Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Potter's Wheel

I've never worked with a potter's wheel. But I've been learning about it recently.

There are two different kinds of wheels: the 'old school' kind that the potter kicks gently to keep it in motion, and the 'new fangled' kind that rotates electrically.

I'm learning that skilled potters know that this is really the only control they have over the process: the spinning of the wheel. Everything else must happen on its own, in gentle submission from the one who seems in charge. As the clay rests on the wheel, the potter gently holds and molds the clay as she 'throws' the pot.

But the whole process is about participating. Not controlling.

I've learned that if the potter tries to manipulate the clay, tries to create it into something she has in mind, then it can throw off the entire piece. Not simply alter it... this kind of forceful intervention can derail the process, sending clay bits flyinig, creating quite a mess.

I'm told it's a very magical experience, letting clay form itself in the hands. It is as if the clay knows what it is to become, it simply needs guidance and balance to stay on the wheel. But with gentle hands, it can evolve into something the artist may never have imagined.

I probably will never try my hand at throwing pottery, mostly because I have texture issues and the idea of wet clay in my hands makes me gag a little; I can't even really think about the after effects of dry clay on my hands and under my fingernails. Nope. No can do.

Still, the process fascinates me and the parallels are many.

Tucker's babyhood and toddler years were complicated in a few ways, with unexpected surgeries, breathing issues, multiple hospital stays, and limited language requiring therapy for several years. Every season presented a new something to learn about this little boy, a new way to help him, a new way to know him.

And this journey allowed me a rare privilege: I learned early on that my children were separate from me. Their abilities were not a reflection of mine. I could neither control them nor other people's perceptions of them.

(This goes both ways; when Tuck could not speak, when only I knew how smart he was, I had to resist the implicit and explicit assumptions that I had not done my best. That his language was the result of my mistake. On the flipside, as Tuck kicked three soccer goals last weekend, I can assure you: this had nothing to do with my influence on his ability. I've never in my life scored a goal, point, shot, basket, first base, or home run. Never. He seems well on his way to all of the above. And I delight in that: it's about who he is, who he was born to be, not who I have created in my image.)

Their experiences and abilities have quite little to do with my control and intervention.

Some? Sure. And I take my repsonsiblity very seriously. Very, very seriously.

But the whole act of parenting - and of life in general, I am learning - is about participating, not controlling.

My husband died; more than ever, I am faced with the facade of control. It really means nothing.

Control means nothing. Participation means everything.

I'm in. My heart is engaged. My mind is alert. I will raise these boys, with grace, help, and wisdom from God. I will do every single day of their lives with them.

But with grace, help, and wisdom from God, I will not seek to control them. Because really, I can't.

And perhaps, with gentle hands and submission from 'the one who seems in charge,' this masterpiece - these boys, this family, this life, this journey - will evolve into something we never imagined, neither Robb nor me.

The ones who were once 'in charge.'

(Even now I smile at the big joke we played on ourselves. In charge. Ha.)

Control is nothing. Participation is everything.


Jaimie said...

This is inspiring to me as a writer. Sometimes I want my book to have this element or that element, but the story simply won't let it fit properly.

Donna said...

That was God's annointed Word straight from your pen to my heart-- thank you so much for writing this post. Blessings to you!

shellycoulter said...

Wise words! Thank you.

Kathryn said...

Throwing pots or whatever becomes of the clay is one of my absolute favorite things to do. Many times I have longed for a kiln to make this hobby occur a bit more often (I have expensive hobbies:(). But, should you ever figure out how to put those tactile issuse aside, it is an incredible way to relieve stress and is a very peaceful process. I am pretty sure the rec centers have open studio time too.

Kay Day said...

Thank you. I needed these words. It is such a hard lesson to learn. One you would think I would have learned by now.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom.