Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Struggling with Despair

I find it very hard to write this morning. Harder still to try to speak to anyone. My eyes are still watering up everytime I look up.

In a beautiful card left in our guest room, I was told Not To Despair. Yeah. Sorry. Can't do it. I am saddened. I am down. Blue. Just plain sad.

As someone who seldom expresses much sadness, today is a humdinger. Our two apprentices, Dana and Justin, began their journey back to California. After the movers took away all their personal effects yesterday, they spent the night at our house before hitting the road today.

It's a good thing I don't drink. We would have been up all night talking, drinking, crying. As it is, I am tired, but not hungover. I can trust my sadness is a result of seeing two people who began as patrons of ours, then students and apprentices, and finally family... leave.

Staying here now, with no job prospects, innumerable health issues (climatically induced), and with their families on the west coast... would be punishment.

But the last five months have been wild. Wild like fire.

No less than three days a week, they would show up like clockwork. Car wheels on our gravel driveway. Always upbeat and ready to go. Even when family strife was knocking them down, they were continually jazzed about what pots were coming out of the kiln. We tried to make sure that at least once a week we would prepare a dinner for them. Sometimes, being too tired to cook, we'd head out to a local restaurant... but one way or another, we shared meals.

LOTS of ice cream. We deserve to have a monument with our name on it at the Cayuga Creamery. We visited there no less than once a week with D&J. Then we'd find some excuse to be back there just Nancy and Aurora and I at least once more each week. That's a lot of ice cream!

Bob Dylan sang "Death is not the end," which has been playing through my head this morning. The going away of our apprentices is like a death in the family. I keep trying to see it as just temporary. We're already making plans to visit next Spring.

But loading that last batch of killer bowls into their car meant that there were no more Dana and Justin pots left to fire. No pots on boards waiting to be trimmed.

Somehow that empty space is just wracking me this morning. Maybe we aren't supposed to get so close to our apprentices or students. I dont think I can work any other way though. If someone wants to work with me here, it has to be 100%. They have to love clay, enjoy my family, suffer through our ice cream jaunts, and be ready to be here all the time. It isn't about learning to make pots. It's all about becoming a potter.

So as I wring tears from my eyes this morning, all I can think about is how two Poetry MFA grads from Cornell became potters accidentally this year. How we went from one lilac glazed mug to a whole huge dinnerware order for their wedding registry. From students to peers.

I can't even begin to understand how distraught my daughter is. She finally found her people. She has spent so much time in school frustrated with kids, teachers and curriculum alike. Along come Dana and Justin... who LOVE books and love reading and write all the time. Each of them saw bits and snatches of themselves in eachother. Meeting a relative you didn't know you had. For Aurora it meant validation of her ideas, her feelings and more. Anyone who knows us, or has seen us together knows how close we are. Dana and Justin slipped right into that.

And now they're gone.

One of my closest friends in clay suggested I start posting an opening for an apprentice,... seeing as how summer is only half over. It hit me like a brick.

I can't replace Dana and Justin. I didn't ask them to be apprentices in the first place! They were always welcome here. Always will be.

I am sure some day, further down the line, we'll add another apprentice to the shop. For now, it'll just be Hannah and I plugging away in the mornings three days a week. I'll have my afternoons to myself. Just me and the tunes.

I don't think the studio has ever felt so empty.

Justin and Dana have left the building.
Godspeed to both of you.


Judy Shreve said...

Alex, this is so beautifully written. I'm sure the space those two left is huge - in your studio - but more importantly in your heart. But they have taken a piece of who you & your family are with them -- and that will be part of them forever. Here's a hug - hope it helps. Judy

Dana said...

Crying now. Miss you guys already. We'll call you when we get to California.

Patricia Griffin said...

Hi Alex,
Your writing really touched me. How fortunate all of you were/are to have connected in such a special way. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Anonymous said...

makes me wanna come and be an apprentice... the most moving thing to me is that they connected with your daughter so well and presented to them the alternative of being readers and writers, how great is that? one of the best potters i knew in school was a poet, there's a kinship there between poet and potter. lovely sentiments alex