June 2019 Archives

The problem with paying attention to the lengthening days is that I become too keenly aware of how the days will now get shorter from here on out. Thanks for reading...

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"To write is to carve a new path through the terrain of the imagination, or to point out new features on a familiar route. To read is to travel through that terrain with the author as a guide-- a guide one might not always agree with or trust, but who can at least be counted on to take one somewhere. I have often wished that my sentences could be written out as a single line running into the distance so that it could be clear that a sentence is likewise a road and reading is traveling."
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

#20 summer series 2019

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My path today went mostly between the house and studio as I packed pots to take to Penland, North Carolina where I'll be teaching for the next two weeks. When we first moved to our property I wanted to leave as much of our land as wild as possible. I had a dream of a gentle form of beautiful creative chaos. So we mowed minimally and had a curved trail that led to the pond and another that followed the edge of the water and one that traversed the hill. We let the birds drop seeds and the trees so seeded grew up. But vines also took over and so in recent years we have been mowing more to beat back the poison ivy, bittersweet, grapevine, and honeysuckle. In the early years, every few seasons we would change where we mowed our trail. We were amused that our dog at the time still took the path that was mowed when she was a puppy. The last couple of weeks with all our focus on firing and home exhibit we were behind on upkeep so at the beginning of the week Warren did a complete mowing. On my walk today I felt as if I could invent any interpretation of my landscape as my new path in life.

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"A path is a prior interpretation of the best way to traverse a landscape."
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

#19 summer series 2019

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For so many years I have been driven by the dream of travel. Here in Virginia immersed in my daily habits of walks, weeding and studio I try to see my local landscape with the eye of a traveler. I have trained my eye to see the color of the horizon or the distant mountain range as something that resonates with my pottery tablescapes or the daily path between house and studio. The color of travel has became an emotion for me. This year I have been lucky to visit Montana twice, Tasmania, and Maine and am about to imbibe North Carolina. The colors have shifted from the hue of where I might never go to the shades of where I have been and the textures of where I have worked  and the dreams of where I might return.

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"For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go."
― Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

#18 summer series 2019

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My cousins came to visit today. They live in Texas and had never been to our house or studio before. Over the years M in particular has read what I write--my view from the studio, walks to the pond, dog antics, firing the kiln, or weeding the garden. M needed to see the architecture of our life with her own eyes to match it against the compass of my stories. We have the shared history of a family of raconteurs who have built both shrines and traps with their telling of life and travels. So we compare notes and impressions to find our place in family history. Warren's side of the family comes from non-raconteurs who count and aim for the point as quickly as possible, so he finds my habits surprising, picking and choosing certain details to attest to the vastness of our world. He is familiar with counting the number of miles traveled while I try to narrate the distance of blue in the humid evening air.

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"Stories are compasses and architecture, we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice."
― Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

#17 summer series 2019

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I remember the last summer with my mother I felt the impact of memory loss. I used to love my walks with her in Maine. We would meet on a path and wander to the south Isle End and then down the east shore looking out to sea or wherever our conversations might carry us. I loved talking about family dynamics with her-- both about my siblings, but also about her own brothers and sister and her memories of her mother and father. Our rambling conversations gave me distance and empathy for her choices and losses. They enlightened my own struggles of identity with my brothers, husband, child and as an artist.

That last summer I had made a plan. I was going to be on the island for twenty-one days. So I thought I would write about the planned twenty-one conversations with my mother. However when I arrived it was apparent that her memory had vanished. Those family dynamics were a mystery; her love of politics was now history. She was forgetting and I was struggling with letting go. I wrote, but my pages held different insights than the ones I had imagined. We walked and talked and I found I had to be in the moment. I had to look where she looked, to talk about how close certain island houses are to each other or how two trees created an "X."  We laughed our way through the nights when she lost the salad she had made for dinner or the cookies she had hidden for dessert. When everything else was gone we were standing together looking in the same direction rich in the loss and prosperous in our connection of the moment.

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"The art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss."

― Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

#16 summer series 2019

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If it is the job of artists to open doors to the unknown it is also the job of the artist to open the door to an audience to share how they have tried to transform the edge of mystery into a shape and form of an idea. Thanks to everyone who came out this weekend to take a look and chat whether or not they took home any treasures. Sending out invitations to our home exhibit is like casting a net--we never know who we might catch.

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It is the job of artists to open doors and invite in prophesies, the unknown, the unfamiliar; it's where their work comes from, although its arrival signals the beginning of the long disciplined process of making it their own. Scientists too, as J. Robert Oppenheimer once remarked, 'live always at the 'edge of mystery'--the boundary of the unknown.' But they transform the unknown into the known, haul it in like fishermen; artists get you out into that dark sea.
--Rebecca Solnit

#15 summer series 2019

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Leaky vessels are the bane of my existence. I try really hard to make sure I check all my vases before they leave my house to make sure they do not seep or leak but I always seem to miss one or two. I have come to accept that part of me that misses those details. It is part of who I am. When someone returns a leaky bottle it is another chance to deepen a friendship. When we do a home exhibit or open studio I never know who will show up but it is a thrill and reminder of all the different aspects of where our lives have taken us--who we are and who we have been in our lives. These aspects include student, potter, teacher, gardener, writer, yogi, neighbor, storyteller, rememberer and forgeter of names, places, people and events.

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"Listen: you are not yourself, you are crowds of others, you are as leaky a vessel as was ever made, you have spent vast amounts of your life as someone else, as people who died long ago, as people who never lived, as strangers you never met. The usual I we are given has all the tidy containment of the kind of character the realist novel specializes in and none of the porousness of our every waking moment, the loose threads, the strange dreams, the forgettings and misrememberings, the portions of a life lived through others' stories, the incoherence and inconsistency, the pantheon of dei ex machina and the companionability of ghosts. There are other ways of telling."
--Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

#14 summer series 2019

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Just an image for tonight.

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#13 summer series 2019

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We have been deep in the preparation for our upcoming weekend open studio. I just wanted my readers to know I didn't get lost I am just busy.

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"When someone doesn't show up, the people who wait sometimes tell stories about what might have happened and come to half believe the desertion, the abduction, the accident. Worry is a way to pretend that you have knowledge or control over what you don't--and it surprises me, even in myself, how much we prefer ugly scenarios to the pure unknown. Perhaps fantasy is what you fill up maps with rather than saying that they too contain the unknown."

―Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

# 12 summer series 2019

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My firing colleague and I have been having an ongoing conversation about how we learned things like when it's OK to cut back the daffodil greens or how we learned to identify different types of firewood. I moved to Virginia when I was thirty and marveled at other peoples' knowledge of trees and how to garden. I thought it was something you were born with. I didn't realize how easy it is to look things up and then slowly remember the shapes and names of leaves. She can identify so many bird songs. I feel as if I am just beginning to decipher this aerial language. I learned a lot as we fired together, awake in the early morning hours as each bird began its distinct call and response.

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"Dragonflies were as common as sunlight

hovering in their own days

backward forward and sideways

as though they were memory

now there are grown-ups hurrying

who never saw one

and do not know what they

are not seeing"

--from"After the Dragonflies" by W. S. Merwin

#11 summer series 2019

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In the morning as I make breakfast I like to leave the door open, open to the air and the unknown of the day. In the evening I am one to eat dinner on the porch despite the fact that Warren is always eaten alive by bugs. I like to be open to the shift in light and temperature, to the way the maple leaves touch the porch, and the lull that summer promises.

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"Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That's where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go."
―Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

#10 summer series 2019

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When I was in Tasmania in April I joined my hosts at Ridgeline Pottery in their morning walk. They like to walk laps on a trail around their property. I didn't always do all the laps and sometimes I struck out on my own, crossing the street for different views, but the habit of walking allowed us to notice the sunrise, the patterns on the water in the distant lagoon, the color and texture of bark on the gum trees. The rhythm and alignment that grew out of our walks became part of my sense of place, the seeds of unconscious, invisible memories were planted through the habit of steps. Today in Virginia I walked at the end of the day--my home habit--and the verdant tones of my wet local landscape were a contrast with the soft grey greens of autumnal dry Tasmania. Exploring my memory of place and time through making pots  reminds me how giving myself to one place gives me back to myself, back to my Virginia steps and the nuances of my own materials and kiln.

