Friday, March 23, 2012

Driving North Into Kansas

Sandra, a fellow teacher and friend of mine lost her mom last year to a heart attack. It was a sudden tragedy, one for which the family was not prepared...but then we never are.
Jeanie was an artist, whose life in a small college town included helping the students in her clay studio. Every year they made dozens of clay projects--dishes, dolls, canisters, baskets, and ceramic statues. These were then sold at a yearly auction to benefit the college.

Yesterday, Claye and I took a trip to Kansas to purchase some of the glazes. Our trip up there and back took all day, but the weather was pleasant. We saw a tidal wave of dark clouds approaching from the east, and were soon overtaken by gentle rains.

Arriving somewhat later than we had planned, due to my hasty decision to trust the GPS over the map, we made a call and were led to a garage-shaped building on a grassy lot.
We met Sandra's father, the builder of the shop, an industrious man, who was kind enough to show us around and fit us into his work schedule for the day. The shop had been sold, but everything in it still needed to be moved into storage or bought by people like us.

We were particularly interested in the glazes, because they are expensive to buy new, and Claye uses them in her studio. There were so many of them, we hardly knew where to begin. While we selected and loaded plastic tubs full of glazes, the rain settled down to a misty drizzle. Outside, the quiet little town nodded steadily. Students popped in and out of the studio occasionally, making sure we weren't a couple of pottery thieves. We could tell they missed their mentor and felt protective of her little shop.
It took about three hours, but we got the car loaded and called the owner. He was back in a couple of seconds, between jobs and smiling, despite the sadness this task must have cost him. How do you part with the things---all the little things that gave pleasure to the one you loved? How do you let strangers carry it off without sending a little of you with every jar?
"She was happy here," he told us. "Working away for hours with clay, painting and spinning and firing." He looked around the shop. "It was usually busy here, too. Students coming and going. She had a gift. Our daughter has it too, you know, and our grandson. He can spin pots and work with all this."

"I'm not much of an artist, but I built this place for her. It's got everything she needed."
We could tell how much he had loved her by the pride in his voice and the obvious labor he had invested. There was a kiln room, spinning area, office, bathroom, painting table, and shelves everywhere. They were all full.
Claye and I showed him the buckets full of glaze and the clay tools we had chosen. I offered him as much as I knew we could afford, hoping he wouldn't think it too little.
He looked serious. I thought, "Maybe I should  offer more. Even if some of the glazes are ruined, the ones that work will be worth it, and I can manage."

Then he smiled, "If you would write that check for half the amount you offered, it would make me happy. I think Jeanie would have wanted you to have the glazes. She would be glad that they are going to good use. And the shelf you need to store them, I'll throw that  in for free."

Sometimes a thank-you isn't enough.
I was overcome with gratitude.

Here was a man with cause to be bitter, to be self-absorbed in sorrow, loathe to part with shreds of memories. But he smiled. He carried on. Courageous, that's what he was, and pleasant on a stormy, rainy day.

On the way home, I took a picture of this little tree, just standing, feet planted into the green, bathed in daylight...a daylight that finally comes after the dark cloud has passed. It reminded me of the gracious gentleman we had just left, standing in the door of his little shop with misty, new sunbeams on his bowed head.


Carina said...

What a blessing to not only have that inner strength, but to use it to strengthen others. May we all be so courageous when our turn comes.

Kelsey Cloud said...

That was beautiful, Mrs. Creed. Made me cry. Glad you are getting good use out of her stuff!

untoldexpressions said...

Thank you for this lovely post about my relatives

aftergrace said...