Holding a ‘raw’ piece of pottery in my left hand and a carving tool in the other I began to make my mark on a coffee mug I had chosen to craft and glaze. A girlfriend was staying with me while my husband was out of town on business; I never liked to be alone. We had chosen the craft as something fun to do that evening while we sat cozy in the living room with a cup of chamomile tea and each others company.
As I began to carve into the mug, a feeling of being suspended in time and a sense of peace shifted my consciousness; it is what I would imagine a trance to feel like. I carved letter after letter around the center belly of this mug, starting on the left and working my way across, forming the words FAITH, HOPE, LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, GRACE. The moment I finished the last letter, my awareness shifted again and I stared, in wonderment, at what I had done. My girlfriend looked over and was clearly impressed.
“How did you do that? You are so good!”
“I’m not” I replied. “I don’t know how I did it”.
Now, this is not to deny any artistic skill. I have always been good with my hands. My mother is an artist, and while that is not a label I would use for myself, I can do better than stick men. I still could not see how I was able to produce letters that looked, not only computer generated, but were evenly spaced from one side to the other. Handle to handle. After the final stages of painting on the glaze I was looking forward to having a finished product to drink my morning coffee from.
The following day I dropped off our pieces to the shop where they would be put into the kiln and fired. Pick up would be in a week.
Ten days later I had some time to drop by and claim our coveted items – I was excited to see how the glaze turned out and to lay my eyes again on the perfection of the job I did. I approached the counter to meet a friendly, dark and curly haired, woman in her 50’s. The counter was in the middle of a large open space, filled with wide shelving units, which held pottery in all stages of preparation. She walked over to one of the shelves and took down a small box. When she returned she set the box down on the counter and opened the top, just to make sure the product was, in fact, what I had brought in.
As she pulled the mug up, out of its protective wrap, her expression changed and she quickly looked up at me with impassioned eyes. With some urgency she said, “Are you the one who did this?” the tears already beginning to well up.
“Yes” I replied, curious about her reaction.
“I have to tell you, the day I pulled this mug out of the kiln I had just hung the phone up from my daughter. I, I was on the phone with my daughter; she was calling me from the doctor. She was told she has cancer and she had just called to tell me. I hung up the phone and went to empty the kiln; I was devastated. I pulled out your mug and those words were the first things I read. This mug got me through the first days of finding out about my daughter. I have wondered who this belonged to”.
Overwhelmed, and with tears of my own, I had a new understanding of what had actually happened ten days earlier. I took a step back from the counter “that’s not my mug” I uttered. As she replied “no, no” I was already putting distance between those perfectly carved words and myself. “You don’t understand” I countered, “I did not know, until right now, how I did that. How I was like, in a trance, and could carve such perfect lettering, I had no idea what had happened, but now I know; that’s not my mug it was made for you”.
Deeply touched, I walked away – I just left. I sat in my car, in the parking lot, weeping and powerfully affected by the knowledge that somehow spirit had moved me aside in order to write the words that would comfort a stranger in a dark and painful moment. I felt so divinely used and so humbled to have been such a vessel.
It would be 12 years before anything similar would happen again. But when it did, the floodgates opened . . .