I’m getting used to the Kind Stranger sneaking up on me and surprising me. Behind his smiling face is a playful sense of humour. Here I was getting on with my life, preparing breakfast in the kitchen. In he came, looking for me. KS is always welcome in our home.
“We’re going on a short trip today,” he said. “I’ve something to show you.”
By now I have learnt that he hears the deeper thoughts I have and responds to them without me needing to verbalising anything. I suspected this was another similar moment. It was.
But of course we didn’t need to get the car out and disappear down the road. No, the Kind Stranger invited me to sit quietly with him, rest my mind, and wait. A few minutes later, I knew we were on the move, and soon we arrived at a village square. You’ll probably have been there yourself. It had an array of houses gathered around a village green.
“We’re going just over there”, he pointed to an old building with a light burning inside. We wandered over, he lifted the latch and we stepped inside.
We were in a workshoppy room, with pots everywhere, in various stages of completion. This, I realised was the village potter’s house, and I was unnerved to find that the old potter, working away at her wheel in the corner was oblivious to us. I tried to talk to the old woman, but she didn’t hear me. It was as if I was invisible to her. I slowly realised that I was.
I turned to the Kind Stranger to ask what all this was about when he put his finger to his lips to quieten me. He smiled. “Just watch,” he whispered.
I moved over to a workbench, pulled myself up onto it so I could sit more comfortably, and watched as instructed.
The Kind Stranger came and stood by me, and put his hand on my arm. He often did this to reassure me and help me to relax. I felt myself take in deep breath and exhale slowly, feeling my shoulders drop and my breathing slow.
The Potter got up, moved past us, and unseeing, made her way to a bin of clay. Lifting the lid, she removed a lump of pure soft clay. Cutting a small amount from the lump the potter took it over to her wheel and began to carefully press it, mould it, and shape it. She took such care, and I was intrigued to watch her skills in action. Several times she stopped the wheel, and looked contemplatively at her amazing creation. It was absolutely beautiful. She had used her lifetime of skill to form a fine elegant pot that would undoubtedly be very valuable when it was finished.
Turning it slowly, she looked at each facet, checking it on the inside, on the outside, and smiled – a bit like the Kind Stranger did. Then, all of a sudden, she stopped. She had noticed a tiny flaw, a little impurity in the clay, hidden imperceptibly on the inside of the vessel. I expected her to pass over it, or take some spare clay and fix it somehow, but she didn’t. No, she gently put her hands around it and with the wheel spinning, crushed the entire pot back into a single lump of clay, and she began to make it again, a different vessel.
It hurt me to watch. I felt sad that such a nice pot would never be used by anyone or admired. Even though it was flawed it was still beautiful, still useful, still worth something. The mark was on the inside, not really visible, what was the big deal? But I could see that to the potter it mattered. This was about her making the very most of the clay.
Something was happening inside me as I realised that the potter was not going to settle for second best. Of course, she knew that, in her hands, there was no need for any concern at all. She knew just what to do. This was clay of the highest quality and my guess is that she had paid a high price for that raw material. She had no desire to leave the clay flawed by an impurity and had no intention of moving on until that vessel was…
Exactly. The Kind Stranger looked over at me and winked. We made our way out of the potter’s workshop, and soon we were back in my kitchen. I knew what this was about, and he knew I knew. It was about me, the value of my ‘clay’ and what I really needed right now. If I would allow myself to be …
I caught his eye. He smiled approvingly. Great. He had heard my unspoken decision.