December 2018 Archives

#21 decembrance 2018

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I walked in the warm afternoon air toying with the idea of getting in the kayak to inspect the high waters and beaver made canals and dams. But the wind picked up and I heard the crack of a tree falling where I was hoping to paddle. The dog heard it too and stood alert at the water's edge. I became attentive to swaying trees. I wondered about the roots and how deep they mine the ground. Could I hear the moon rise or perceive the shift and sway from the shortest day of the year to increasing daylight hours?

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If an inaudible whistle
blown between our lips
can send him home to us,
then silence is perhaps
the sound of spiders breathing
and roots mining the earth;
it may be asparagus heaving,
headfirst, into the light
and the long brown sound
of cracked cups, when it happens.

--Lisel Mueller, from What the Dog Perhaps Hears

#20 decembrance 2018

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At the beginning of my evening walks I have to remind myself to pay attention. There are the crows in the trees clothed in the night. Or do I see the small boats of milkweed pods?  Perhaps I'm missing the imaginative loops of honeysuckle.  As my rhythmic footsteps take over the logical part of my brain, darkness gathers the leaves into a quilt and in the architecture of trees I find rejuvenation in our crazy world.

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Praise the light of late November,
the thin sunlight that goes deep in the bones.
Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
despair. Praise what little there's left:
the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,
shells, the architecture of trees. Praise the meadow
of dried weeds: yarrow, goldenrod, chicory,
the remains of summer. Praise the blue sky
that hasn't cracked yet. Praise the sun slipping down
behind the beechnuts, praise the quilt of leaves
that covers the grass: Scarlet Oak, Sweet Gum,
Sugar Maple. Though darkness gathers, praise our crazy
fallen world; it's all we have, and it's never enough.

--Barbara Crooker, "Praise Song"

#19 decembrance 2018

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We walked tonight when it was almost fully dark. Our route took us up along the stream that feeds the pond to inspect the beaver dams and chewed branches. The moon kept us company on our path through the bare limbs. When we fired the last kiln I had dreams of stoking the back ports with wood collected from the beaver dams, perfectly gnawed and stripped of leaves and side branches. I made a few small piles, but then we decided not to stoke the back ports and my piles sit by the stream edge without remorse or excuse.

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Consider the half-moon,
How it gains as it is falling;

How it finds its true fulfillment,
Yet remains to be fulfilled;

How it knows its own path,
And will rise through the night
With a cold eye
Having no fear, no pity--

Half-moon, might you rise

From the darkness of my fingertips
As you rise in the sky,

Without remorse, without excuse.

--Charles Wright, Half-Moon.

#18 decembrance 2018

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On my walk this evening I watched the diving ducks disappearing and bobbing back up, questioning if they feel the cold, wondering exactly what they can see, taste, and feel when they dive down. I had a chipped and almost shattered mug in my pocket which I tossed into the depths to swim with the fishes and with the splash most of the ducks flew off. A few paused at the far end of the water as if to question what does a mug do at the bottom of the pond.

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If the river was whiskey
I would be a diving duck
If the river was whiskey
I would be a diving duck
I would swim to the bottom, but I would drink my way up
--Sleepy John Estes (1962)

#17 decembrance 2018

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Last night I was exhausted from the weeks of making pots, firings, and all the steps involved in our open house. I dreamt of events that were a mix of family weddings combined with a pottery sale. In my dream we had forgotten to light candles but I reminded my panicked friend that it was okay as my mother had sent boxes of candles from her grave--as if that was perfectly normal. We had floating candles in animal shapes along with fruit to embellish our fancy tables all interspersed with our woodfired pottery. I laughed at myself, reflecting that my mother's candles are still lighting my dreams almost fifteen years after her death. When we returned to the Maine cottage the summer after my mother died I felt as if I ran into her in the turn of my wrist. In certain sunlight my bones could not forget her habits of sweeping, writing postcards or taking naps.

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lost summer returns
in certain sunlight, her wrist
of fine hair glistens
--Greg Sellers, Haiku journal entry, 17 December 2018

#16 decembrance 2018

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We have opened our doors, greeted friends old and new, poured cups of water, cider, and wine in the hopes that we can help others to see the wonder in everyday experiences and the potential of ceramics. 

