The Clay of Love

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I was at a folk museum in Santa Fe, where each diorama held a cluster of clay figures that captured a life scene from whatever distant land they were carried from: an old church in Peru with all of its doll-like mud-people gathered in finely painted array, a conclave of Portuguese dolls with sad eyes themselves the shape of tears and dripping earlobes, an old fashioned American family, placed sterilely in the white-slick compartments of kitchen or bedroom, all together, all alone. I wanted to crawl up into each container and know what it was like to be made of Peruvian soil, under a turquoise sky next to my church-going compadres, or selling plump rounds of fruit with the scarved carved women in the liminal spaces of the retablo from Mexico. I even tried to project myself inside the glass. Imagine my spirit shrinking to 3-inch size so I could feel the fellow adobe arms against my own, or look up and hear the tinkle of the tiny bell way up inside the marzipan-like churches.

And then I thought, I wonder if that’s what Someone was thinking when the diorama of the earth was set in place, saying quietly, “I wonder what it would be like to be clay? What if I could shrink myself into a million, a billion tiny people and feel the blazing Oaxacan sun on the melt of my skin, or sample the rum soaked wedding cake, as my heart is flooded with joy and anticipation of life lived together?” I wonder if that Someone really did it? Stared into this place, gawking with desire, and entered the rising clay- the little lumps forming forth into eyes, noses, and roundabout curves. I wonder if this is all an amazing experiment- an art project, where we are he and she are we and We get to dance and cry and eat and become the clay of Love.

 

Second Rite of Passage: a keepsake

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The next rite of passage offering was gifted by an artist. A chance to play in fields of color; a chance for our hands to dive and swim in mulberry paper and magazines.

On the table, made of oilcloth, Ginny was told to pick out a palate of colors: gossamer blue, feathery green, spring sprout, geranium, Grand Canyon, gentle eggplant, sedate lavender, and jungle trail. Those were the choices she made. The palette was set.

Each woman was given a wooden plaque. “There are a few rules to creating a community art project,” Nancy announced. “And I want to remind everyone, though each will be making an individual piece, it is about Ginny and her palette.”  It will all be unified in the end.

On the table is a sea of wrapping paper. Painted paper. Pictures. Words written 80 years ago in longhand on old letters. Maps. Mod Podge glue. A large well-used paint brush.

There is placing and choosing. Picking and tearing and reconstructing. In an hour or so, we were finished. We then are asked to share with Ginny our decoupaged gifts to her.

“Mine has a swirl in a sea of pink because when I think of Ginny, I think of whimsy. But I chose the words, ‘wonder’ and  ‘a sweet white dress’ in handmade scrawl because there’s also innocence and wonder about her.”

“I chose a plover, because they dig deep. Ginny digs deep.”

“I made a river, because Ginny forges her own path.”

“Mine contains a cross and the quote: ‘when the eagle soars in the endless blue, its shadow races after, far below. Yet space does not divide; bird and shadow are linked. So each act-each choice and consequence.”

“I’m going to bawl. I wrote ‘raised to the light,’ because I know Ginny’s history and I know, she’s been continually raised to the light. When we were meditating, I had the image of a plant twisting upward, to the light, like Ginny.  There were some hard years in her past. She stands before us today, a miracle—a child raised to the light!  I included green growing shapes, and a thrust of color upward.”

“Deliberate. I want to do things in a deliberate way,” Ginny saidregarding the purple and white collage she made with the bits of deckled paper going over the edges.

“Explore. I see the maps and the possibilities and the feather-leaf as light as flight. Explore.”

Nine plates of color, meaning, and collaged interpretations of what Ginny is to eight different women. Soon it will be a centerpiece for tonight’s dinner table.

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