Monthly Archives: March 2013

a postscript

“Thank you to the sun, I owe you one.” – lou shoes & sweaters

Dear Michael, Ron, Brandon & Kyle,

It was great meeting you face to face, getting to know you a little more, talking the talky talk, hanging out. I will now feel so much more comfortable harassing you online, which is probably the real, long-term gift. Thanks for the long awaited esprit de corps. It’s inspiring, and I will draw on that inspiration for quite some time.

Dear Janice, Jacob, Susan, Julia, Lucille, et al.,

Thanks for enduring me, for our daily conversations, and for all your help. I sincerely appreciate you pushing me a little, battling the elements together, teaching me new things, and reminding me that solitude isn’t always the optimal condition in the studio. I’ll miss our magical little window of time together.

Dear Cindy and Maggie,

Thanks for indulging me on this adventure; for helping make it real. I couldn’t have gone without you, and as with everything, it’s all so much better with you. Let’s do it again in seven years!

Dear Everyone; those who read this and cared, or who read a little and pretended to care, or didn’t even know it existed, but let me imagine that you there watching from the wings,

Thank you. It was amazing — amazing! — and you helped me make the most of it, the best of it, and to better understand what “it” was in the first place.

Hope to see you all back home.


Comments Off on a postscript

Filed under Water

the last

“Sun has long gone out; sun comes up like it’s been about a year.” – Athlete

Dear Carter,

As much as I’d like to wrap this adventure up with another riff on The Hobbit* — and despite the fact that I’m fairly certain you’d be okay with me cramming two primary metaphors together, and intermingling them into some unholy conglomeration — I think I’d better finish with the one I started with.

{Let’s call this a footnote:

* The impulse to just go full-on Tolkien here is turbo-charged by the fact that Maggie is not only letting me read her an [age-appropriately abridged version of] The Hobbit, but that she is totally into it. I mean, she’s so into it that it instantly supplanted all the books about princesses and fairies and ballerinas, and it’s all she wants now for stories. (Okay, yes, I’ll admit that it’s actually just replacing one set of princesses and fairies with another — the little girl’s version with the adolescent boy’s — but still: at least we’re getting closer to the source material and further from the Disneyfied versions. Plus: less ballerinas.) She’s even asking if we can slip in another chapter before dinner, and now has all sorts of questions about wizards and giant eagles and “gobblers” and magic rings and such. A nerd dad’s dream come true.


So my sabbatical month at Penland was like a solar eclipse: long-predicted, eagerly anticipated, overflowing with whatever ritual or supernatural significance one cares to attach to it. Rare enough to be quite noteworthy, yet not so singular as to be overwhelmed by its own weight.

A dramatic change from the norm; something that reveals all that I take for granted, in the day-to-day slip of time and rumbling grind of life’s wheels, by casting it in an unusual light and temporarily obscuring its details. In that magic, freaky light, long-suspected truths were confirmed; long-held doubts undermined; facets of my identity and circumstances seen with an uncommon clarity and resolution. Seeing who I am on “sabbatical” tells me a lot more about who I could be when I’m not.

And now, as eclipses always do, this one ends, and things return much too quickly to their sameness; their comparative lack of brilliance “under a punishing sun”.

Even as the afterimage fades, I’m already struggling to remember just how different everything looked by that rare light. “Was it really so strange?” So amazing? So true? How could it possibly have been, I wonder.

Another one isn’t coming any time soon. Remember, Scott, they’re so grand because they’re so rare. Otherwise, it’s just a Tuesday. Right?

So I’ve got to learn to see my surroundings by the harsh, overbright light of the regular sun again. To face the life that I’ve built and earned thus far, compromised to and settled for, on its real terms; minus the fantasy of escape from all my normal constraints, and without the excitement of that temporarily occluded view.

It’s going to be hard. Better, but still hard. “Does it hurt to fall in love a little slower? I know it hurts at any speed.” But as you said, I’m not done learning from those experiences quite yet.


Closer to the metal, as much as I’d like this little blogging adventure to continue, I think it’s time to make an end of it. Things need to have natural lifespans, limits. Otherwise, it’s impossible for us to ever make any meaning from them; they become like the same old sun on another same old day: taken for granted and therefore unnoticed.