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"I write for other people with the hope that I can help them to see the wonderful things within their everyday experiences. In short, I want to show people how interesting the ordinary world can be if you pay attention."

--Ted Kooser

#15 decembrance 2018

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Today was not the first December rain nor I'm guessing the last, but everything wanted a rain coat--including the geese who stood on our pond dock until even it was underwater.

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First winter rain--
even the monkey
seems to want a raincoat.


#14 decembrance 2018

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The gallery is full of pots. The future of who will come by this weekend, what conversations will happen, and what insights will be gained is still a blank slate.

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"The calendar is full but the future is blank."

--Tomas Tranströmer, The Deleted World: Poems

#13 decembrance 2018

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As I photograph pots I remember the road to making. The seeds of ideas, the landscape I was traveling through, or the gears that were churning in my imagination. Each material step of making reveals which choice I should make. Then the firing provides new leaps of faith--the promise of ash or flashing, the heat that may encourage shape shifting. Yet as I photograph the object it is as if the form has always been here.

When I began making these plates I was thinking of the history and feeling of industry motivated by the gears and wheels left around the Archie Bray facility. It was an inside-out quality of shape, but what I kept coming back to was the clay itself. The fields, the hillsides, the earth, the roads we travel are in fact among the only choices we can make.

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The road seen, then not seen, the hillside
hiding then revealing the way you should take,
the road dropping away from you as if leaving you
to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
when you thought you would fall,
and the way forward always in the end
the way that you followed, the way that carried you
into your future, that brought you to this place,
no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,
no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:
the sense of having walked from far inside yourself
out into the revelation, to have risked yourself
for something that seemed to stand both inside you
and far beyond you, that called you back
to the only road in the end you could follow [...]

-- David Whyte, from Pilgrim, © 2012, Many Rivers Press

#12 decembrance 2018

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In 2016 there was an exhibit at the Center for Italian Modern Art in New York. I remember being very moved by my visit there. In order to see the exhibit you had to make an appointment and then take a tour with a Morandi scholar. I wanted to go and look at the work on my own and resist the rules. But in fact it was lovely. After we arrived they served us espresso in tiny cups with Pantone colors printed on the sides in a room full of photographs by Joel Meyerowitz of Morandi's objects and studio. In the offices there were Tacita Dean's photos of Morandi's pencil marks on fragile brown paper that covered his table where he arranged his still lives. The coffee, the talk, the photos, the paintings--each component made it possible to more fully understand Morandi's poetic vision. Today as I cleaned bottles from the anagama I had imaginary conversations with Morandi about bottles and boxes, marks, angles of light, over lapping objects and table edges.

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"Gioni singled out "this refusal of an idea of time that is married to production" that he found in Dean's work. He incisively explained that the demand that Tacita Dean or Giorgio Morandi makes of you is to slow down, to look attentively, to abandon yourself. In his eyes, it makes the work particularly radical. In an age today when time is compressed and accelerated, to slow down and look is the most radical thing you can do. Dean echoed this sentiment, explaining that it is harder to daydream now, which is as an active state lost to us today, since we are so attached to our devices and phones. "I regret those periods of emptiness that were so nourishing when I was young," she told the audience at CIMA."

Excerpt from

#11 decembrance 2018

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I went to the studio dreaming of soba noodle soup. I photographed dried noodles in hopes that a recipe would appear like a new wildflower in the woods. Instead the recipe arrived out of the blue in my email like a new poet. I didn't find time to go to the store to buy the required ingredients but somehow the combination of available things from our pantry in a different order created a delicious soup.

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A New Poet

Finding a new poet
is like finding a new wildflower
out in the woods. You don't see

its name in the flower books, and
nobody you tell believes
in its odd color or the way

its leaves grow in splayed rows
down the whole length of the page. In fact
the very page smells of spilled

red wine and the mustiness of the sea
on a foggy day - the odor of truth
and of lying.

And the words are so familiar,
so strangely new, words
you almost wrote yourself, if only

in your dreams there had been a pencil
or a pen or even a paintbrush,
if only there had been a flower.

