New Mexico Sunset glaze, cascading, Cone 6, Oxidation, Stoneware, 2018

The constellations of colors created by just two glazes on this urn – one poured over the other – in this few inches tell me everything I need to know about that entity we call “God.” 

The sister vase to this one is my own funeral urn. For now, it holds Oreos. By creating ridges in the clay’s shoulder, the glaze has pooled some before the great fall into the purples, pinks, ochres, greens, browns and dusty rose into golds and mottled tan which the sides of the vase hold and which I call “New Mexico Sunset.”  An up-close image of these colors shows crystalline formations of dusty rose and blues with a previous ring of new-leaf green.  These are the colors I associate with the earth’s creation over which we are told the Creator “brooded.” Close.  Touching. Worrying. Longing. Nurturing growth.

Truthfully, it is not a term I use anymore.  “God” I mean.

I wonder at the irony that our scriptures over and over again tell us of a relationship between humanity and Creator in which the latter refuses over and over again to allow a name to be applied to it.  (Ok, I guess “him” as a descriptor, is another word I have let go of when referring to that same entity. “It” seems too much like a thing.  So the ancient term “The One who Is” seems to be the term on which I have settled.  For now.)

But really, I prefer not to speak of the Holy One at all since all our attempts to explain God are like the attempts of an ant to explain the elephant standing next to it. Fruitless. Wrongly perceived from such a vantage point. Clear only about what it can see. A toenail. The dirt where it touches earth. A distant rumbling purring. (Twice I have spent weeks caring for an elephant in northern Thailand.  What stunned me (and a lot did) was how she purred. Like the biggest, lowest pipe of a pipe organ.  More of a rumble really than a sound.)

Another word I have decided to drop from my vocabulary and my prayers is “why?”  Like trying to describe “God” – the mystery overtakes the word “Why?” like a tsunami. When we ask “Why?” about the Creator, the question enters the sun, burning near impact. We want to know God’s name and we want to know “why” things happen because we believe it will give us control over this wild life.  We are wrong.

I can ask “why?” of “God” but it is a criminal waste of precious time.  Better to hold this urn in my hands, in the bright New Mexico sunlight of a warm January day, eating its Oreos.  Better to notice Ochre, Sky Blue, Forest Green, Lavender, Iron Brown, Lapis, Sea Green, Navy Blue, Dusty Rose, Golden Orange, Eggplant Purple.  That is time better spent than naming mysteries and asking useless questions.  Perhaps our theologians can get other jobs if we stop trying to explain a mystery, their disappointment notwithstanding.

Better presence-making is to hold this clay, move my face two inches from its luscious surface and behold the elements of the earth; and try to remember that the Creator’s face is smiling, next to mine as we both stare at what we have created.  Cheek to cheek. Breath to breath. With wet eyes. Purring.

Funeral Urn: Jade’s Halo, Oxidation Cone 6. Charles LaFond

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