Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lunabelle's Bowl

Grief and loss are shadows that do not fade beneath the baking light of the summer sun. We move slowly through the aloof chill inside, trying to learn how to feel again. The tools that work differ from griever to griever. How do we transform that cold within us into heat and fire that can be a source reminder of the love and happiness we had, given to us by those who have passed on? How do we create light from darkness?
Last Summer Solstice, three months after the loss of our beloved family friend and cat, a friend of ours drove my partner and I to the home of one of our best friends, a potter, in Michigan. Among our bags were the ashes of our beloved cat Luna, who we had to put to sleep very suddenly that winter. Our friend Shelly had offered us the unique opportunity to make a bowl while we were visiting, adding some of Luna’s ashes to the clay.
It’s not for everyone. I have a couple of friends who can’t bear to touch anything that used to be alive. I think that’s common, as if touching death might call it to you. Humans are superstitious creatures when it comes to what we don’t understand. Holding the body of your loved one at the moment of death can be a life-altering experience if you are open to it. I would never say prepared. You’re never prepared. Death can be expected, but it hits hard when it comes all the same.
The loss of Luna was unexpected and cut deep. What could we do with that grief to transform it into something new? What my friend was offering us was something a gift we could not pass up.
We sat on the porch in the sunshine of the countryside. We sat and we sang and we poured bits of Luna’s bone and ash into clay. We burned sage and we held the space sacred. We took turns kneading it, hands in grey clay, returning bone to earth while the songbirds filled the air around us. We shared stories and remembrances tentatively, dancing to the edge of sadness without jumping in. We pushed our memories of her, the bone of her, back into earth.
I can recall the feel of her skin beneath my fingers at will, even against the slip of smooth clay beneath them. She was not silky like Bella or smooth like Zami, her hair was soft, like rabbit fur and she loved the way I scratched the underside of her jaw. She followed me from room to room every day, curling up to sleep until I moved again. At night, when I got into bed she would bat at my face until I lifted the covers and she would climb down, curling up in the space behind my knees. She would sleep there through the night, and coax me to stay in bed longer come morning by being cute and adorable. She was my everyday friend and we loved her. I loved her even as I held her head and looked her in the eyes while she died. I didn’t want her to be alone.
We held space in the kitchen, while Shelly pulled out her kick wheel and began the process of shaping and opening and pulling and shifting clay into something that resembled a hole in stone and then slowly, entrancingly, a bowl. Artisan work holds so much potent magic that watching it feels much like opening to a universal mystery. Earth and water and hands and vision and fire. Combine them and you get pottery.
The kick wheel turned and the wheel rotated and the room grew warm with the intention and wonder of what we were creating. My partner put her hands on the bowl, pulling up the sides and slimming them down, delicate fingers changing the shape of the clay as it spun beneath them. Then my turn, smoothing the outside walls with my hands. The pads of my fingers sang a lullaby into the earth-clay, littered with her bones, wishing for peace for both her spirit and ours. When the bowl was finished, I etched a small crescent moon onto an outside edge for Luna, for Lunabelle the Jackalope cat.
A year later, at this last Summer Solstice, my friend fired Luna’s bowl in her kiln during the energy of the longest day of the year, the day we carry with us through the winter to hold up against the cold of the longest night. Our grief had moved full-circle, from Luna’s body in our hands, into the fire and turned to ash, to Michigan, poured into clay with transformation solidified in more fire, and then returned to New York, to our home.
Taking pictures of the bowl in the sunlight of our garden, the warmth of it rests easy in my hands, like silk against flesh. My hand traces the subtle spiral in the bottom of the bowl. Like a phonographic recording, the memories of creating this piece of pottery, of art, of love rise above the sorrow. When I look at Luna’s bowl against the marigolds, as the small butterflies and moths alight upon it, my smile is warmer than the sun above me.


Relevant Posts
Ritual for Luna (posted March 2, 2011)
The Body After Death (posted April 20, 2011)

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. I've previously told you how moved I was about the way you and Kelley responded to Luna's passing and this blog entry only solidifies that. Again, just beautiful.


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