THE DABBERSTONE - Part FiveOct 18, 2021
The next morning, she went to the potters earlier than usual, but the old man and his helper were gone, and the potter was not yet working in her shop. There was no sound to be heard from the house. Perhaps the old woman had gone to the spring.
Deelie sat down and began to work, but before she had finished even one piece, she got up and went and sat down with her back against the wall to be still. But she couldn't get quiet. She kept thinking of the potter and had some images of the path to the spring. Finally, she got up and went to look toward the clay pit on the other side of the house. Nobody there. She opened the door and called, “Grandmother?” No answer. So, she started off toward the spring. About halfway there, she met the potter, going with a stick. She had a bucket of water that she was putting down every step or two.
“Granddaughter, I'm glad to see you. I have been thinking of you, hoping you'd come. My knee is so much worse today. It was bothering me this morning, but I thought I could get water anyhow. Sometimes it hurts, but not enough to stop me. I walked to the spring and filled my bucket, but I took this stick. I sat down on the log to be still for a while, and when I got up, I could hardly walk. It's a good thing I took my stick, or I'd still be up there. Please carry the bucket down. “
So Deelie carried the bucket After that, the potter seemed almost back to normal, although she went with a limp. But sometimes Deelie had to do all the heavy work, like carry the water and dig the clay out of the pit. She did a lot of working the clay too, to get it ready to use. She went oftener to the potter’s spring for her quiet time and not so often to the river. She hadn't seen the little girl again.
But some days she did go to the river, and it wasn't till the third time she went there that the girl was there again. As Deelie approached the willows, she could see her figure picking her way across the stones on the muddy edge of the water. When they had greeted each other, she said [something missing]
They both sat on the mat of dry, spongy reed stems that had washed up at the foot of the willow bushes. Deelie said, “Listen to the water. I listen to the sound of the river and let the great quietness soak into me. “ The little girl said nothing, and they both sat in the trickling and the silence for a long time.
Finally, Deelie said, “There is peace in the silence. I found that the first time I came here. Now I know that that silence and that peace are there behind everything, even in the street of Split, but it is very hard to find the way to it there. This is the easiest place, even easier than the potter’s spring, even though the water is muddy. “
She stood up. “I’m going to the pottery. “ “Can I come too? “Yes. I asked Grandmother and she said you can, if I think it is a good idea. “ They walked over sometimes talking, sometimes in silence.
When they got there, the potter asked Deelie to get some clay ready. She took a bucket and went and got a big lump from the pit where it was soaking and brought it to a sturdy table where she slammed it down and picked it up over and over. She explained to Aluli that they had to do this to the clay before they made it into dishes. Then they brought it to the old potter, who took a lump and began to centre it on the wheel. She welcomed Aluli to her shop but told her Deelie could show her how to make a dish.
The little girl took the clay and started working with it and crushed it back into a formless lump several times, but in the end, came out with one she declared she wanted to keep. “Then put it on the shelf. It has to dry before we can bake it. And it has to be baked before it will not just turn to mud if it gets wet. “ It was plain it had been made by inexperienced hands, but, really, it was a surprisingly creditable job for a beginner. Aluli took a second lump while Deelie and the old potter worked quickly. Deelie seemed to have gotten just as quick as her teacher. Maybe the old woman had slowed just a trace. But sometimes Deelie stopped and drew with scratches, using one of a small group of tools of bone and wood she kept in a pottery cup beside her workspace.
Aluli was working on her second lump of clay but instead of a bowl, she began to model a figurine. She helped herself to one of Deelie’s tools to do the details on it. To be sure, it was rather crude by most standards but quite good for a first try by a child and noteworthy as the first piece of sculpture ever produced in the history of Split, though none of them was aware of that.
“If it were any bigger, “ the potter said, “you would have to make it hollow or it would probably crack. I will fire it, but I will let it dry a long time to make sure it is really dry. If you fire something that still has dampness in it, it usually breaks. Sometimes it explodes and breaks the pieces next to it. “ She didn’t say anything about the people of Split not buying such things, but, then, it was plainly not intended for sale. Aluli made a couple more bowls and Deelie showed her how to use the wheel.
