The Last Firing

CIMG6829 - Version 2

It’s only when Kevin muds up the door of the anagama that I get teary-eyed. For all that has passed in front of this stoke hole. For all that we’ve been given. For everything and everyone that has wandered in and out of our lives.

For all the prayers that have been stoked along with the wood. For the hopes, the disappointments, the heartbreaks, the unions, the births, the funerals. The moving-ons, the staying-puts. The hellos and good-byes. The escapes. The rescues. The tears, the hurt, the gratitude, the healing.

All against the soundtrack of birdsong at dawn, music jams at night, raucous bursts of laughter, low hum of conversation. The crackling of the fire, the roar and whisper of the draft.

The first firing of this kiln took place scant hours after planes sent towers crashing to the ground—potters on our first crew had watched a column of smoke rise from the Pentagon. Here in the woods amidst songs of the whippoorwill and the wood thrush, we mourned and healed in turns as we sent smoke of another kind skyward with our prayers.

We emerged from that firing a family where four days earlier we had been only acquaintances. I wanted to hold them here as one by one they headed back into a world that for all we knew might still be under attack. As I think back on all this, Mary Oliver’s words speak to me most clearly:

There is only one question: how to love this world.

Fourteen years later, the make-up of the kiln crew has changed. Some moved, some simply moved on, always new potters ready to step up to the stoke hole and keep the fire burning. I no longer fear what comes next. It’s just so hard to let them go.

Now Kevin seals up this anagama for the last time. By this time next year, a new kiln will take its place. Though smudged with soot and smoke, I can still make out Jane Hirshfield’s words stenciled around the arch:

Everything’s connected. Everything changes. Pay attention.

Old kiln, thank you. New kiln, here we come. Eyes wide open.

Advertisements