Three Pots

Some months ago these pots were in the studio of a fantastic potter in the McGuffey Arts Center whose name I can’t remember. Obviously they’re not ready to be sold. They just came out of the kiln and have not been slipped, glazed, painted, fired again and whatever else is done to create the gorgeous pottery I’ve seen this man create.

I seem to remember doing some ceramic work when I was a kid in elementary school—second grade—Mrs. Edward’s class at Columbus School in the Mohawk Valley of upstate New York. That would have been 1952 I think.

We had a bunch of rubber molds we poured plaster of Paris into then let it set up over night. After they were dry we’d pull off the molds and paint them. I don’t remember what my particular project was. In all likelihood it was some cheesy little animal—horse, bird, elephant—whatever.

I think it was toward the end of the school year—when we were counting down the days to the mind-blowing, stupendous adventure of SUMMER VACATION—Mrs. Edwards gave me two dogs.

One was real and one was fake. The fake dog was a plaster of Paris Cocker Spaniel—painted brown and the name “Terry” was written on the bottom. I don’t know if “Terry” was the name of the dog or the kid who made the figure as a ceramics project.

The other (real) dog was a very old and tired Basset Hound—or maybe she was a Beagle—whose name I think was “Queenie.” I seem to remember Queenie wandered around, ate, slept, barked, defecated like most dogs for some time—a few months—a year maybe—then she just sort of gave up.

I have this clear memory of poor old Queenie lying on some bedding in the basement day after day, week after week—barely moving. I believe we got a puppy at one point—I think her name was “Susie.” The puppy running around the basement seemed to stir Queenie from her lethargy a bit. She would get up and bark at the little upstart then lay back down.

Finally I came home from school one day and Queenie wasn’t there. I believe my parents took her to the vet and had her “put down”—euthanized. Susie was a mixed breed—a mutt—who was a very bright dog. I think she lived 15 or 16 years before she too had to be relieved of her earthly suffering.

Growing up my folks had this curved glass china cabinet in the living room but I don’t think it ever had any actual sets of china in it. I seem to remember a lot of junky little souvenirs the folks had picked up on trips—Mom & Pop outhouse salt & pepper-shakers, a ceramic Roy Rogers boot drinking cup, a free-standing plastic Santa Claus stocking. Actually there was some china in there I guess—a number of those crappy little commemorative plates from tourist Mecca’s like Glacier National Park, or cities like Chicago (with the skyline on it), New York (with the statue of liberty). And there were plates and cups from lesser known places—Copper Cliff, Ontario, Boise, Idaho, Frog Level, Missouri. My parents were the kind of people that actually thought plastic flamingos in the yard gave the place class.

I tell you this—not just because its important information that will make your life more meaningful (who knows—it might!!) but because that’s where “Terry” came to reside.

I guess Terry shared space with Roy and Mom & Pop and the Chicago sky line for 30 odd years until my parents sold the house my siblings and I grew up in. My brother got the china cabinet and I think he actually kept sets of china in it (go figure) and I got a box of the cheesy souvenirs and miscellaneous junk.

That was at least 15 years ago. Terry was in the box. The box of stuff—some of which—like wind-up toys made in occupied Japan—are probably worth something today to collectors. (I really should look into this E-Bay thing).

For reasons I don’t remember Terry is out in the garage—has been for years now—in my wood working shop covered with saw dust. So are the glasses my dad was wearing just before they closed the casket in 1986. His handsaw and his carpenter’s level are out there too—I never use them—they just hang there in the dust and silence as egocentric little memorials. When I’m gone I expect my wife will give them away or throw them out—and that’s OK.

And there’s a ceramic frog that sits in the planter by the front porch that I carried from my mom’s room at the nursing home a few hours after her death in 2005.

I pause briefly in the course of my typical, auto-pilot routine that makes up most of my life and ponder these things 3 or 4 times a year. When I do I think about my folks but I don’t miss them—we never were very close. (I think they loved us 3 kids in their own way—as much as they were able—but they never taught us how to communicate or relate on a personal level—never showed by example how sweet and joyous human warmth and mutual caring could be.) I do it because a sense of uncertainty, absence and yearning seems to be my parent’s only legacy other than the objects just listed.

My brother—a man I admire greatly—a man of extraordinary mechanical and technical aptitude who would give you the shirt off his back in a snowstorm—fell on strange and difficult times and lost his home. One day 3 or 4 years ago he packed what he could and drove away—the china cabinet remained with the house. I guess its gone. He’s found a new life many miles away and seems to be doing well.

The 3 ceramic pots in the image suggest to me (1) new beginnings which of course cannot be the case without the complimentary and defining opposite—(2) endings. The last part of the picture is (3) contemplative awareness pondering the circular and echoing enigma of existence—awareness staring at itself—like holding a mirror up to another mirror—the reciprocal reflections extend into eternity. Study it long enough and you end up doing one of 4 things (1) inventing religion, (2) contenting yourself with the uncertainty, sense of absence and yearning (3) pursuing a self-destructive life or (4) becoming an artist—a photographer for example.

Hey—how bout them Mets?

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