Friday, July 2, 2010

Seed Pots and Crackpots

The aged white haired woman precariously poked at an expensive piece of pottery which, because of her assault, moved about the counter like a Weeble wobbling and about to fall down. The old girl, who was dressed in an off-white muumuu printed with purple flowers snidely asked, "What is this anyway?" I hurriedly walked up to the 80-something-year-old woman and unsteady pot, put my hands on either side of it (the pot, not the woman) and steadied its perilous position. "That," I said, "is a $375.00 ceramic seed bowl; very fragile!" "Seriously?" she asked, unintentionally raising her eyebrows in shocked surprise. She quickly shifted her black handbag to the left and involuntarily placed cold hands over mine in a belated attempt to stabilize the bowl. "I thought it was wood!" she said crinkling her nose and creasing the skin at the corners of her big brown eyes. The shock on her face and in her eyes, which peeked out from under horned-rim glasses, was genuine. The comment reminded me of my 14 year old daughter McKale. "Seriously!" I returned, cracking a smile at the incongruity of her attitudes. "Oh dear!"she said, "I am terribly sorry, I didn't know." "That might have proved costly," I laughingly said, and the uneasiness we both felt quickly dissipated.

Nancy Chilly Vase from Twin Rocks.

Just then a smallish elderly man dressed in wrinkled khaki shorts and faded red Polo shirt (untucked), walked in through the Kokopelli doors. He spied the woman and pointed his loafer clad feet in our direction. "You!" she said, rather loudly, turning faster than I thought possible and stabbing a finger at the old codger. His white legs and knobby knees stalled and the poor fellow froze in mid-stride. The man's nearly bald crown and crystalline blue eyes seemed to lean in and turn slightly to the side, as if anticipating a head-on collision. "You nearly cost me $375.00!" spouted the now intensely hostile little old lady. With menace emanating from her voice, she continued, "You and your mean nature caused me to take my anger out on someone, something else!" I saw the man's face register the remark. His unshaven cheeks paled and he breathed deeply, as if trying to regain his composure. He fought with his inner beast for a moment, then turned on his heels and exited the building without saying a word. The feisty female hurled a nasty remark at her companion, turned back to me and exposed a toothy smile as wide as the Grand Canyon. I stared at the woman openly, marveling at the way she had morphed from a sweet, lovely creature into a maniacal monster in a fraction of a second and returned to serenity just as quickly. My uneasiness returned. The lady ignored the concern most assuredly splashed across my face and calmly asked, "Now why is that pot so pricey?"

Glancing across the room in the direction of the fire extinguisher, I calculated the time it would take to get there, take aim and deploy the chemical suppressant. "Not enough time before she popped her top again," I thought, "best to pacify her and stay out of reach behind the counter." "It's handmade," I stammered. Stopping momentarily, I took a breath, shook my head in annoyed frustration and began again. I told the disturbed woman how Navajo artist Nancy Chilly had dug clay from the good earth, dried it, powdered it and sifted it for impurities. I explained how she had rolled coils of re-hydrated clay and layered and formed them into this particular shape. I detailed how Nancy had created a slip, beautifully burnished the pot to a high shine, decorated it with Holy People to empower the container with protective powers and fired the pottery the old way; with manure and charcoal. I pointed out that the last stage of the creative process was adding a glaze of pinion pitch to make the pottery glow like the warmth of a winter fire. I emphasized the terms "glow" and "warmth" in an attempt to sooth the woman's nerves. I told the volatile old girl that there were hours and hours of time invested in the pot, thus the price. "It's too cheap!" she exploded angrily, "are you taking advantage of these people?" Admittedly, I jumped perceptively at the unkind inquiry. "No Ma'am, I said, "as a matter of policy I try not to." I found myself looking woefully in the direction of Steve's office. I could hear him laughing on the telephone and knew I could expect no help from that quarter. Priscilla was upstairs packing a rug for shipment. I could also hear Tina tapping away at her computer upstairs and Lalana playing with Monique, her doll. I was on my own.

I jumped again as the crazy lady rudely interrupted my thoughts of escape with another abrupt question. "Why would someone store seeds in a silly pot?" she asked rather brusquely. "To survive!" I said, looking at the overly aggressive grandmother and wondering what might be stashed in that large handbag. "Explain!" she demanded. "Well, for the same reason the Norwegians built the Svalbard Global Seed Vault." "I love Norwegians!" she said calming perceptively, "but I have never heard of a seed vault." "Oh sure," I said, "The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seed bank located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, near the town of Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago. The cold storage facility preserves a wide variety of plant seeds from all over the world, in an underground cavern. They are duplicate samples; spare copies of seeds held in gene banks worldwide. The seed vault provides insurance against the loss of seeds in other gene banks. It is also a refuge for seeds in case of large scale regional or global crises. Early people of the American Southwest had a similar plan; they stored seeds in pots like this, for the same reason; to survive, just in case." "Humph!" Grandma Grump sounded off.

We both jumped as the door opened just wide enough for the little old man to poke his head inside. He focused on the woman standing across the counter from me, and said in a loud, forceful voice, "Come on old woman, it's time to go!" He then stepped back and let the door drop shut. As she looked after him, the woman's eyes narrowed into slits, and a low rumble emanated from her chest. "If I don't kill that man before the day is done . . .", she said mostly to herself. I shook my head in wonder as the troubled woman turned toward the door. Although I shouldn't have, I couldn't help myself, "Second husband?" I asked. "Fourth!" she shot back as she trundled toward the door, "But I don't plan to keep him long!" Mrs. Jekyll grabbed the door handle, then paused. "It'll never happen." she said. "What will never happen?" I asked. "A large scale global catastrophe," she said as she exited the building. I hurried after her and barred the door with the big wooden bolt we use at the end of the day. "It will if the guardians are as volatile and out of control as you!" I said out loud. "What guardians?" Steve asked standing in the doorway of his office. "And why are you barring the door, it's only five o'clock?" "I am done!" I retorted, "If you want to stay and deal with the crackpots, you go right ahead." I walked out the back door with Steve looking after me wondering, I am sure, which pot was most cracked.

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

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