THE DABBERSTONE - Part Three

the dabberstone Oct 05, 2021

"You can call me Grandmother if you want. “ 

They worked for a while in silence. Then Deelie asked, "Grandmother, why do you live over here by yourself and not in town?" The old woman said, "Firstly, because there's good clay here. I can just dig it out of the ground and don't have to carry it for two miles. “  

Deelie said, "I like it here. It is quiet and it is peaceful. “ 

The potter worked on for a while and then said, "That is the other reason. It wears me out to work among curses and anger and arguments. “ Deelie said, "When the weather is good enough, I go down to the edge of the river. It is peaceful there, but now it is too wet and cold. “ 

"Well, Granddaughter, if that's the way it is, you can come here as often as you like. “ 

The next time Deelie visited the potter, the old woman spent a while rummaging among some things in a corner and brought out another potter's wheel, like the one she was using. It looked very dingy, and it did not turn easily at first, till the old woman worked on it for a while. Then she put it out for Deelie and showed her how to start a bowl on it. She had to squeeze it back into a lump several times. But finally, she had one that was fit to use, if still not perfect. 

The old woman said, “I think we can fire that. “She put it on a shelf to dry. 

So Deelie slowly turned into the old potter's apprentice. One end of the potter's kiln stuck into the workshop a little way, and it kept them warm most of the time because when it was done firing pots it stayed warm for a long time. She was still a little young to leave home to be an apprentice. She still had to help her mother. But she got to the potter's half the days, maybe more. It was a place of peace, but she didn't sit there just being quiet and soaking up the silence, partly because she was afraid the potter would think she was too strange. 

One time her mother yelled at her, and she ran halfway to the potter's house before she slowed down. When she got there, she wanted to try being quiet before she started to work. She went to the end of the pottery kiln that stuck out in the open air. The kiln was warm, but not too hot to touch, so she sat down, and leaned her back against it. She gazed out over the stubble field for a while, then closed her eyes and washed the ragged scraps of anger out with silence. She had been there in silence for a little while when she was startled by the voice of the potter, “You look as if you are filled with peace. “ 

Since she had said that Deelie felt she had to say something. She explained that her mother had yelled mean things to her, and she wanted to clean those things out before she started making a pot in case the bad feelings would show in her work. The potter stopped and looked a long look at her. “You are very wise for one so young. “ 

They made dishes for a while and then the potter asked her to come along, and she'd show her where she got her water. She took her up a path into the woods, to a place where a spring came right out of the rocks. The first place it went was into a pool that had been dug out and lined with stones. And the overflow ran off downhill in a little brook. The potter paused in silence for several seconds. “This is where I come when I want to be quiet. I sit on that log there. “They filled up their water jars and started back. When they got back, as they were passing the wood pile she said, “If something has made me very angry, sometimes I chop some wood before I go to be quiet. “ 

The old woman did not give her a course all in words about how to do each step, but now and again she gave her suggestions on how to make dishes better and easier. And sometimes she said something like, “Granddaughter, come and help me get some more clay ready to use. “She learned things from watching, and from the old woman's comments as she worked. “We have to keep it wet for quite a while. The worse it smells, the better it works. “She learned how to dig it from the pit, to soak it, work it, how to know when it was dry enough to put in the kiln. To build a small fire to dry it out thoroughly before getting it hot, how to know when it was hot enough. 

In the spring there were days warm enough to be quiet down by the river, but the snow was melting in the mountains, and it was roaring down over all the rocks in the riverbed, right up to the bank behind the houses, washing away the trash and the filth. The willows were not even an island but standing in rushing water. In this season Deelie often went to the potter’s spring for her quiet time. 

The old potter just made plain and useful dishes for ordinary use. They had no decoration on them at all, and she made plenty of them because, for one thing, pottery dishes don’t last long in stone houses with stone floors. For another thing, the people of Split often threw them when they got angry. But Deelie was longing for something beautiful, or to make something beautiful. 

One day she took home a lump of clay, pressed it out more or less flat, and scratched into it swirly designs using swirls in the grain of her little piece of wood for a guide. When it was dry, she carried it back carefully to the potter’s workshop and asked if she could fire it with the pots. The potter was doubtful. It would take space and she could see no use to it. Deelie put it on a shelf, intending to carry it home again, but she forgot it when she went, and when she came back it was gone. She asked, “Grandmother, what happened to my flat piece?” 

“Oh, when I was loading the kiln, I decided there was room for it after all. “ 

When her swirly plaque was done, Deelie took it home and put it in her corner with some of her other special things arranged in a pattern, her piece of wood she’d gotten the idea for the swirls from, a few stones, and a crystal she’d found near the potter’s spring. She also made a little sort of bottle or pitcher in which she used to put a flower – just a wild weed flower from the riverbank or from the path to the potter’s spring. She had never seen a flower in a vase. She was probably the only person in Split who picked flowers and brought them in because they were beautiful. One day she decorated a pitcher with lines scratched into the damp clay, in patterns that reminded her of the swirly lines in the grain of her piece of wood. The old potter said, “Granddaughter there are places in the world where they will pay enough extra for such a dish to be worth the time and work, but not in Split. The reason I make a living here is that the people throw the dishes and break them, so they’re always buying new ones. You may make them if you like, but if you will take my advice, it is a waste of time. “ 

As the river shrank back into its narrow channel against the cliffs, Deelie sometimes returned to her spot by the willows, but she sometimes went to the potter’s spring too. She spent time in silence almost every day, sometimes more than once a day, and no more time than she could help among the rancorous people of Split. It is true she felt lonely, but people who curse you and call you insulting names aren’t good company to start with. You feel lonely among them no matter what, so she was used to that. It had been that way all her life. No doubt everyone else in Split was lonely as well. They didn’t know there was any other way to be. 

One day as she was sitting by the river with her back against a willow, she thought she heard something that was not the trickling of the water. She had not been thoroughly wrapped in the silence but sort of halfway, listening to the sound of the river, and now and again of bird wings. Again, some small sounds that did not fit with the almost musical ones of the river. She turned her head to the left and there was a little girl, staring at her with a solemn face.

 Deelie smiled, but the little girl didn’t smile back. She just came and sat down at her left side. Deelie turned back toward the river. After a little, she said very quietly, “Listen to the water. “

 After they had sat in silence, listening to the water longer than most little girls could be expected to sit still, they both got up and went stepping from stone to stone along the riverbank. “Why did you come here?” the little girl asked. Deelie stopped and turned toward the river. She was quiet for a little then she said, “To sit in the silence. To listen to the river and to feel the silence. To find peace. Why did you come?”

 The little girl said, “To get away from the noise, from the angriness. The river sounds happy, as if it is glad to be running down over its stones. People are always mad. They are always hitting with their words when they aren’t hitting with their hands. I am tired of being hit. Where do you live?”

 Deelie said, “You know the passage that goes through the houses to the riverbank almost at the downhill end of the village? My mother and father live in the second house uphill from that. Now I go to the potter woman’s house over there. “ She pointed, “Sometimes I stay over there. I help her and I’m learning to be a potter. “

 “Will you show me?” the little girl asked.

“I will ask her if I can bring you. If not, I will bring some clay and show you right here. But I’d better go now. I will see if there’s more my mother wants and then I’ll go to the potter’s. “

 The little girl asked, “Will you come here tomorrow?”

 “I don’t know about tomorrow. Probably not. But the next day I am pretty sure I will. “