In my hands, the clay feels foreign, unimaginative — a blob of undetermined value. Like an amateur in front of a blank canvas, my mind can’t begin to comprehend how to fashion this 2 1/2 pound brown mass into a bowl or a mug.
While the process is relatively simple, it’s long and mesmerizing. Observing the clay change on the wheel is like watching a flower bloom within your palms. It’s resilient, yet fragile. One wrong move can compromise the integrity of the piece, but adding more clay, or starting over could rectify a mistake.My husband and I sit at our respective wheels in our three-hour pottery class. It’s our first time throwing clay, and everything is new: learning how to push the pedal to spin the wheel, maintaining a steady posture with our elbows and hands over the clay and namely how to work the clay to build it up into a piece. There’s a process to creating even a simple object, such as a plate. (Contrary to what I believed, you can’t just flatten the clay and then call it a day.) You must build the clay into to a tower, bring it back down to create the foundation and carefully begin to work with the wheel to create a perfect circle. Once the base is set, you can begin to have some fun.
In three hours, we each create a plate, a bowl and a mug. And soon, our pieces will be glazed and fired in a kiln that reaches over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. We’re told we won’t know how the colors will set and sprout until we open the hatch. “It’s a surprise every time,” our teacher says with a smile.
2016 has been many things for many people. Uncertainty, disappointment, hope and anticipation still linger on my lips. What will become of our country in 2017? How can we help those in Aleppo? Where will I go for graduate school? How will we pay off our loans? Where will we move for Daniel’s rotations? What adventures wait in 2017? I’m 25, and most of the time, I still feel like a blob of clay. How will I grow? What purpose will I have?
A new year rarely ever follows its promise of “a new you,” but it does provide the opportunity to reflect. And perhaps reflection and the practice of it allow you to begin to slow down and stop hurrying through life.
I sit in the quiet of our small apartment in Northwestern PA, savoring the first day of this blossoming year. A fresh cup of Mind Focus on my lap with the warm medley of roots and herbs on my tongue as I think back on all the ways I’ve stretched, circled and groaned this year. How I’ve learned to breathe practices of mindfulness into my hectic perceptions, and where I still need some improvement. How I’ve made mistakes and how I’ve bruised. Realizing more and more that I’m still a work in progress and my story isn’t done yet. I take another sip and close my eyes, feeling the tea as it warms the inside of my throat, then my chest and then my stomach. How sweet the notes of ginseng taste, mixing with the other herbs to become like honey.
I think about how each beginning of the year is like a new glob of clay, unformed and ready in your palms. Maybe your hands have learned how to cusp it to create the right depth and width. Maybe you’re still learning. Perhaps you’re still moving with the wheel, or you’ve learned to anchor yourself steady. Maybe time is unrelenting, but we’re still malleable; ever growing and shrinking, ever becoming who we were made to become.