Which is not to say that this escape from my norm wasn’t fun. It was almost too much fun! Tossing off ideas as they came to me; writing whenever it was convenient, as much or as little as I liked, and not feeling (as much) guilt or remorse when I didn’t make time for it; composing on the iPad and throwing those words onto the web while they were still all hot and breathless; instant stats and built-in feedback (for better and for worse); playing with all the widgets and shortcuts of such a fully-featured, easy toolkit…

Every blog dies; not every blog truly lives.

(Braveheart, yeah? OMG, LOL; it’s a swords & sorcery geekfest up in here, now isn’t it? Pathetic.)

So despite the enormous appeal of all that WordPressery stuff, there’s still a lot to be said for my old way, flawed and archaic and self-reinforcing as it may be. And also for the barely-tested third way, of committing time and attention to longer pieces, like that “killing the dream” article, even if it means hitting the pause button on the day-to-week blogging cycle more often.

Trying to hold on to this experiment seems intricately tied into trying to hold on to my time at Penland; squinting and counting down and hoping that, just this once and in defiance of all Nature, it doesn’t have to come to an end. That the magical time — so great, so fun, so full — can somehow become the norm. Sadly, it can’t.

And yet:

“Today is a fine day, and everyday is a today at some point. The difference between this week and today is not so big, but not so small either.” – Carter Gillies

This, my friend, this is why I chose to address most of these Dears to you. Nobody else understands all this quite like you do, and despite your absence there — or perhaps even because of it — that understanding continues to show me new ways to see, more lenses to try on, and even the occasional screen hide behind. I can’t tell you what that means to me, or how much. If virtual friends can be this good, perhaps leaving home for Adventures is overrated. Tricksy hobbitsses.

So. We’ll see. Some of this way is sure to infect some of that way; they’ll blend and merge despite any attempt to control or corral them on my part, just as the time spent in that place, in that studio, at that wheel, with that clay, in those kilns, and with those people will undoubtedly inform and change all of those things here.

Even if just a little bit. I’ll feel compelled to come back to them on occasion, to hold my hand up on a cloudy morning and pretend the moon is somewhere else, and that will be both good and fun. And even if the wait is long and the forecasting tenuous, there will be more eclipses in future years. There always have been. The universe moves along, the arc of history bends, without much care for our plans or words. We both suffer through that and reap its enormous benefits.


Comments Off on the last

Filed under Water

Day -1: … and back again

“‘So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending!’, said Bilbo, as he turned his back on his adventure.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Dear St. Earth,

My Tookish part is getting very tired, and my Baggins is getting stronger. It’s good to be back in known lands and amidst my comforts; discomfiting to also be so quickly back in my burrow, with chores and a hundred minor responsibilities. Great to end the slogging home part of the journey, sad to know that my adventure has come to an end. I was both well overdue and not quite ready for it.

Carrying my boxes of tools and junk, loot and proof, back into my studio last night was like achieving a final victory condition. I could almost feel the XP raining down on me; cha-ching! It sparked the realization that I had indeed been gone a long while, long enough to have forgotten the last pots I made here before leaving, somehow still slightly damp under their plastic sheeting. Long enough to have lost track of the fact that the shelves here are already pretty well crowded; so that even though it is now somehow instantly March, out here in the real world, I’m not as desperately far behind schedule as I’d feared, and in fact may be a bit ahead of it, pending how the pots I made there seem when I drag them out into the harsher light of inspection here.

I’ve not yet had or made time to think too deeply about the experience as a whole, the entire journey there and back again. Small distractions add up, and perhaps I’m not yet ready for that caliber of assessment. It might even be foolish that I’m trying to describe it now, without having yet collapsed into the slothful heap that I probably need to be for a good two days. It won’t happen — life goes on, of course, and every minute costs the same — but in little nibbles and pieces I expect some awareness and conclusions will present themselves. Bilbo, if I recall correctly, didn’t just charge into is memoirs right away, either. There’s probably some wisdom in that.

So I went out and started a fire this morning — my wheel, my bats, my music! — and plan to step back away from the digital realm and go unpack some stuff and sort through some boxes, assess some pots and see how things seem different for having dared to leave for a while. I’m much richer than before, in certain ways that have nothing to do with treasure, and perhaps poorer in aspects that are yet to be revealed. So it goes.

I think I’ve another dispatch or two from here to go before I abandon it to the archive; but — of course, of course! — nothing’s certain. I’m open to being talked into or out of the various alternatives, if you’re interested in doing the talking.

We’ll see.

Comments Off on Day -1: … and back again

Filed under Water