Following a long period of dormancy, thoughts of Paulus Berenson (artist, potter, dancer, writer, ecologist and spiritual being) have returned to the front of my brain in the past few weeks. Paulus is also the author of Finding One’s Way With Clay.
Eight years ago I moved from the Philadelphia area to Maine. Packing, wrapping and moving was an arduous task. It caused me to ponder each individual possession, rank it according to importance and prepare to either trash or transport. One small cardboard box, about 10×10 became a “hand carry with extra care.”
Upon arrival in Maine there were two packages to be unwrapped which symbolized that I was “home” in these new and unfamiliar surroundings. One was the cat carrier containing Monhegan Mist, aka Miss Misty my green-eyed, gray DSH rescue resembling a Russian Blue. Her name comes from her fur color which is smooth as velvet and reminds me of the dense fog and mist in the harbor in the early morning on Monhegan Island, ME. Misty is my first cat and a sweet, gentle soul that keeps me grounded on a daily basis.
The second package was that 10×10 cardboard box. The moving van was not arriving for two more days. I had done a great job of securing the contents of that box with heavy duty packing tape. The question became, how would I get into the box when my scissors and all tools were on the truck? I couldn’t grasp the ends of the tape, nor could I break through the extra layers I had applied for security. Following a few minutes of creative problem solving I decided to try to “cut” through the tape with my car keys. Success!! I folded back the rigid tape covered brown flaps to reveal rolls and balls of bubble wrap. I gently lifted each precious mini package from the box. The box contained small pebbles, shells, pine needles, an arrowhead, a piece of sea-glass and a pottery shard from an archeological dig. These organic treasures were gathered from many places I have traveled. Their container, however, is the true treasure. It is a pinch pot made during a workshop with Paulus Berenson.
In the workshop we were each given a small ball of clay. As I rolled the ball of moist earth in my hands I sat with my eyes closed listening to Paulus describe “it is the artists work to sing up the earth, to praise and thank and express gratitude…that’s what art is… art is a behavior, to sing up the earth.” As I slapped the ball of clay on my bare knee, the clay ball became a vessel that evolved from the shape of my leg and hand. In essence my spirit became one with the clay. It will forever hold my spirit within its shape. I truly became one with the earth. The pot is a small primitive free-form with a spirit that holds a song in praise of the earth. It holds my gratitude for what the earth has given me. It holds the spirit of our indigenous ancestors who thank the earth daily for the gifts they receive.
Tomorrow is Earth Day. A good time to be reminded to “sing up the earth” in praise, gratitude and thanksgiving. As an artist uses clay, paint, stone, metal, whatever media to “sing up the earth” may we also use our words as an art form to sing in celebration of our potential as human beings, be they spoken, sung or written words.
My goal for my book-in-process is to use my words to sing up praise and express gratitude for Dr. Selma Hortense Burke. I have all but silenced myself by fearing that my art will not do justice to her art and her life lived as a work of art. I hope she spiritually takes me by the hand and leads me through my journey. I think I hear the orchestra tuning…