Two years ago, I took a rock climbing class. Have I mentioned I’m terrified of heights? [It’s genetic.]. However, in the last class, I stepped straight off a ledge and rappelled myself down, all on my own. It was simultaneously one of the scariest things I’ve ever done [willingly] and one of the most liberating.
So what about all of those other things I [secretly] wanted to do? The things that I’ve talked myself out of for fear of looking dumb or of not being good enough or of admitting that I really liked it – even if there’d be no value in it but my own joy. What was I going to do about all of those things?
Let’s back up a minute.
How’d I get to the point where I was rappelling off ledges and contemplating the value of inner joy?
Community Education. As in the classes. For adults. The kind advertised in those catalogs that come in the mail on a quarterly basis.
I had found my doorway to wish-fulfillment. So what next? Turns out, that wasn’t too hard to figure out…
In my high school art classes, I made some hand-built clay pieces for various assignments [a fire-breathing, massively winged dragon with popsicle stick-shaped scale impressions, a somewhat abstract piece involving a hand, broken “rubble,” and $6.00 worth of chain purchased at Ace Hardware, and an “award-winning” vase painted with a design I had originally doodled in my Analysis/Pre-Calc class on a Styrofoam cup] and had enjoyed every bit of it.
Working with clay is a primal thing. It’s all about the feel and the fight and trusting your instincts. You can’t over-think it, or you’ll over-do it. I don’t know if I was any good at it, but it made me happy. Visceral, bone-deep kind of happy.
But after high school, I didn’t do anything with it; even though I had wanted to learn how throw on a wheel. I was a Bio major, and then a Poli-Sci major in college. So, the closest I got in those years was time spent popping in to the studio between classes to visit my friend J during her wheelwork class. Instead, I let myself be too buried in political science theory and economics and history…
So last winter, I took an “Beginner and Intermediate Pottery and Wheelwork” class via St. Paul’s Community Ed. program, and dedicated two months’ worth of Wednesday nights to throwing clay and getting dirty. Throwing clay on a wheel takes a willingness to risk failure while aiming for greatness. There’s no middle ground. [This is possibly a metaphor for life, eh?]. I loved every too-fast minute of it. …And everyone got lopsided bowls and dishes for Christmas.