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"Suddenly I came out of my thoughts to notice everything around me again-the catkins on the willows, the lapping of the water, the leafy patterns of the shadows across the path. And then myself, walking with the alignment that only comes after miles, the loose diagonal rhythm of arms swinging in synchronization with legs in a body that felt long and stretched out, almost as sinuous as a snake...when you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains."
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

#9 summer series 2019

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Maxine Kumin wrote a poem about using the newspaper as compost in her garden, taking the paper and reading the news as she covered it with mulch between the rows of broccoli and corn. It was an act of digesting and knowing and letting go of the weight of AIDS, suicide bombings, and tsunamis. The newspaper held heartbreak and stained her fingers black, but she fed her emotions and knowledge to the earthworms. It was as if her daily tending of her garden was also the daily tending of her poetry. I learned from that model. Writing my bits, collaging words with my drawings and letting the embryo of my understanding of poetry germinate in the unclaimed eggshell of the compost. These practices taught my unquiet spirit. The mix of garden, parenting, making pots, drawing and writing became my life. They became my practice, my path forward. Kumin's poems were her life. I loved the idea that she was stealing from her own life to make her poems. I also appreciated their autobiographical character because she was the same age as my mother who was also writing poems but I could read Kumin with a dispassionate distance. I could have empathy for her parents' death or her children finding their own lives without the tangled emotions of my own family's patterns.

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"After the next revolution
it rained melancholy, it is still raining
in the poets garden. But they are planting
and busy white moths flutter
at random along orderly rows,
a trillion eggs in their ovipositors
waiting to hatch into green loopers
with fearsome jaws"

--from The Poets' Garden by Maxine Kumin

#8 summer series 2019

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After a hot day of unstacking a beautiful kiln load of pots, I took a quick pond swim. The immersion in the cold, still water was a moment to let go of gravity, thought, and language.

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"The swimmer lets himself fall out of the day heat and down through a gold bath of light deepening and cooling into thousands of evenings, thousands of Augusts, thousands of human sleeps,"

--Anne Carson, Plainwater

#7 summer series 2019

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As I put plants in my outdoor pots, putter in the garden, and linger on the porch as the fireflies emerge I think about all the ways my sense of summer shifts. I might say June is all about the first daylily bloom until the deer eat them all, or it might be the first swim in the pond, but tonight it is the frogs, the fireflies and the string of reinstalled porch lights that make me feel like summer is really here and the month of June can be fully welcomed.

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There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night. I want to spread those little meteors on a hunk of still-warm bread this winter. Any trace left on the knife will make a kitchen sink like that evening air

the cool night before
star showers: so sticky so
warm so full of light

--Aimee Nezhukumatathil from her poem "Summer Haibun":

#6 summer series 2019

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When I describe to non woodfirers that we have a week of cooling between the firing and the unloading I am often asked, how do I cope. The assumption is that we can't wait to open the kiln, but in truth I am pooped and the week of cooling and time away from pots and kiln is healthy for me. I sleep in, perhaps watch some movies or TV shows. This year I have been weeding. I have made sure I go to yoga. Today we went into DC for a hit of urban life. We saw Ursula von Rydingsvard's exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Her work filled my imagination with form, material, texture, poetry and a sense of intuition. The title of the show "The Contour of Feeling" reminded me of the impossibility of trying to describe the inside of a vase. We arrived home to our green world of Warrenton as the last of the light drained from the sky, full of Burmese dinner flavors, memories of conversation with a good friend, and all the sights and sounds of changing neighborhoods in our nation's capital.

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"We don't know the contour of feeling we only know what molds it."

