Potting on boxing day…

glaze

We have had a lovely Christmas day. Just the 4 of us and a slow day listening to music, laughing a lot, eating too much and watching cheesy films. I had some lovely gifts (thanks everyone!) and enjoyed helping Will put together his new bike. Emily has been in great form too, making us all laugh like drains- mostly with her, occasionally at her.

There is only one potter in our family- and this is Michaela. However, she lets me play around with clay from time to time. Usually she gets a bit fidgety whilst looking over my shoulder but that is fine with me.

I enjoy mixing up ceramics with metal and wood to make things that speak of the sea. The glazes we use are mostly sea colours- you never quite know what magic will happen in the kiln though. I have also been using some shapes to impress into the wet clay to make celtic crosses and the like. What better way to spend Boxing day?

Here are a few of the things I have been making;

Perfect is the enemy of good…

cave-art

“If I can not do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” Martin Luther King Jnr.

Bear with me on this one.

Our culture places high value on polished excellence. We are schooled to laud our would-be-celebrity-achievers; singers who shine through the harsh (if manufactured) glare of TV trials, sports men and women who dedicate their lives to their pursuit of victory.

Along the way, there is indeed a love of a glorious failure, but this depends still on almost reaching the top.

But the fact is that few of us will ever reach extraordinary heights in any given pursuit- that it why such achievements are called extra-ordinary. Despite what we are sold as some kind of democratisation of celebrity , most of us are (and will always be) different shades and hues of ordinary.

What happens when the gap between our achievement and our aspiration (no matter how unrealistic) yawns wide?

I suppose most creative types live in and around this feeling- it is hard to ever feel fully satisfied with what we produce. Insecurity and frustration usually live alongside all the highs and acclamations.

But those of us who live in the ordinary – who make art, music, sport, etc out of base metal – faced with the obvious imperfections of what we make, the temptation is simply to give up. Then all that is left is to experience life vicariously through some kind of media interpreted version of creativity.

Perfection of this kind is shiny plastic. It is unachievable and often irrelevant to real things, real relationships and the mess of real life. It serves as distraction only.

There are other kinds of creativity that capture much more of who we really are. They tend to be shared in small spaces and to have little or no monetary value. Words will be miss-spelled, chords may be duff, the fine brush strokes of a hand will blur slightly. This art emerges from the ordinary- but is no less transcendent.

To strive to be better, to go deeper, further, higher- these are good things, but we can choke on fine food- we also need cabbage and brown bread.

Let the mirage of perfection never steal from us the beauty of what is good.

The lady of the lakes…

Michaela, Derwent water

 

She will not thanks me for this- but here are a few photo’s of my wife. The one above was taken somewhere near where the photo in my previous post was taken.

We had a lovely couple of days- walking around Keswick which was at the beginning of the ‘Words by the Water’ festival, so full of poetry and posh people who read it enough to go to a festival about it.

We went to see Arthur Smith do a couple of hours of comedy, inter spaced with anecdotes and poems.

Then we walked round shops selling stuff that we did not need so did not buy, and sat sipping tea and talking of slow things.

On the next day we climbed Cat Bells with the crowds doing the same and stared at the view out over the lake towards Skiddaw and Blencathra.

All made the more lovely I was with Michaela…

Michaela, winter sun

Michaela, Cat Bells

picnic spot

Kierkegaard on poetry…

brazen bull

Soren Kierkegaard had this way of throwing stories into the middle of his philosophising. Here is one of them;

What is a poet?

An unhappy man who in his heart harbours a deep anguish, but whose lips are so fashioned that the moans and cries which pass over them are transformed into ravishing music.

His fate is like that of the unfortunate victims whom the tyrant Phalaris imprisoned in a brazen bull, and slowly tortured over a steady fire; their cries could not reach the tyrant’s ears so as to strike terror into his heart; when they reached his ears they sounded like sweet music.

And men crowd around the poet and say to him, “Sing for us soon again”—which is as much as to say, “May new sufferings torment your soul, but may your lips be fashioned as before; for the cries would only distress us, but the music, the music, is delightful.

Kierkegaard is describing something that most familiar- art arising from introspection, sensitivity, dysfunction, hurt. Art that does not heal, but rather is a plaster over an open wound.

Poetry like this has no choice but to be written. You might as well tell a cut to stop bleeding.

Hmmm.

Goodness…

Such a twee, old fashioned word.

Why is that when we are surprised by kindness, or by grace, or by someone refusing to be sucked into the vortex of offence/defence, it breaks us open?

What is it that makes plain old boring goodness so simultaneously stolid and transcendent?

To be good gets bad press. It conjures up image of pious pew polishers and middle England smugness. But goodness in action can frequently reduce me to tears.

It is easy to be ‘good’ in the hallowed cloister of a church, or under the scrutiny of people we might seek to impress. This is not the kind of offering Yahweh ever found acceptable (Amos 5, 21-24.) What is more difficult is to live out a life of love- which in these emotionally restrained islands is better understood as ‘goodness’. Although goodness is something else too… less about a passionate decision towards the other (whatever the motivation behind this passion) more like an instinctive skew towards an active kindness…

Defining goodness is not easy, but we all know it when we encounter it.

It is less important to label it in ourselves. Goodness is perhaps not an attainable goal for the pilgrim (but strangely, love might be.) Rather let us just be diligent in our search for goodness in others. We will always find it I think. Sometimes we will find a lot and then there is reason for song. And in doing this, I hope we may discover goodness by accident.

I have been pondering this (as is my wont) in poetry. I think I prefer this previous attempt, but here is today’s offering;

Goodness

~

Smear of a tear

The diffident shuffle of an approaching shoe

The sound of breathing.

~

Choosing to stay here

In all this shit

Flecking this dark shadow

With morning manna

~

The pulse of your heartbeat

Taps at me like sonar