Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Time Will Tell

Several months ago, we decided we were done with the large batch of clay with which we'd been playing. It had been around or a long time, was full of wood chips and pebbles, and had started to mold. There was probably 50 lbs. of the stuff in a large tub. We considered tossing it over the fence where it could return again to the earth from whence it came, but then wound up just leaving it in a corner of the play yard.

It sat in the sun and in the rain, the light and the dark. Occasionally, a child would stick her finger into it or drop more debris into it, but mostly it just sat there. At some point, someone, it must have been an adult because the tub is heavier than children can shift without drawing attention to their project, the tub got moved closer to the where we tend to make art. And then it sat there some more. Every now and then, I'd notice it and think I'd sure like to have that tub for other uses, but there was always something else with a greater demand on my time. But mostly it just sat there, an unnoticed part of our landscape, something a newcomer might notice, but invisible to our eyes.

There are always things like our tub of clay in every life, I reckon, items that were once useful, even necessary, but that then "disappear" until, finally, we get the urge for purging. Then out they go, leaving a happy space of emptiness. My wife and I spent a weekend overhauling a closet and our laundry/storage room and each time I've opened one of those doors for the past couple days I'm struck by a sense of lightness, of being unburdened. That said, it's not always easy casting things away. I felt an emotional attachment to some of the things I dropped down the garbage chute things that were victim to honesty, to admitting to myself that I would never again use or wear or otherwise employ that object for its intended purpose. I don't think that's what's going on with the tub of clay, however; it's ongoing survival has more to do with inertia than anything else, although when I tell myself the truth, I have to confess there is a small part of me that is simply curious. What will happen to that clay if I do nothing?

I was rewarded in my laziness last month when one child dumped some water on the crusty surface of the blob, then another discovered that she could use it as paint. She created a reddish-brown self portrait. Others tried their hand at this new technique as well. Yet another girl, inspired by the first, used the clay-paint as nail polish for both herself and a willing adult.

We've now had a run of dry weeks and the tub of clay is now hard as a rock, or at least I assume it is because it's gone back to being mostly invisible. I briefly took note of it yesterday, however, and considered once more tossing it over the fence, or perhaps dumping some water into it as a prompt, but I had more pressing things to do, so there it sits, a part of the landscape, an occupier of space, perhaps a burden, perhaps an inspiration. Time will tell.

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