My daughter, Cori, outgrew her Easy Bake Oven in a week. As a 7-year-old she was fearless as she waded into the waters of “baking like a Mommy.” She became a whirling dervish in the kitchen and I became the ogre supervising the clean up of what was left in her wake.
My heart still melts thinking of how her body puffed with pride as she presented small cakes to her Cabbage Patch babies. It was worth the disaster zone.
She was in a learning curve. Being that I’m in one right now, I get it and can vouch for the fact that learning curve messes aren’t limited to the kitchen.
My learning curve was initiated when I began to dabble in clay. Should you peek in a window at the Flower City Pottery while I’m throwing clay on a wheel it might appear that I’m a fearless seven-year-old on the loose much the same as she was.
Maybe messy learning curves are a part of the natural order of things. I’m out of my comfort zone when I take off my Kneading Life apron in lieu of a clay splattered one. Just like Cori with her little cakes, when I finally get clay formed into something recognizable I swell with such satisfaction that I don’t care if my glasses are smudged and bits of clay cling to my hair.
Working with clay, just like working with dough, has become a contemplative practice. I’ve learned the importance of centering the clay before trying to form it into anything. I’ve tried to short cut centering or bypass it completely when my impatience steps in but there’s no getting around it. Without a good center to work from everything becomes more difficult and inevitably has to be scrapped back into the lump of clay it was in the first place.
Scrapping things I’ve made hasn’t daunted my spirit. There’s too much value in what I learn right up to the moment I finally admit it’s time to call it quits. I’ve learned, for example, that there’s a resonance to clay when it’s centered that almost invites me to join forces with it. Once I’ve lost that resonance things inevitably become lopsided and wonky.
Because I’m still a bit of a self-conscious novice, I often sneak into the studio on the weekends long before any of the regular potters have arrived.
It was on one of those mornings that a question began to take shape alongside the bowl that seemed to be coming to life all on its own. “Wouldn’t it be nice,” I wondered, “if my life had this easy rhythm to it?”
I paused to consider. While it’s easier said than done when I find myself with lengthy to-do lists and a busy teaching schedule, I know that when I take time to find my own center, that internal still point, my life does have a more natural flow. I begin to stretch into my day from the inside out rather than respond thoughtlessly to the external demands that lie in wait. My life is less wonky.
It’s all about practice.
Whether I’m kneading bread or whirling up a clay pot, it seems I’ve found a common thread which is also woven in when I’m working in the garden, visiting with a friend, or balancing in a yoga pose. I always have the opportunity to pause and be present right where I am. In the present moment, I pay attention to the subtleties of life and return again to my center.
In celebration of my learning curve with clay, this week I’m sharing one of my favorite summer recipes to fill all those bowls (even the slightly lopsided ones) that I’m bringing home. This recipe is an easy one that would be perfect for using up the last ears from our local corn harvest and fits with my philosophy of Keeping it Simple!
Hope to see you around a bread, or pottery, bowl soon! If you haven’t yet, Please Like Kneading Life on Facebook!
Corn Avocado Salad (or dip!)
2 ripe avocados, seeded, peeled and in 1/2 inch chunks
1 medium cucumber, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (or substitute chopped large tomatoes)
Directions:Remove the corn from the cob and put it in a medium sized bowl.
Add avocados, cucumber, and tomatoes. (You can easily add more or less of any of the ingredients to suit your family!)
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