Thursday, February 21, 2013
It's probably because I don't have the natural grace of an artist, or the excellently good ideas, or maybe the time. But they laughed, one louder than the rest, and there I was, in the pottery studio this morning, wishing that I could laugh, too.
I only wanted to cry. We were to combine three techniques—the slab, the pinch pot, the coil—and make something wonderful. To my left—my artist husband, who has been designing three-dimensional things since the day he was born. To my right—my award-winning pottery teacher. In between—my clay and me.
Please understand that to get to the pottery studio I have to rise at four AM at least, get a half day's worth of corporate work in, write back to my beautiful memoir students, send a note to my fellowship student, read some of the books I've promised to read, start grading papers, exercise so I'm allowed to eat a cookie, set up the piles that will greet me upon my return. Oh, and wash my hair.
So I arrive at the studio out of breath. I arrive with all kinds of hopes for yoga calm. Breathe, I tell myself. Enjoy this. My husband at once begins his work on his already-signature slab columns that elicit all kinds of fabulous awe from the other women there. Bernadette, my instructor, is, of course, patiently building beautiful things. And I'm standing there with my pile of clay, trying to throw the air out of the slabs, roll the weight to an even thin, decorate decorously, slip and shine. (For you clay folk, I do know that the term is slip and score. At least I know the terms but, as a writer, I choose to bend them.)
My work was not working. My work became, as a reality TV show mother said famously last week, "a monstrosity of evil." Clay can be very kind, and clay can be very cruel. My clay was cruel to me.
I just kept thinking about all I should be doing at home. I just kept asking myself, Do I have to be good at this? Is this a requirement? Can I sleep under the table? Can I walk home? Somebody let me walk home.
But I stayed. I stayed until the end because Bernadette is too sweet to let me decide to leave and because my husband was having a ball. (Of course you're having a ball, I told him later. You're an artist! And you slept until seven! And you are not freaked out. You never freak out. Why can't you sometimes freak out? For in truth, my talented husband is also enviably calm.)
Here's the lesson that I learned today.
You can fail, and your life will go on.