Ashes For Beauty

 After a school year spent sitting in other people’s chairs, I was eager to have a chair of my own as school started this fall.  After a roller coaster where I thought I had a job and then I realized I did not, now I am back sitting in someone else’s chair again in an interim position next door to a classroom I thought might be where I’d spend years.  Then last week the school I was non-renewed from 14 months ago had a few spots open and I decided to apply. The principal was no longer there, and I felt like I had great relationships with the people left there.  I knew it was a risk, but I decided to do it anyway.  I could tell you this really long story about how I had an army of people behind me, amazing recommendations from principals, and a fantastic interview, but I’ll just get to the point and say about the time I was listening to Journey sing “Don’t Stop Believing” in a T-shirt shop the size of a postage stamp in a tiny village in the North Georgia mountains my phone rang with bad news. Despite all those awesome things, the job was not mine.  Once again, I was not enough.  I’ve come to live with rejection so often these days we need bunk beds.  (With my dumb luck, rejection probably snores and sleepwalks.)

If you are going to have really bad news thrown at you, the best human to drag on a road trip with you is a guidance counselor.  She can talk you through it, help you laugh at yourself, and drown your sorrows in a river when she takes you tubing.  So, on our adventures the next day we decided to zip-line off a mountain, and we saw a pottery shop as we left where we thought you could paint pottery.  As it turns out you can no longer paint pottery, but we took a look around.  We saw this set of mugs on the shelf and the lady told us those mugs were really special for a big reason.  They were wood fired.  This made little sense to us, so she explained further.

Wood fired pottery is special as the process is not only time consuming, it is labor intensive.  Few people use wood as a fuel to fire pottery.  It is hard to produce identical pieces because where each piece is placed in the fire creates the results.  It’s chaotic in nature, and though it can create beautiful pieces, most potters would rather have a consistent result.  Fire will have a range of temperatures throughout the kiln, so each piece will be unique.

The mugs she showed us were created identical, but the mugs were not all exactly alike.  She explains that there was no glaze on the mugs at all.  The fire created the glazed look as the flames hit the surfaces.  Flashing is the name given to where the fire hits the piece directly and in the places where the fire touches the unglazed pieces those places are the prettiest.  So, if you are a piece of pottery, you want to be directly in the flames.

She directed us to another shelf where two bowls were.  She showed us they had the same markings, but they were completely different.  One bowl was amazingly beautiful up close.  The sister to this bowl was okay, but not shiny at all, and would fetch less money.  The only difference in them is how much the fire touched them.  She took the beautiful bowl down and showed us the inside.  It has this amazing looking interior in the bottom and she explained that that was ash glazing.  This type of firing made even the ashes beautiful.  The ashes get so hot in the kiln, they actually turn into glaze and glass.

I was amazed by all of this and then I had this striking thought. Sometimes life burns us when you expect one thing and get another.  Sometimes you put a lot of time and effort into something you think is going to be amazing just to be disappointed.  Then there are times that we realize that on the other side of the intense heat we feel, we will be better.  I guess I’m not ready to leave the fire just yet, but on the other side of this I will be stronger.  I will have marks where the fire touched me, but they will be beautiful.  Even the ashes will have purpose.  Even the ashes leave beauty.

Hanging It Up

There is nothing on my walls of my living room. I had never really thought about it until a friend of mine mentioned that the walls were bare at their place too. They too had gone through what I will call an unexpected loss of a long-term living situation. They said they couldn’t quite bring themselves to hang something up, but they weren’t sure why. That got me to thinking about what it means to hang something up on the wall.

When I moved out of the house I shared with my ex-husband I took a few of the wall hangings. They were things I loved or had bought specifically because I liked them, even though I knew they wouldn’t be his favorite. I had great intentions for those pieces, but so far 7 months after I moved out I still haven’t hung them up. Some are in storage, while others have sat right behind the couch mocking me as I chose not to hang them. I don’t have one picture displayed. What is wrong with me?

I thought about it and I think that while the walls around me are technically mine, I’m still possibly a little bitter that they are my walls.  These walls are not walls I had planned for myself. These walls were walls I was forced into moving into because of a situation. These walls are temporary. Does that make them less important? Does a temporary situation mean I shouldn’t hang things up to make this place mine? Hanging things up means coming to peace with what is my life in the now. I have to admit that my life looks nothing like what it did a year ago, and I have to be okay with that.

After confronting a lot of feelings, a nice hot bath, and a fit of rage and crying I think I am ready to accept my walls. My walls don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to be my walls forever. But my home is my home. My life is different, and that doesn’t make it bad. What my home was missing in the bare walls is life. We live here, so my walls should have life. They should have life because I have a lot of life left.

So, tomorrow I will hang up something. It doesn’t all have to be done in one day. I will make this place mine, because for now, it is mine. It’s time to build something new, and to do that I need to live where there is life all around me. I’m going to hang it up.