There are a number of small clay deposits on the farm. Most of the year I do not appreciate them. They’re not much good when it comes to grass or alfalfa growth. Plant a seed and the clay envelopes it so tightly the seed cannot breathe. No air no life no grass no alfalfa.
Then come days when I want clay. Adding local clay to store-bought clay gives pottery a uniqueness that is only of the farm’s landscape. Yet, farm clay has its problems. Clay might not grow much but it is not without organics. A small six-inch hollow in a clay area allows drifting soil to fill, which allows grass seed to grow, that in turn allows roots to stretch into the clay—just a little. The grass grows, withers, dies, and the faded leaf embeds into the clay during the next rainfall. Alongside, a rabbit figures the clay is as good as anyplace to leave a dropping or two, which marries the clay as well during a rainfall. When it comes to growing seed, it is all good. The roots, leaf, droppings all break down to dust. The dust enhances the small hollow a bit and over years the ground of growth enlarges. However, when I am looking for clay to mold, carve, and throw, each stick and leaf and dropping must be removed. Then the clay needs sifting and re-sifting until most all organics are removed. But never are they all gone. Which is good. For when local clay with its small organics is blended with store-bought, thrown and fired, its rootedness comes to life.
Which challenges the notion of No air no life. Thinking of life in terms of seed, water, leaf, two-legged or four-legged, flight or swimming, alone, winds the understanding of life too tightly. For the clay itself, like soil and rock, has life that is different and beyond our perception. Mystery prior to Creation speaks such truth. Dust particles of earth or solar speak to life beyond the imagination (yet of the imagination). It is such dust, earth and solar, clay and soil, which comes to know our us upon its rising with each step we take. Dust remembers and tells our story to those who bother to listen and imagine. There in the dust are the stories of the withered leaf and the leaf-eater rabbit and the rabbit-eater human. Those dust stories are known and re-lived each time the artist listens well to the earth and bends and folds clay into a pot, a cup, or the 3rd grader hand embedded slab. Such clay affirms life which does not breathe air.
Clay listening is to know dust to dust is life to life