Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Circle of Gratitude

Happy New Year! 

I am once again surprised that with all my regular posts and online sorts of chatting, I managed to neglect my faithful little blog at the end of the year. I don't know if this makes any sense, but I always feel a sense of sitting with a good friend when I come to write here. It's ready to listen, and the way I write and pause and read, it often gives me feedback in those second thoughts and revisions. So when I get too busy to get here to post, I feel a little like I've neglected a good friend. But like a truly good friend, there is no judgment, just a welcome page ready to listen again.

the Gratitude Jar, with last year's Mandala puzzle
Last year at this time, I started a 'Happiness Jar', based on a re-post by my friend Jen of a post by Elizabeth Gilbert (yay social media!). I took a nice, big jar and designated it for the purpose, and prepared a smaller covered jar with lots of small slips of paper and a pen, ready to record any thing, place, person, or event that caused me happiness during the year. I renamed my jar the 'Gratitude Jar', as that was my word/theme for 2015 (plus, everything that makes me happy makes me grateful!). Last year, my meditative tool in setting all these intentions was the Great Happy Ass Adult Coloring Book (if you don't have one, get one!), and after completing a page titled "Squeeze the Day!" I attached it to my Gratitude Jar for further inspiration. In grabbing this picture for today's blog, I am reminded that when my Atlanta framily was visiting over the 2014 holiday, we started a large puzzle of a lovely mandala, and I worked on it well into the new year. Several milestone breakthroughs, in fact, are noted in my Gratitude Jar.

A nice, big pile of Grateful!

On New Year's Eve afternoon of this past year, I first took a moment to be grateful that I had a very full jar to empty. With a nice cup of coffee and a few sugar plums, I emptied the jar and started reading back through my year. I had already been thinking about how I might want to commemorate this years worth of Gratitude, and while I was reading I was imagining mosaic collages and mini-origami projects. As I was pondering this, I picked up a slip that said "got to see Karen Crane!", which is a happy moment in itself as she, like my blog, is a good friend I don't see as often as I'd like, but when I do it's immediately comfortable and free of any guilt for our mutual absence. But I digress - another happy memory that came to me in thinking of Karen, an artist and Art Therapist among many other dazzling talents, was that of another visit she made when we made Mandalas. Nothing fancy, rather quickly done and that was that, but mine still hangs in my studio and I often doodle in a similar way when I need a momentary meditation. I immediately saw how I could capture the spirit of my year of Gratitude while enjoying a full meditation on each entry as I recorded them into a Gratitude Mandala. It also gave me the opportunity to sharpen some of my colored pencils, so I felt incredibly efficient as well as indulgent in spending a couple of hours writing in a growing circle.

My 2015 Gratitude Mandala
It was a wonderful meditation, and I happily had more entries than I had room on one page! There were many repeats throughout the year, like time in my studio, my wonderful studio mates, my furballs at home, and a host of other delights, surprises, and wonders. 

I see that my last post was just before I made my annual pilgrimage to Sandbridge Beach, so here are a few images of other events of the last quarter that also made the Gratitude Jar. I know I'm not listing everything, and perhaps that's another reason to be grateful! Here are a few:

Ploughman's Lunch by Budy Finch Catering, on my pots!
Most recently, and several slips into the Gratitude Jar worthy, I had my pots gracing the cover of Plough to Pantry magazine. I was also among some other very talented potters profiled in a lovely article inside (page 36, because I know you were wondering!). It was a wonderful experience from start to finish, with an incredible team of thoughtful and caring editors, writers, photographers, and gracious clients, too! Spreading the message about how handmade ceramics is the perfect partner to homemade/chef-made dishes is an ongoing quest of mine, and one that will see me expanding production in the new year to design and develop forms to attract partnership with others who believe the same. 

A giant bucket of Gratitude
The Village Potters wrapped up the year with another fabulous Holiday Market with our neighbors at Riverview Station, and it saw the opening of our new Independent Study & Mentoring Program studio. New kilns are still being built, expansions being completed, and more new artists are bringing great energy and passion in clay to the studio with us daily! And for me, every day in the studio with these incredible artists and people brings multitudes of gratitude.

Me in the Sandbridge kitchen, with one of many glorious salads
in the foreground. Picture by Laurie McCarriar.
What is happily becoming an annual pilgrimage of sorts: my three weeks at Sandbridge. Sandbridge is a series of three, consecutive, week-long retreats for hammered dulcimer players, and I get to cook for them! Outside of a few marketing duties that seep in and compete for my attention, pretty much all I need worry about for three weeks at the beach is planning menus, shopping the local farmstands, fish and other markets, and creating meals for 24-29 people each day. And this year, I even snuck in several secret lessons on the hammered dulcimer for my grand debut of 'Twinkle Twinkle'. Recording contract is certainly soon to follow... My working vacation always feels more like vacation than work, but I'm extremely fortunate (and grateful!) that most of what I get to do daily, be it in the studio or the kitchen, is such a joy to me that the hardest days in either are better than most days doing anything else. 

A benefit to mostly overcast mornings at the beach:
incredible reflections of sunrise in the clouds.
I have already started making entries into this years Gratitude Jar, and as I set my intentions for the new year ahead, I am excited, eager, and more than anything, grateful.