Sonnet 24, E.B.B.

— 24 —

Let the world’s sharpness, like a clasping knife,

Shut in upon itself and do no harm

In this close hand of Love, now soft and warm,

And let us hear no sound of human strife

After the click of the shutting.    Life to life–

I lean upon thee, Dear, without alarm,

And feel as safe as guarded by a charm

Against the stab of worldlings, who if rife

Are weak to injure.    Very whitely still

The lilies of our lives may reassure

Their blossoms from their roots, accessible

Alone to heavenly dews that drop not fewer,

Growing straight, out of man’s reach, on the hill.

God only, who made us rich, can make us poor.

–from Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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American Persimmon

We found the tree last year while the fruit was still green, and watched them ripen slowly into late autumn. You know they’re ripe when they fall off the tree, at which point they are fair game for anyone (or animal) interested, so it’s difficult to gather enough for more than a taste.  But aren’t they beautiful?

Two Shadows

I’m up with my baby at 3 am. Nothing traumatic, just Up. He’s awake, and someone had to be with him.

I’m darn well going to have a snack when I’m up in the middle of the night, so we’re in the kitchen, one dim light on, the one above the oven. Emmett’s on the floor facing away from it, entranced by the weird double shadow cast by the two bulbs. They’ve turned his little self into a two-headed monster–the lights each casting their own dull overlapping shadows–and where they cross there is a darker, sort of pinheaded representation of his head and shoulders. He is pawing at it as it wobbles back and forth.

His attention doesn’t keep forever, and he’s on to scooting around the floor and darting glances around the dark kitchen, which he knows well in daylight but is now a realm of mystery.

I love watching this fascination with things we adults regard very little, if we notice them. Two shadows crossing in a dimly-lit room. Sunlight coming through leaves and reflecting on walls. The wonder of a spray of fountain in the park. The really cool sound a dishwasher makes.

I imagine babies are all pretty keen observers. They need to be–how else are they going to learn the things no adult will think to show or tell them? We are their protectors, but they are filling their own little eyes and ears with a world of beauty, patterns of light, shapes of leaves, colors of sky and neighborhood, sounds of voice and heartbeat and song. All we can do is try to put them in the right places.

He seems tired of the kitchen, so I pick him up. “Bo,” he says.

I agree.

Light on Leaf

These glorious days, we walk.

The trees are all alight, from every angle:  behind, before, beneath. I go eyes down mostly, like Mammon in Paradise Lost, but for jeweled leaves not riches; for a time I remember to gaze up at torching trees, then down again at strewn path, and so on.

I talk to my baby, telling him how beautiful this world is. I will tell him how terrible it can be, but not yet. For now it is gem-like and wonderful only, light glancing from all parts.

I gather the paper silhouettes that have danced suspended by one tiny point of stem, have flown shivering out, away, perhaps up, then down, and finally lie lightly on grass and path.

It is a fruitless gesture. They will never be as lovely as they are now, but–though I know it–my marveling eyes make me stoop, and think “This one! this is the most beautiful” over and over, not knowing what I will do with them but wanting to pull that beauty to me.

Light on leaf and branch is food for ordinary times bereft of color, when heart and eye wish for more and cannot find it.

A Bit Dusty

This past Saturday, my husband distracted the baby and I got out some clay and worked.  I’ve had a lot of time to think of new ideas, and managed to sketch a few during some of my quiet sleeping-baby-holding hours.

There are some things I’ve forgotten, some habits I need to re-establish.  When I neatened up my studio back in January, I didn’t do it in a fashion to help the present Me remember how I used to do things. There were specific little groupings of tools I would use for each type of project back then, and they have gotten mixed up somehow, placed in separate containers from their fellows.  A few other insidious changes – the aloe monster and kale seedlings borrowing the sunny spot on my table, the slight hardening of the bag of porcelain I left off with 8 months ago, and the dust! – surprised me.

I enjoyed myself anyway, cutting through the stiff clay with a wire and kneading it up into a usable ball, albeit with a bit of sweat. The last time I made something was over a month before my son’s birth, and the carpal tunnel symptoms brought on by pregnancy had become somewhat crippling. It was nice to feel my strength again, with the passage of time between me and that weakness.

But I am trying to remember how it used to be, before my hands got too stiff. Not all habits are bad ones. Then again, is this an opportunity for re-invention?

I’ll just speak that question into the air and leave it at that for now.

I made four little pots, letting myself experiment and have fun.  I hope I’ll have some good fruit of my labors to show you here soon, and some new techniques I can explain in future posts.

Thanks for being here.

(Un)Apology

Well, I haven’t been here in a while.  Hello again.

A few big things have happened. (Or maybe only one; I’ve lost track.)  About the time I last wrote here, we were beginning the tenderest journey.We welcomed our son in early March of this year, and it’s been a blur.  Things are pretty crazy and joyful around here.  Not much sleep was happening for a while there.  Not much pottery has gotten made.  (None, in fact.)  This is a baby who loves to be held and does not love not being held; we can barely do the dishes, let alone create dishes.  But we wouldn’t want him to be any different.

***

Today I’m getting my hands in clay for the first time in many months.  I have missed it at times, but there has been something more wonderful at hand, eclipsing all other things, and I’m grateful I can take some time off to tend what needs tending.

I’m not sorry.

Reasons to Love

Places are full of surprises and beauties.  Just try looking.

We’ve loved this city since we first visited it, even if it began as just a feeling that we could enjoy living here.  Now with the decision to stay for a few more years, we look forward to getting to know it better.

The buildings (mostly the old ones) are fascinating.

Of course it’s not all conventional beauty.  Some things are decaying and some are growing;  I find interest in both.

There’s this shell of a building, with some mysterious past, possibly tragic, and a profusion of vines trying to obscure its walls.  (I say “new life” in response to the presence of green; my dad would point out that the vines are actually slowly destroying the walls.  There’s the juxtaposition–you can’t get away from it.)

I think of the gorgeous and rich portrayal of nature’s ambivalence in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, in which Annie Dillard writes of the wonder and wildness of things.  Things decay and die, and prey upon each other, and live and grow.  Pilgrim is an achingly beautiful book, a contemplative work, but not light, full of descriptions that stay with you and sometimes keep you awake if you read them right before bed.

I think it’s this way that old and new live alongside each other, the strange yet old-as-time process of building and breaking down, that holds us in thrall.  This place isn’t the city it once was (so I hear), but that’s because all things are being transformed.

Some growth just happens, and some requires tending.  This is good for us.

We are getting some of our food from local farms, an important step in a new direction we’re going.  It has already proved to be a wonderful thing.

Here’s to St. Louis.  We like it here.  But more than that, we’re glad to have a place to love, a place to really get to know as we spend a few years here getting more rooted, caring about community and trying to be good to the land we have the care of (even if at present it’s just a little balcony full of herbs and lettuces).  Life holds so many beauties.

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