I was fortunate enough to go swimming today. The sky was blue with some cirrus clouds in the horse tail formation. That denotes fair weather. For anyone keeping track, the water temp was 77, very pleasant. Once I grabbed a noodle float and pushed out into the lake, I knew the school year was over at last. Before you tease me about the noodle float, let me explain that I’m a good swimmer. In fact I was a competitive swimmer in my youth, specializing in the butterfly. Due to repeated athletic injuries and years of playing tennis, my shoulders and knees don’t work so well. I can breaststroke, that’s about it. The noodle float comes with me as a flotation device as I’m often swimming by myself. Most of my friends also know I jokingly tend to “accessorize” my noodle float with my bathing suit du jour.
Floating in the middle of the lake, once I got out of a cold spring, I stared hard at the other side. An endless row of trees met my gaze but behind them, in my mind, was the decaying abbey. Then the decaying set of buildings stepped aside so I could glimpse them during their heyday. There were the monks going about their daily routine. They kept a few chickens, cows and sheep. In addition they had several stands of bees. It took them over a year to clear the space for their enormous gardens. One other outbuilding housed a kiln where they made beautiful pottery, glazed with the Albany Slip finish, that they sold far and wide. This was their main form of income.
Then my vision disappeared like smoke in the wind. I’d drifted back into a cold spring. Then I became lost in the beautiful scene around me.
Why pottery? Why not? Though the Quarry Lake of my story is fictitious and it wasn’t formerly a quarry, just near one, it’s based on my years of visiting lakes. I spent the first several years of my life adjacent to Lake Champlain. We boated and swam. Sprinkled into that experience were the repeated visits to my grandparent’s camp, the lake that appears in my header photo. Throughout the rest of my life thus far, I’ve been swimming in cow ponds, Adirondack lakes, Lake George and various and sundry lakes throughout the Northeast.
Lakes can be creepy because of vegetation, creatures and insects. But the water is unsurpassed. It’s soft, it’s refreshing, it’s invigorating, it’s healing. Water is a powerful force but is gentle as well. For me it’s a balm that soothes my soul like no other tangible object. I’m free in the water.
So, why pottery? The monks in my abbey mine the clay near the old quarry. They use the lake water in molding the clay into beautiful vessels before glazing it with the rich brown glaze. They love the water as I do. In their creation of beautiful items, they are free.