--Linda Pastan

#10 decembrance 2018

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When I was in Montana I was absorbed by the open landscape of the West. I tried to note the sunset each night and memorize the way the surrounding, cast-off bricks of the Archie Bray's brick-yard origins captured the waning light. It was too cold to sit by an open window until the light was gone, but the words of Ted Kooser lingered in my imagination like the sunset. These words are inscribed in this plate, printed backwards, written with the pale grey ghost of my hand.
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A Happy Birthday

This evening I sat by an open window

and read till the light was gone and the book

was no more than a part of the darkness.

I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand.

--Ted Kooser

#9 decembrance 2018

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The Shapes of Leaves

Ginkgo, cottonwood, pin oak, sweet gum, tulip tree:
our emotions resemble leaves and alive
to their shapes we are nourished.

Have you felt the expanse and contours of grief
along the edges of a big Norway maple?
Have you winced at the orange flare

searing the curves of a curling dogwood?
I have seen from the air logged islands,
each with a network of branching gravel roads,

and felt a moment of pure anger, aspen gold.
I have seen sandhill cranes moving in an open field,
a single white whooping crane in the flock.

And I have traveled along the contours
of leaves that have no name. Here
where the air is wet and the light is cool,

I feel what others are thinking and do not speak,
I know pleasure in the veins of a sugar maple,
I am living at the edge of a new leaf.

--Arthur Sze  From The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998, published by Copper Canyon Press, 1998.

#8 decembrance 2018

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We un-stacked the anagama today. It's been a week of exhaustion and catch up as we wait for the kiln to cool. There are hopes and fears that fade and recur as the days pass. When we get to un-brick the door it is both a great relief and a bit of a letdown. We have to get to know the work again on its own terms. We let go of expectations and see the pots for how they have fired. The plate pictured here was made in Montana with unknown to me clays and wood species as fuel and kilns. It was fun to bring a few of those experiments home to fire in our own, more understood kiln. This afternoon we sorted and cleaned pots until we were exhausted and cold and when twilight had deserted our cause.

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"So like twilight to show up just when you need it".

--Rodger Kamenetz, from "Incident on Memory Lane," Yonder, Lavender Ink, 2018.

#7 decembrance 2018

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I walk almost everyday. Some days Warren and I walk together; some days we walk alone. We walk for peace; we walk for mediation; we walk for the dog. Some days I love the routine of the same path and other days I need to step out and look at different trees and horizon from a fresh vantage point. As I cover new ground I come home with my vision clear or my thinking reorganized by the rhythm and sights of the walk. I come home and pick up seeds in the garden and see sculptures in their shapes. I see the possibility in kiln experiments.

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Take my hand.

We will walk.

We will only walk.

We will enjoy our walk

without thinking
of arriving anywhere.

Walk peacefully.

Walk happily.

Our walk is a peace walk.

Our walk is a happiness walk.

Then we learn

that there is no peace walk;

that peace is the walk;

that there is no happiness walk;

that happiness is the walk.

We walk for ourselves.

We walk for everyone

always hand in hand.

Walk and touch peace every moment.

Walk and touch happiness every moment.

Each step brings a fresh breeze.

Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.

Kiss the Earth with your feet.

Print on Earth your love and happiness.

Earth will be safe

when we feel in us enough safety.
--from "Call me by My True Names  - The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh", Parallax Press, 2005.

#6 decembrance 2018

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I planted most of my garlic today. There are years I have considered not growing garlic as I could probably buy better organic garlic more cheaply. But then I remember how much I get out of prepping a bed at this time of year--harvesting and photographing the scapes, not to mention sauteing a clove in a bit of olive oil for favorite veggies. Last, but not least, the longer I grow garlic the bigger and wilder my garlic jars get.

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i'll drink 'remorse' like a cabernet
champagne with 'indecision'
'guilt' like garlic
needs to sauté with cream, butter
and wine

I could eat your words
melt 'objection' with 'stimulation'
simmer 'truth' with 'prevarication'
taste your 'virtue' and 'honor' and 'time'

baby teach me tonight

--From I could eat your words by Patrica Barber

#5 decembrance 2018

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This morning I woke from a deep sleep. I crawled out of a bottomless dream place where I was still clearing out my father"s loft. I sat for a moment and watched the room come into focus. I was witness to my eyesight moving from blur to definition. I was an observer of the shift from blackness to color, dream to thought. I sat quietly not thinking about the day or what I needed to do. I  breathed with unconditional breathes. There was the moment of muddy and then a few minutes later there was a shifting blue grey and then a depth of three dimensions. There were seconds and minutes, silence and clouds with colors that have no names.

