Coffee steamed, hot and aromatic from the potter’s cup. It was stoneware, black and white glaze, with the drawing of a woman circling the cup. Sheila held it to her face as she gazed out the kitchen window. The handsome snow woman gazed back. Savoring the contrast of steam and frost, she absently traced the drawing on the cup with her fingernail. The woman on the cup was balanced on a ladder, pruning a hedge.
(Sheila is the character who inhabited the stories I wrote while on the road selling my pots. Her name combines the pronoun, she, that ubiquitous naming for the present and silent woman, with the smart girl, Sheila, who sat next to me in high school geometry whose sole ambition in life was to get married. Sheila is the Celtic Goddess of fertility and destruction. In Chapter One, Sheila drove to Marion, Iowa, and cut all of her hair off in a motel. In Chapter two, Sheila flew to San Francisco to visit her high school boyfriend who after a thirty-year absence had contacted her. In Chapter three, Sheila pruned the hedge.)
Sheila had made the cup three years ago: it felt like ten. The thin, awkward handle didn’t balance the weight of the cup. The proportions were not classical. The circumference of the body was too wide in relation to the height and the thin handle only accentuated the lack of proportion. Stoneware, massive and thick, traced the act of eating. The handle had survived the porcelain sink with a minor chip (“the crack is where the light gets in”). The cup held coffee, washed up well, and the drawing was honest.
Sheila’s body, somewhat like the cup, was wide for her height and her small, bony ankles only accentuated her lack of classical proportions. She was loose around the edges and limped a little from too many years of running. Gravity rendered her form as she grew into the wrinkles of her smile. She worked, washed up well, and was honest.