Righteous Translation


Stoneware Cremains Vessel in two glazes, cone six oxidation with Peacock Ore finial.

It is easy to feel frustrated or even angry when things don’t turn out the way we expected.  A dropped vase. A burned cake. A lost job. The end of a marriage. Mushroom soup when the sherry has run out. A stay-at-home order.

The other day, as I was glazing bread bowls in a stormy blue glaze with a line of glazed pots on the shelf by the glaze buckets, I dropped a mug into the Stellar Rust glaze which then splashed all over the blue bread bowl.  I let out a few bad words, aware that now I had to wash the entire bowl and start again after a few days of drying -delayed now for some other firing.

Little did I know, a second bread bowl took some of the second-glaze-splash, but in the darkness, I did not see it.

When the pots came out of a hot kiln two days later, I saw what I had done.  I had fired the bowl with one glaze splashed over the other.

What I had imagined being a mistake was a wondrous kaleidoscope of blues, black, grey, whites, purples, and aquamarines.  The one glaze on the other decreased their melting temperature, so the glazes fell down the side of the bread bowl, fusing it to the shelf and cracking the bowl into two pieces.

And yet, this “mistake” exposed an amazing new glaze combination which one may see on the cremains urn above.

A while later, a friend’s brother died.  She needed an urn for his cremains.  After talking about the shape and the stone finial, we discussed the glaze.  She wanted something in blues.  She mentioned his love of the ocean and of the surf against this island’s rocks and I suggested a new glaze combination that I felt would fall down the shoulders of a moon vase and evoke just that ocean surf.

When I reflect on that day of the original glaze splash, I wonder with some curiosity about my anger and frustration – about my “carelessness” in dropping the mug.  As a person surviving and managing CPTSD, I am aware that I self-scold a lot, and that day I was my own abuser. I excoriated myself over and over – wasting time, wasting glaze, “butterfingers” and “careless.” As I washed the bowl of the double glazes I chastised myself over and over again.

And yet, the “mistake” led to a glaze combination I would never have imagined could end up being so perfect for a potter living on the stony cliff of an island in the Salish sea.

This “mistake” is now my favorite glaze.  Soon this urn will hold the ashes of a man beloved of his family and when they see it they will remember his love of the ocean surf. And when I see it, I will remember that life is short and that too many others are scolding me without my adding my own voice to the fray. Perhaps what we assume to be a mistake, will bear fruit.  Something lovely.  Something new. Something unexpected.  Something much more beautiful than the original plan could even have imagined possible.

So often we experience, especially in Lent’s prostrations, a failure of righteousness; when all God sees is a failure of imagination and self-acceptance.

The Daily Sip is a series of short-form essays written by Charles LaFond, a potter, secular theologian, 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.

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