1/2 hour. 

Cleaning up = 1 hour. Washing the table, spatula, brushes, mixer, buckets x 4, moping floor, stacking and re-shelving all above equipment either in the garage or my inside studio. 

After all glazed pieces have dried overnight, I load them on a tray inside and carry it out to the garage where I load the kiln. This takes 3 to 10 trips, depending on the kiln load. 

Home stretches. 

I wondered, perhaps there is a way to make my home and studio stretch to work a little better. Now I have a 5 gallon bucket of glaze mixed and ready to use sitting on a new metal cart with wheels inside my studio. Next time I need to glaze, I can roll it out, mix it and use it all in one place.