This originally appeared as part of the Daily Sip, a website from Charles LaFond, a spiritual companion, author, potter and fundraiser who lives on the edge of the sea with his dog Kai. offering regular meditations and reflections on spirituality and church fundraising
The moments of our days are not unlike the stones of the planet. Some are beautiful and translucent. Some are smooth while others need their sharp edges in order to catch the light. Some have a quiet mystery and others convey colors every bit as vibrant as the flowers of a garden. Long have I been attracted to stones. I lurk in rock shops the way some lurk in comic book shops and others frequent casinos – looking, looking, looking for the next right one – the rare comic, the rare rock, the rare win at the slot machine. We humans like to find things and yet sometimes we find the wrong things – scary, sharp even, very occasionally, evil.
As I make pots today for an exhibition in the local center for the arts in November, I am choosing the finial stones for the tops of them. I have washed the collection one at a time as a way to engage with each rock. It feels like a liturgical act in a way. And as each stone is washed and rinsed, it is placed on a towel for the choosing-phase. I make lidded canisters – funeral urns in fact (though I keep the pot’s mouth wide so that we can use them as cookie jars until our death comes, at which time they can become the repository of our cremains. I have made my own funeral urn and chosen my own stone for it. I often think how much I want my ashes, after my death, to be commingled with the crumbs of my favorite cookies – ginger snaps, shortbread, my sister’s strawberry cookies – for example.
When I make a vessel, I first choose the stone. I set it on a small pillow by the wheel and then I sketch the vase and its lid to accommodate the stone which will, at the end, be fixed to the top of the lid so that the light catches it. When a person lifts the lid of one of my vessels, their fingers grasp the stone to lift the lid. I also use stones as lid finials as a way to acknowledge, as a potter, that I am simply moving the earth’s elements into a pot; while a greater Potter has made the planet – for which I am so grateful. My pot sets God’s stone up for the world to see. We hope for the same with our lives, most days.
So, these stones have been set aside and from them I have chosen seven: a jade, an Iona beach marble rock, a calligraphy stone from Whidbey Island, a piece of red coral, a piece of petrified alligator poo, a chunk of Sulphur and an agate nugget. Each stone will sit atop its own lidded vase – seven pounds of clay – the right size for the remains of a human body after cremation and, happily, the right size for a standard bag of cookies…
When people buy my pots for their mantle pieces or their hall table or their kitchen counter; some are buying a lidded cookie jar while others are buying a funeral urn. They choose the color of the vase and also its shape, but they also choose the stone filial which was the pot’s creative genesis. When the show opens, I ask not to be identified as the artist. That infuriates gallery owners, but I like to overhear what people say while they do not know I make the art about which they are speaking.
I have been pondering my love of these stones, especially now that I am collecting them on Whidbey Island’s abundant beaches when Kai-the-dog and I take our walks. Sure, there is their beauty. Also, the drama of their creation. But what I love most is their diversity. The best stones have come from the most violent formation – like diamonds, for example.
And if one were to continue the metaphor to our human lives, to the moments of our days, one would be wise to see that some of our most painful moments, most frightening moments, most grief-filled moments are contributing to the patina and the beauty of the collection of the moments of our lives. So that when something happens to me which causes great suffering – especially at the hands of some violent other human or institution, I pull back and rest in the hope that the violence will form a pebble for that life-moment which will be, one day, beautiful. Which will, one day, catch the light. Which will, one day sparkle. Which could never have been formed without the pressure of the violence and which though formed by it, is not defined by it.