I dressed and brushed my teeth and for yoga class printed out a poem by Wendell Berry about how to be a poet--it also seemed pertinent to how to be a yogi. I ate my cereal, walked the dog, drank a small cup of coffee and shunned the newspaper. I went to yoga without fear of what could I teach, what would I say or how would I focus. I could accept what came from silence from the minutes of observation. I could find movement in that stillness and words would come like little prayers to describe the shift of weight for tree pose or the variations of positions for sun salutations.
My father is gone and I miss his house. I can visit there in my dreams. In the dream state I can tell my mother that I love her poems, in the same way Wendell Berry's poems speak to me. I don't have to be devoted to every line but I can breath with them in silence and let them spark insights into my day. I can learn to love waking up which I have been famous for hating. I used to clash with my dad everyday as I got ready to go to school. I have been given so many alarm clocks in my lifetime that I could start a clock shop. I can sleep through them with an incredible talent. But I am learning to love change. I am coming to worship dawn. I am making space to accept that shift from the oblivion of sleep to the consciousness and firmness of wakefulness where I can accept the true color that is deep inside of me.

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(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.

Sit down.
Be quiet.

You must depend upon

affection, reading, knowledge,

skill -- more of each

than you have -- inspiration,

work, growing older, patience,

for patience joins time

to eternity. Any readers

who like your poems,

doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath

the unconditioned air.

Shun electric wire.

Communicate slowly. Live

a three-dimensioned life;

stay away from screens.

Stay away from anything

that obscures the place it is in.

There are no unsacred places;

there are only sacred places

and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.

Make the best you can of it.

Of the little words that come

out of the silence, like prayers

prayed back to the one who prays,

make a poem that does not disturb

the silence from which it came.
How to be a poet
(to remind myself)

--Wendel Berry

#4 decembrance 2018

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As we wait for the anagama to cool I look at old tests of found materials trying to imagine what information the new tests might impart. I often tell people that I feel because potters have to imagine how things shrink and transform in the heat of the kiln we tend to be optimists who can see into the future. However at this moment in time I am ready for the night to be too dark to see into the future so I can accept the kiln load of pots as they are and let what will be, be.

"Now let the night be dark for all of me.
Let the night be too dark for me to see
Into the future. Let what will be, be."

Robert Frost, from "Acceptance," The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged (Holt, 1979)

#3 decembrance 2018

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While I was in Montana I experimented with diverse clays and different raw materials. I fired in kilns unknown to me and fueled the kiln with cottonwood and pine yet another variation in the woodfiring mix. It was as if I couldn't make familiar choices but had to put myself/ my hand/my pots in the path of the beam of fire-light no matter what that might bring.

"I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam."

--Annie Dillard

#2 decembrance 2018

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As always the short days of December take me by surprise. This year on my return from Montana I entered into the cycle of studio work for our anagama. With every shortening day I have found myself focusing on dawn. Each morning I note the colors and angle of the light. When we are firing the kiln, waking in the dark to stoke the kiln it's a treat to note the early morning shift in the sky from fully dark to just discerning the dark lines of tree branches against the horizon of the bluish brightening sky. When I am firing I always lose track of the days. Watching the dawn allows me to breath and tend the kiln in the space between yesterday and tomorrow.

"In that crest of daybreak, we move from darkness, chaos, timelessness, and space without boundaries, into light, edges, time, and language. For a few minutes, there's a place between yesterday and tomorrow. To take it in, even just for a moment, is to experience a glimmer of immortality. There is time for everything. Dawn is the prophecy and the potential, the abyss and its opposite, the end and the beginning. Each day, it gives us the opportunity to touch both at once. We watch, in as close as we can get to silence, as the sky fills with sky. "

--from the Sight of Dawn by Nina MacLaughlin published in the Paris Review

#1 decembrance 2018

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The First of December takes me by surprise once again. Here is the first of twenty-one images for the 2018 version of Decembrance.



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This page is an archive of entries from December 2018 listed from newest to oldest.

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