These are the chop markers I use to leave a mark on the pots I make at my potter’s wheel. This is a tea bowl that I had recently turned upside-down, up-ending it to carve the “foot” of the bowl smooth and then marking it as “by the hand of Charles LaFond” with these two chops that always mark my pots before they dry and enter the firing process. One chop is the Japanese symbol of “beauty” and the other is a carved soapstone mark of my two initials – the “C” curls around the edge and the ”L” curls back and up through the center into a lotus flower bud.
As a potter, I use these two chops to make my mark in the clay pots of my handiwork.
We all want to “make our mark” on the soft clay of our lives and the lives of others. The word “humble” comes from the word “humus” or “earth.” To be in the mud – the dirt – the clay, is a humble place. You should see the mess I make after a day of making 50 tea bowls – clay in my hair, on my glasses, under my fingernails, all over my clothes.
I chose the round chop of the entwined letters of my name in the form of a circle and a rising lotus blossom bud because, in my fifth decade of life, I am learning to hunker down in the dirt and wait for the storms lashing this island, and this life, to pass. The place in the muddy clay in which I stood through this storm or that, has my foot-prints smoothly pressed into its cold, wet frame – a maker’s mark of sorts on the planet.
My sister, Linda, said something hilarious and profoundly true yesterday. I had suggested that all the stuff in her basement should just be given away to Goodwill. If it’s there, I proposed, she does not need it. The cleared-out space could make way for something useful like a hot-tub or a wet-bar. Or, I suggest, both.
She acknowledged the wisdom of letting go, and of simplifying, but then said;
“I’m in touch with reality; I’m just not quite committed to it.”
I burst out loud laughing. It was so true! For all of us!
There is something very humble and true about marking my pots as I throw them. And until we are each ready to be committed to the discerned realities of our lives, we must make do with the emotionally intelligent work of being in touch with reality, at least.
This used to happen with shards of scripture hurled at me from pulpits, lecterns and episcopal pronouncements. And sometimes it helped me to moderate my actions as truths landed and my guilty grimaces midwifed change. But now, in this COVID-church-free life, I find that a long walk on the beach or in the forest with my dog “Sugar” – in other words, periods of thinking-silence, are getting the job done quite well. Better in fact.
God’s soft, moist fingers (and by “God” I mean much more than we can imagine) smooth out the marks of evil left on my clay-self by bad-actors. And good people (mostly fun pagans these days) leave their maker’s-mark on me, forming me and labeling me into the vessel of God’s design and for God’s use.
We are made of dirt. We will return to dirt. And in the middle, the clay of our lives will be molded by many hands – good and evil – into a vessel which, in the end, if not too misshapen by evils, will be a cup from which others may drink some cool water.
The Daily Sip is a series of short-form essays written by Charles LaFond, a potter, writer, and fundraiser; who lives with his dog Sugar on a cliff, on one of the more than 400 islands in the Salish Sea, pondering and writing about how to be a better human, but often failing. And sometimes not.