Today I did a quick write for 10 in response to a magical Elbowesque response to a passage from Peter’s Writing Without Teachers. This Elbowesque response was a dramatized talk between Peter and a neighbor that centered around clay making and brought out key points in the passage Susan was responding to.
What happened for me was a memory drifted in.
When I lived in San Francisco in the early 1970’s, I had a kick wheel and small kiln in the basement of the Marina apartment building my husband and I managed. The basement was coo, a quiet cavern with old things stored from the 70 year old owner, a Mr. Brown.
Of course, I had to take a pottery class to learn how to throw a pot. My best friend from high school and sister-in-law, Nadra, lived in San Francisco, too. I’d drive us in my ’66 Volkswagen bus out to the avenues for our class.
The focus of the wheel. Centering. Yes, I was reading a book on Zen with that title at the time. In class I would immerse my attention in the clay and the slip. I would prepare clay and throw a pot, revise it by crumpling it up and slamming the air out of it to center it again on the wheel for another take.
Opening up a piece of perfect consistency clay is delightful. Carrying it aloft to shape a vessel is amazing.
What sticks with me the most, though, is the drive home. Steering my VW bus over street car tracks in the road and the sudden unevenness of all pavement was amplified to the point that I felt driving to be a strange undertaking. The bumps and the steering wheel like a wild horse I must manage. My brain was so attuned to center, to balance from the pottery wheel.
That similar thing also happened back then when I took hand drafting classes at Galileo High adult program. After drawing machine parts and ruled notes I could scare walk through our apartment without straightening photos and pictures on the wall. So much is always off level and yet, to me 90 degrees as square and 180 degrees horizontal became acutely noticeable.
This brain tuning interests me. I think there’s a reason for power in daily, continual free writing. Like knowing the center of clay, and the angle of a drafted shape, the writer gets tuned in to a – what? — a source from the mind, a word reserve.