the dabberstone Oct 25, 2021

Deelie made different designs and some of these evolved into ones she repeated; some didn’t, but remained unique. Of course, they were all done by hand, so no two really came out the same. After several weeks Aluli reported that some of the other kids had collected shards bearing these designs and invented a game to play, but a couple of little kids ended up crying because they lost. Grandmother Potter said the teacher from beyond the mountains had told a story about a country, where the children played games in which they worked all together, and nobody lost. She didn’t know if it was true, if there really was such a place, but there might be.

So Deelie and Aluli began to think of what the rules of such a game would be. They talked of it as they worked. Grandmother put in a suggestion now and again. Aluli finished the figurine she was making and patted out a flat plaque of clay, made little designs on it, and cut it into pieces so each piece had one design, one for each game piece. She put those on the drying shelves and went on talking about the rules of the game. Grandmother Potter asked, “Do you think all the kids want to play that kind of a game? “ Aluli stopped to think. “I don’t know. The little ones will. More of the little ones. Most of the big ones will want a game where one wins, and the others lose. “

“Can the little ones understand these rules? “Maybe the rules should be simpler. Not so many rules. “They started again to plan the rules.

After her game pieces had dried and been fired, Aluli reported back that she had tried to teach some little kids the game they worked out, but a couple of weeks later she said they had made up their own rules and invented a game of their own. Two games, in fact, one with a winner, and one cooperative. And there were more of the little kids who wanted to play the cooperative one. There was a demand for more game pieces, which Aluli produced all herself. Aluli said she wished all the kids could grow up without having to be losers.

Grandmother Potter said to Deelie, “As I told you, the teacher from beyond the mountains said that sometimes when it is time to change to come, it would be as if there had been a group watching from the world of spirits and some would agree to be born into that place together to help bring the change. If this is what is happening, then you are perhaps the first, Deelie. Even for those who would lead the way it is easy to get lost. You are finding your way. So is Aluli. Now it is time to gather as many of your company as you can. Think about how to do that. He said that you might have a school where the little children would learn a better way. “

Deelie took this seriously. She thought about it, and sometimes discussed it with Grandmother Potter but it was Aluli who took the next step. She showed up one day with her little brother and a little girl, and said that she had already taken them to the river to practice being quiet.

Quiet they were. Perhaps it was partly shyness or feeling intimidated in a new place with strange people. Partly it was plainly that they had not learned a great many words yet. Aluli introduced them to Grandmother Potter and Deelie, but then she took them outside where they sat on the ground while Aluli showed them how to make little clay figures. While they were busy doing that, she came in and told Grandmother and Deelie that there were little kids in Split who could grow up a better way if there was a place where they could grow up without fighting going on around them all the time. There were mothers in Split who would be glad for someone to watch their children who were too little to do any work.

“There is your beginning, “said Grandmother. “I don’t know how we will manage all this because I really do need your help, but the children need it too. “

Aluli brought her brother and the little girl every day that she came, and she always began with quiet time, either down by the river or just sitting on the log outside after they got there. If any unhappiness arose, she either had them be quiet again or she had them slam clay down against the hard ground in the spot by the clay pit, in imitation of the way they had seen Deelie slamming it as she prepared it for use.

When Deelie took the bucket and walked up to the spring for water, the kids came too. They all sat down with Deelie on the sitting log to be quiet for a little while. “Grandmother always used to come here to be quiet before her legs got so bad. Once in a while she still does, but she has to go with her stick, and it takes her a long time. “

The next day Aluli had found a bucket of her own somewhere, a little one, and brought it. She took the two little kids and went to the spring and brought back her small bucket full of water. The little children each carried a few dead branches for the cooking fire. Probably that was Aluli’s idea.

Deelie spent some time most days teaching the children things about working with clay, and sometimes Grandmother told them all stories, stories of when she was a girl and stories she made up, and stories people had passed down for centuries. Deelie said, “Grandmother, I never knew you were such a good storyteller. “The old potter answered, “I did not know either. I didn’t even know I remembered all these stories. Perhaps there is something about having all of you here that has called them out. “
But Aluli had the children more of the time than anyone else, and it was remarkable how well she did with them. If she heard a bird sing, she stopped what they were doing and said, “Shh! Listen! “ If she saw a wild flower she would lead them to look at it. Pretty soon the little ones caught on and were doing that too. One day the little girl took Deelie by the hand and let her out a little past the clay pit and pointed, but Deelie didn’t see anything. The little girl got down on her knees and pointed at something so small that Deelie had to get down and put her face near the ground. A perfect little flower small enough to hide behind a well-filled grain of barley.

