When I was a kid living in the mountains of West Virginia, I used to sit by the creek that ran in the front of our property and dig in the mud. I remember how much I loved the way it felt between my hands. I would pile it high in a dish and squish it down to watch it overflow back into the water. Living with the tension that resided in my house growing up, getting muddy was a way to “ground” myself. I imagined that the tension flowed out of me just as the mud was flowing back into the creek and slowly washing it away.
Today, I went digging for muddy treasure again. We traveled high into the mountains surrounding Ghost Ranch to find a specific type of clay. Both of the typical spots were inaccessible but our instructor, Clarence Cruz, was able to spot a vein of clay off the side of the road. We piled out of the van with picks, shovels and buckets. We were all handed ground corn and asked to say a prayer in giving Thanks to the earth for the treasure we were about to reveal. Afterwards, the ceremony was repeated and while driving back, the 15 people in the van were quiet…….very quiet. There was a reverence in the act of taking and giving back to the earth and I think we all felt it in our own way.
I began building simple forms – stepping back and viewing the clay from a different perspective. Honoring the material and the place from where it came. Promising her that I would do everything in my power to do my best work to make her shine. Because in the end, for me, it’s about the clay.