The day wind felled a weary oak,
we donned old clothes and boots,
took pails and spades in hand.
We ventured out into the brumy cold
to scoop red clay, harvesting Earth.
That night we sat around a fire.
Faltering flames dispelled the cold
that seeped through dense stone walls—
walls caching sacred secrets of a century, or more.
We worked the clay for days,
extracting grit and stones—
Gaia’s grainy cells
that would, ignored, destroy
our own creative efforts.
Tediously, we toiled for perfection.
And when the day arrived to mold
and fashion terra-cotta worlds,
figures formed of toil and imagination,
We discarded clods of mud
still clinging to our hands.
Yet now and then we’d find a pebble.
This poem is based on a memory. In the early 1970’s I lived in France as part of my training as a member of a religious community. I’ve always struggled with perfectionism–still do (to a lesser extent as I come to realize that the “work” I try to do on my own has already been done for me.) The small image below is where I lived, in Brittany.