Sunday, July 4, 2010
When I spend time with this photo done by my friend Jeremy Winnick, the light which comes from the house due to the overexposure of the photograph reminds me of the light which comes from a kiln at its highest temperatures. The white, hot light which comes from a reduction kiln at 2,300 degrees can look just like this when you remove a brick and look into the kiln with a face shield much like the ones on space helmets.
When you pull that brick from the wall of the kiln which has been maintaining a mild explosion of fire for 12 hours from two gas blasts of flame which are more than 8 feet long and wrap around the barrel-vaulted kiln in a figure eight - that heat is white hot. And what you are looking for in the kiln is transformation - and nothing short of it. You are looking for the violence of the fire to wrap around the pots and among the pots and inside the pots licking the glaze and changing its chemical make-up and that of the clay - transforming them both into a completely new thing.
A potter knows that the very best glaze results come from a pot that has been in fire and not just heat. And he or she also knows that the best results come from the highest heat, raised very slowly so that the glaze on the outside of the clay (dipped in the glaze bucket the night before) and the clay of the pottery mug, are so fused together in the heat of the kiln that they become one thing. No longer is the coating of the glaze different from the clay pot. The two have become one new thing.
When I look at this photo, I am reminded that God is doing that to me.
That light may not be 2,300 degrees of fire but it is transforming me and making what I am on the outside - what people see- more integrated with who I am on the inside - what people see when they get to know me and what God sees completely. Blackwater Bluff - my home - is a place filled with the light of my friends, my dog, my meditation time, my vocation in the diocese and my contemplation of life. It is not hot, but it is intense. It is hard to become who one is being made into by the loving and strong hands of the Creator. But I am convinced that the courage, reflection and suffering that comes from life can contribute to our transformation into something far more beautiful, far more valuable and useful to others than we are now.
I live a life in which I am seeking truth. That truth is sometimes hard to hold - is sometimes white hot like the inside of a kiln. Sometimes I want nothing more than to just go with the flow - give up this transformation and just pop in and out of church and do what I want - be who I want. But I am sure, as I look at this photo of the stars moving across the sky, that I am part of something much bigger than me and that my transformation and my re-creation is part of THE transformation and THE recreation.
When I open a kiln after 24 hours of firing and 48 hours of cooling, I am stunned by the glittering, sparkling array of glazes and pots I see winking before me in the light. They have gone from being a mug and a goblet to being a work of art. And yet, all I did was thrust some clay into some emulsified glass and chemicals. The fire is what did it. Those fantastic colors of glass crystals- the blues and golds and ochres and mauves and tans in that glaze dripping here and pooling there and falling there - that is not me. It was helped by me and sort of set up by me as an artist - but the transformation came in that blinding heat of the kiln.
We live - and what we do contributes to our life - good and bad. But the real wonder is what God does with it all - that heat of God's spirit flowing through church and friendships and tragedies - that God-heat is what makes us the stunning works of art we all are becoming, if we allow the pain to transform us.