One Day Aluli came singing a song. They all stopped and stared. Nobody in Split sang songs or played music. She said she had gone to the camp of some travellers just outside the village to see what the sound was that she heard. They were beating on something that made a booming sound, and singing. “A drum, “said Grandmother. “They take something hollow, like a big pot, and stretch the skin of a goat or something like that on it and it makes the sound when you hit it. “Aluli wanted to make one, but she gave up after her attempt in clay had collapsed three times. She taught the other children the song, though. It was in a foreign language and none of them knew what the words meant, but it sounded beautiful.

The next day, after they had sung that song over a few times, Grandmother sang them one, hesitantly and stopping once to begin over again. “Grandmother! “ they said. “Where did you learn that? ““I wasn’t born in Split, “she said. “I remember my mother singing it when I was little. I had to think about it for a long time to remember it. There were some more, if I can remember them. “

Gradually, slowly, like a plant growing, an awareness of beauty became a greater and greater part of their days. They sang as they played or worked. Deelie was decorating more and more of her pots. She said, “I know the grownups in Split don’t care, but some of the kids do, and it is good for me to make them. “Aluli made up a song of her own and soon the other children would do it too. If one of them saw a beautiful flower, or even a particularly beautiful cloud, that one would often get at least one other to share it. Deelie got out her little piece of wood with beautiful grain and Aluli took the little kids looking for such pieces. Grandmother told wonderful stories.

Aluli brought two more small children, both girls. They were very thin, starved-looking, so they fed them. All the others wanted some too. Deelie and Grandmother shared their stored food, but Grandmother said, “If Aluli brings any more, we will have a hard time feeding them. No farmer in Split will give us any barley if we can’t pay and we only have a little money. “She was quiet for a while. Then she said, “The field between the path and woods is mine, on both sides of the house. My husband used to grow grain there but since he died, I have let the farmer who has the ground on the other side of the path use it for a share of the crop. But I don’t use much, so I haven’t taken a big share. He could give me more, but I don’t know if he will or if he’ll just quit planting the field. If we had a man... “

She did ask the farmer for more, and as she predicted; he made a great fuss. He did give them a little bit more, but he threatened not to plant it the next year and went off cursing and grumbling.

“I think we should ask for help, “Grandmother said, “If you sit down and go into the silence and ask, sometimes things happen. “They all went out and sat down with their backs against the wall of the pottery shop and closed their eyes. “If any of you feel after a while that you can’t sit anymore, just get up quietly and go on the other side of the house, so the rest of us can sit here until we are done. When I have gotten very still inside, I’m going to ask for someone to come and help, who knows how to grow things. “So, they all sat in silence for quite a while. The littlest boy fell asleep, but nobody got up and went away. When they did get up, nobody spoke for a while. Then Aluli asked, “Grandmother, when will he come? “ “Before next spring. “, she said. “But maybe we should ask again, every time we are quiet. ““Why? answered Aluli, “He is going to come. I can feel it, only I didn’t know when. Maybe we can say thank you and we will be glad to see you. ““You sound like the teacher from beyond the mountains. You are very wise. “said Grandmother.

“Who is the teacher from beyond the mountains? “ Aluli asked. “A wise man who has stopped here when he comes travelling through. He helps people learn about the silence, and about kindness and peace. Sometimes he has one of his students with him. ““What is a student? “Someone who is trying to learn. When you first came, I thought you were Deelie’s student, but now I’m not sure. Sometimes you are a teacher, too. “

She certainly was the recruiter, or whatever it should be called. She kept finding another young child to join their little school, and she led them all from the village to the potter’s house.

They didn’t have paper and pencils, or paint. Nobody in Split had such things. But Deelie showed them how to make thin slabs of clay and draw designs in the damp clay with a sharp stick. Aluli drew animals and birds. The other children watched and copied, and began to draw pictures of their own, some the crudest stick figures, some surprisingly good for beginners who were young children as well. But nobody was surprised because nobody there, not even Grandmother, knew what to expect. They had never seen people draw before. Once in a while, Grandmother let them put a few of their drawings in the kiln with a lot of pots.

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