Aluli looked at the sky and said, “I better go home now. Can I come again? They both looked at the old woman. “Yes, my child, you may. You have a good spirit. “ “Deelie calls you Grandmother, but I have a grandmother I call Grandmother. I will call you Grandmother potter. “ Then she said goodbye and left.
It wasn’t long after that that Deelie moved into the potter’s house to stay. She had reached the age at which those in Split who were to be apprenticed went to serve their masters for whatever term their parents have agreed on. The potter woman had a room like her own bedroom in which there were some things stored, and when Deelie had carried some to the pottery shop and put them under the worktable and put some others out in the shed and carried some others up the ladder to the loft, it turned out there was even a bed in that room already. She did some cleaning and scrubbing and washed the bedcovers as well.
Aluli came, not every day, but often. Deelie knew very well by now how to dig the clay, soak it, how to tell when it was ready to use and she did most of that work herself, while the old potter just sat at the table, making big bowls to mix in, medium bowls to eat out of, cups to drink from and pitchers and pots. Deelie was soon doing most of the cooking and all the water carrying. Sometimes Aluli came with her, sometimes she stayed. She could have used Deelie’s wheel while she was gone, but she preferred to make little figurines and bowls made in the shape of animals. Some of the things she said and asked were surprising for a young child. “Grandmother Potter, do you ever go sit by the river? “I haven’t done that for years. I don’t go to Split very often. “ “Well, you should go to the river, Grandmother Potter. You can find peace and the silence there, and the things I make come out better on days I go there first. “ “How did you learn that? “I went there when I wanted to get away from the fighting in Split, and when my mother was mean. I could feel it was good for me and then I found Deelie there one day and she told me about listening to the water and the quietness and now I go there all the time. “
“It is hard for me to walk that far now, Granddaughter. I have my spring of water up in the woods, you know, and I go there and sit on a log to be quiet. Sometimes I go out and sit against the wall of this shop. But you are right, if I do that first everything usually works better. You are wise. It took me many years to learn that. “
“Maybe I’m lucky. I went to the river one day and found something good there. I kept coming back and found Deelie and she told me some things and I tried them, and they work. Maybe other kids in Split could learn what I learned, too, but the right things don’t happen to them at the right time. “ “Is there anybody else you can think of in particular? “My little brother. But he is only really little. I’m going to teach him, though, soon. And there is a girl I see by the look in her eyes she is different from the other kids. “
After Aluli went home that day, the old Potter said, “Maybe it is finally time for Split to change. For centuries it has been like a sore that will not heal, but I have heard the teacher from beyond the mountains say that when change is to happen, wise people will be born in a place to help the change. Aluli is one and you are another, who has started from a young age, going in a new direction. “
Few children in Split grew up shy. They had to stand up for themselves or they couldn’t survive. So, they grew up suspicious, hostile, and combative. Deelie had gotten much quieter since she began going to the river to seek the silence. Her speech was no longer full of curses and insults, but she was still able to approach anyone boldly.
To be sure, children in Split had to watch what they said to adults, at least to their parents, but all the same, they were not easily intimidated. And now that Deelie was the potter’s apprentice, she was, more often than not, the person they had to deal with if they came to come to buy pots. That gave her some weight, leverage, or whatever you might call it, and she took to it easily and naturally, without the scorn and foul language Splitters were used to, but without backing down, either, so she came to the position of an adult at a young age, even for Split, where the age of majority was definitely younger than in many places in later times.
One day Aluli told her that her little brother had saved a piece of a dish their mother broke by throwing it at her father, because of Deelie’s design on it. He kept it with some special stones and things in a little drawstring bag and took it out to look at it once in a while. “He says it makes him feel happier to look at this. You should make those on more of your dishes. “ Deelie did that. She liked better to do it that way, and it didn’t take much extra time. The old potter didn’t say anything about it.