Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Life Imitates Art Which Then Takes an Unexpected Tangent

          One of the great things about being on the other end of the leash from a Very Good Dog (pictured above) is the freedom it gives you to pay attention to things other than said dog. He's not going to get himself into any trouble, wrap himself around a fence post, or get tangled in his lead (it's one of his ninja skills: he can untangle himself without any assistance at all from the species with opposable thumbs).

          On our walk the other morning, Pooka was tracking ghost rabbits and I was gazing off into the middle distance, enjoying the way the pastures are greening up near my parents' place and wondering how much actual use I'd get out of a camera lucida were I to acquire one when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the largest puffball mushroom I've ever seen in my entire life.

          Well, you don't just pass by the largest puffball mushroom you've ever seen in your entire life without walking over to examine and possibly poke at it a little*.

          So I spoke a word to the Very Good Dog and he obligingly climbed through the fence with me and then we walked over to investigate this bizarrely large and out-of-place puffball.

I neglected to put my pocket knife beside it for scale, but this guy is around 8" in diameter.

          When I got close enough to see it in detail, the first thing I noticed was the lovely cracked pattern. Because my dad is a potter rather than a mycologist, my first thought was not wait a minute—puffballs usually have smooth skin, but rather, goodness, that looks like a crawling Shino-style glaze.

One of Dad's plates. The glaze has cracked and crawled in firing.

          My next thought was what is a glazed vessel—because it was clear now that I wasn't dealing with a member of the plant kingdom at all—doing out in the middle of a horse pasture? My father is not above taking the idea to salt some random pasturage with shino-glazed ware, simply for his personal amusement. I had long ago learned to accept his artistic caprices as having an underlying, if sometimes vanishingly subtle, reason, and certainly pottery in a pasture is not the strangest thing I've ever seen him do, but I kept hanging up on the vessel itself. The shape wasn't quite right. The glaze color, although interesting, was not something he'd normally use. The workmanship wasn't up to his usual standard.

          I picked it up so I could look at the signature on the bottom, and realized, once again, that my internal world does a very tidy job of embroidering and enhancing actual life. The vessel I thought was part of some complex, inscrutable ceramic art installation was far too light to be made of clay. It rattled as though it contained seeds. It was, in fact, a gourd.

          I spoke another word to the Very Good Dog, and we continued on our way, Pooka trailing ghost rabbits, and I reflecting that a pottery installation in a pasture would actually be pretty cool.

          I'm sure I could talk Dad into it.

*At least I don't. You may may have seen such prodigies of ginormous mushrooms as to be jaded enough that the sight of yet another just makes you sigh and wish life would cease oppressing you with overgrown fungus, I don't know. But I had to go have a closer look.

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