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.



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