My friend, Theo, a very talented and intuitive potter, held an open house at his new home and studio in Santa Fe this weekend. He recently moved there after many years of life in the little mountain village of Chimayo. Changing our home setting, and especially the place where one does creative work, can be a scary thing to do, even when you're excited by the changes and by the new environment. We talked the other night, swapping stories of how we were each getting settled into our new spaces. He shared his thoughts around showing his new work, opening his space and himself to the public in this way. It requires a lot of courage to do that.
I admire the life of a potter, their dedication to the clay itself, the loving care that goes into the gentle handling of it as you allow it's intended shape to reveal itself. It's much like sculpturing in which Michelangelo is said to have remarked that the sculptor simply chisels away at the marble allowing the underlying object, the form inside the marble, to reveal itself.
Theo's pottery, while having an obviously organic feel and texture to it, also has a grace and elegance inherent in it. I think that's where the loving touch comes in. One of my Theo bowls, with the quietest of yellows inside, is used to hold some of my favorite bracelets. It could just as easily be used for soup or rice. Another, which seems to change color with the light or it's surroundings, is in my bathroom, holding a square of scrumptious plum-colored handmade soap. Right now, the inside seems to have the slightest tinge of blue. I also have a small tea cup with the softest violet color nestled inside. I love to hold it in my hands and just feel it, it's gentleness and grace.
He named one of his glazes Lonely At the Top. It's from a Randy Newman song. I love the sound of those words together, the little sense of melancholy it evokes. It seems so fitting for this light covering of the fired clay itself. I think about how it speaks of the vase and it's potential. You have this object, which seems very much alive, waiting to discover its new life, its purpose.
He said he spends many evenings playing the piano, which he put in the gallery itself. It's the perfect place for it. I can just imagine that scene: the soft warm colors on the walls and the quiet lighting; his beautiful pottery sitting on their pedestals at full attention; his dog and cat, sweet Abby and Micah, as they lie down to listen; a very appreciative audience, to be sure.
I'm sorry I wasn't there to share in celebration of these wonderful life changes, but I celebrate with him from this distance, which is really no distance at all, and marvel at his bravery, his willingness to take chances and to share his lifework in this way. Congratulations, Theo !
Want to check it out ? http://www.greenriverpottery.com/.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The other day I woke up feeling the need to connect with people on a one-to-one basis. I wanted to feel connected to individuals with whom I could establish a rapport through language, through conversation. It didn't have to have strong content or deep meaning, just the sense of connecting in a peaceful, but tangible way. I sent this desire out to The Universe.
About two hours later a new acquaintance called and asked me over to her place for lunch. I knew from visiting with her previously that she had a bountiful garden. She said, "We'll go out and pick our lunch fresh from the garden." She didn't have to ask twice. She gave me directions and away I went.
The drive took me down a long dirt road where I crossed some railroad tracks and had directions to 'turn right at the lake.' As I got a bit closer to her place, the light coming through the trees and across the road took on a quality that made me feel as though I had stepped through a portal in time. It suddenly felt exactly like so many days of my youth, which I remember often as having that same quality of light. I felt transported through time to a place I recall as having a divine sense of freedom; a place where the cares of life had not yet taken root and anything was possible.
When I arrived, her dog Phoenix greeted me, and then she stepped around the corner of the house verifying I was where I was supposed to be. She lives on one of these small beautiful lakes hidden in this neck of the woods. It was her family's summer home when she was growing up. It still had that quality to it, with the addition of being a place where a person is obviously living a life of the mind, from the heart, and as an extension of the outdoors. There was almost no distinction between the two.
We went into her gardens, basket in hand, and picked peas, beans, carrots, and corn, all scrumptiously fresh. There's nothing like a carrot right from the garden, the dirt still clinging to it. I recalled many days when I was very young and would eat them with the dirt barely brushed off. No time for washing. There is a clarity to a garden-fresh carrot that speaks to me from what seems long ago and far away, but really is right now, in this spectacularly fine moment. It was a lovely lunch with a nice visit getting to know each other better and glimpsing insights into each others lives, past and present.
But, the fun was just beginning. She has a canoe.
Next thing I know, we are slipping the canoe into the water. I'm in the back, paddle in hand, feeling like life was suddenly all about just going forward into beauty. I was seeing a quality of light that transcends time in a simple human experience. We went around the lake noticing the different greens, the few homes scattered around it, the small island her son likes to camp on, as she gave me a brief history of her time there. I let my hand drag through the water, as I have always loved doing while paddling a canoe. It felt absolutely delicious.
From the lake in front of her place I could see her gardens, the lushness of the tangled vines containing the bounty of her loving care; a care that comes from knowing that what you nurture comes back to nurture you, nourishing your body and your soul.
When we docked later, walking up to put the paddles and life vests away, I sensed a quality to life itself that reminded me of the freedom that comes from letting go of the future, living in the now, allowing life to unfold moment by divine moment.
As I drove away later, that quality of light stayed with me and remained for the rest of the day. Time is a tricky litle thing. I got a glimpse into it that day, a glimpse of the absence of it, actually. It's not about going forward, or going backward, or passing into any where. It's really all about the Light.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Back in the summer of '85, a song I had co-written, "Minnesota Nights and Northern Lights," became "the # 1 song in the north country" according to the DJ's giving it massive amounts of airplay that summer. It was also "the most requested song" on many stations across Minnesota and other areas of the upper-Midwest. It had been recorded by Steve Hall and Southbound 76. It became their "signature song." I was there when they performed it in the bandstand at the Minnesota State Fair later that summer. It was a nice time for me, as music had always played a major role in my life.
Last summer my son, Coleman, googled the song title and, lo and behold, someone on Wikipedia was looking for a copy of it. So, I responded and sent him one. I have since sent out copies to many others who were also looking for it. It's nice to have it remembered by so many people, all of whom have good memories around it.
Recently I received a request for it from a soldier serving in Afghanistan. He said, "It will remind me of better times." His name is John. He's with the 82nd Airborne Division as a helicopter maintenance technician Warrant Officer. He said, "It's nothing meritorious." This is his second tour of duty there, plus one in Iraq. That sounds pretty meritorious to me.
Sitting at my computer, visiting with this soldier from Minnesota, enlarges my world-view and gives me a fresh perspective on this war because of the people who are serving there. It's not a news story. It's real. And real people are out there every day responding to their sense of duty. I'm glad my song is keeping him company.
Another interesting aspect of this involves my son, Coleman Coughlin, who is lead guitarist for a metal band called Severed Nerve. They recently put out their first CD,"The Y Incision." It's being listened to by soldiers in Iraq. How cool is that?
Well, the only thing that would make it cooler is if they all got to come home; John, in Afghanistan, and all the other soldiers there and in Iraq.
Now would be good.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Dave is the handy man to end all handy men, a true jack-of-all-trades. It's a nice relationship. He works on the house. I get to look at his pickup truck. He said he bought it in almost pristine shape, body-wise. It only needed a paint job. And what a paint job it received. It's as red as red can be and shiny to match. It's a thing of beauty.
I've attached images. Isn't it cool?