-- Rainer Maria Rilke

#5 summer series 2019

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Having spent five weeks in Tasmania from the beginning of April to the first week of May I feel like my sense of the year is slightly turned around. When I returned it was so green here it almost hurt my eyes after the dry autumn landscape of Tasmania. But now I have made my peace with the northern hemisphere. I love how each evening seems impossibly long. As a child I defined the beginning of summer as the end of school and an escape from New York City. But as an adult my definitions of summer are always shifting responding to the heat, the garden, my pottery projects, and travel schemes. There are visual and physical landscape clues in the grass and the the angle of light, the weed growth and deep shadows. Today the textured hostas clearly spell June, a synonym for the beginning of summer.

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"Where in the year are we? We don't need to track the stars to know. Here in the northern hemisphere, each evening's longer light alerts us. Right now the year is skipping toward the opening of the heated season. Which, for some, begins tomorrow, June 1. Where you define the start of the summer depends on whether you align yourself with the meteorological calendar, which is used by climatologists and meteorologists, or the astronomical calendar. If you stand with the scientists, June 1 starts summer (and September 1 starts fall, December 1, winter, and March 1, spring). If you base your seasonal switches on the earth's tilt and changing relationship to the sun, the solstice opens the season, this year on June 21, when, in the northern hemisphere, the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, and light lasts longer than any day of the year."

From The Start of Summer in the Paris Review by Nina MacLaughlin, a writer and carpenter in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

#4 summer series 2019

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When I was in elementary school and becoming a bit of a reader my hero was Harriet Tubman. I remember going to the 96th Street NYC public library and reading every kid biography about her. I loved the idea of her leading people to freedom with the help of Quakers and feeling moss on trees to know which way was north.

This evening we walked in our rich green landscape and I fell in love with trees all over again. I photographed a favorite oak and the bark of an enormous sycamore, comparing and contrasting it to the bark colors of the gum trees in Tasmania. I photographed a stone wall that speaks volumes about the history of Virginia and all of its shadowy past. I thought about those who have disappeared into shadows. As Adrienne Rich said, in times like these it's necessary to talk about trees.

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There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light --
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.

-- Adrienne Rich.

#3 summer series 2019

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After firing a wood kiln I feel as if I have been sleeping upside down. It takes a day to wake up and take flight. However it was such beautiful weather here in Virginia--all clear sky, low humidty and an energetic breeze--it was easy to pay attention. I could witness the weeds in the garden, the moths, slugs, caterpillars and beetles. I could assess the pots I made in Tasmainia with fresh eyes and enjoy being home--the place that rhymes with poem.

Advice from a Bat


Hunt only at night. Fly erratically.

Defy even your own expectations.

Feed on beetles, moths, and mosquitoes,

whatever is small and annoying.

Cultivate the myths about you

until every predator fears your legend.

When hunting, be guided by a language

only you can hear. The same is true

when courting the one you love.

Clean fangs and fur nightly. Crawl

or climb to confuse the observant.

Retreat to a cave no one believes in.

Let the day and the world pass

while you sleep, and sleep upside down,

ready to wake and fall into flight.

--Michael T. Young

#2 summer series 2019

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I often quote Miro as saying, "I work like a gardener," and yesterday, as we fired the kiln, my friend, helper, neighbor, reminded me to water my garden. So after cooking dinner and before heading back to the kiln, I stepped out to the garden with hose in hand and took a few minutes to water my few peas, kale, and bok choi. I was so glad for the reminder to take the time for the moments of quiet and liquid motion.  


"What I am seeking, in fact, is a motionless movement, something equivalent to what is called the eloquence of silence."  Joan Miro

#1 summer series 2019

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All week I have been anticipating the arrival of June. I have thought about how June 1 was going to be a busy day firing the kiln and I needed to have an image ready to kick off my summer series. Then the day arrived, and I got totally involved in firing our wood kiln, talking, cooking meals, and at 11:45 pm I walked from studio to kiln and realized I had forgotten to post and, at that moment, was too exhausted to pull it off. So here is the first of what I plan to be 21 images in honor of the lengthening days here in the green world of Virginia.



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This page is an archive of entries from June 2019 listed from newest to oldest.

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