43 years ago, when I graduated with a degree in Ceramics, I knew that there was something wrong with me – mentally, emotionally – but I didn’t know what or how to deal with it. Since then I’ve been close to the edge more than once and in more ways than one. I nearly lost my life during a psychotic experience in Iceland, felt broken to the point where I didn’t think I could possibly mend, and ultimately pushed myself through such extreme, painful experiences that many times I wondered why.
Thankfully, I also thought ‘why not?’ and bit by bit I found a way through.
Being in survival mode doesn’t leave any energy for forward planning, including consideration of what I would do when I retired. The idea of doing some work with clay again suddenly came out of ‘nowhere’ and I’ve been enjoying going to workshop sessions at a studio not too far from where I live. However, I also thought it would be good to be able to do some work from home, especially during the winter months when I can’t work outside in the garden.
The work I produced at college for my degree show was fired initially to bisque level and then finished in a sawdust kiln. We have no space here for a proper kiln but I’ve been exploring possibilities for sawdust firing; even firing ‘greenware’, that is without having put the pieces through the initial bisque firing. This will produce porous pots that are not ‘vitrified’ as they are when fired to higher temperatures, but some beautiful subtle effects can be obtained.
So with a few basic tools and a dining table, I’m off to a good start. I’m still going to continue to attend the studio sessions – apart from anything else it’s a lovely encouraging atmosphere and I enjoy the companionship and sense of shared experience. But it’s also great to be able to ‘sit and do’ at home – to make whatever I want to make – without time constraints or consideration of anything other than what I’m working on.
This brings me to Poetry/Pottery Rule No. 20: Enjoy the process.
Now that does sound like a plan – the housework may not get done, but these are pots that won’t need washing up!
Red was the colour of your jacket on the chair – with slender, tender fingers curled around a tumbler – as you waited for me there on our first date
Red was the colour of my jacket too there was something about you – the mark on your cheek the way you held your head – it wasn’t love at first sight but I was happy for it to be something else instead
Since then our jackets have become a pair – your slender, tender fingers hold me now in bed – but I’ll always remember our first date when you and I both wore red
Today I pile on warm clothes push toes into boots hands into gloves fix helmet on head put pressure on one pedal after another with grey treads turning on icy tarmac in reflective waistcoat I propel myself down the hill looking like a wasp on wheels
Feet freeze into tennis balls wind works its way in between folds finding skin it’s an easy ride but I’m glad to arrive at work this morning
Evening comes and I do it all over again this time lungs stretch and scream at the incline that challenges me to stop but thoughts of home and rest are the pull
Pushing, pushing, pushing keeps the wheels turning until I arrive at the gate maybe a bit late hair wet with sweat pedals finally still pushing finished for today
Jealousy and insecurity hit me like a brick the other night and left me reaching reeling once again with stomach-churning feelings head over heels for all the wrong reasons nothing to hang on to inside my head or in my heart I didn’t know what to do or where to start
So I bought yellow shoes to change the colour of my mood watched birds of prey and tried to write poems that meant something or occasionally rhymed but not every time
Jealousy and insecurity had hit me like a brick and left me reaching reeling once again but I worked hard to face the pain knowing there was nothing to gain and everything to lose as you reached out to me and I reached out to you until eventually back on firmer ground love once again was found
Obsessive thoughts of certain kinds impinge on clarity of mind
Will they ever go away these thoughts that linger day by day?
I meditate on calm and peace and still the thoughts come back to haunt I wish I could find some release from all these thoughts that sneer and taunt
Just let them go into the wind one day I will find peace of mind