September 3, 2011

Waiting for the Mud to Settle.

My project, 25 Days, is going to take me to 15 cities across the U.S. this year. I am now in Denver, my third city. I will be doing yoga and riding my bike in each city. I will report to you on my adventures and misdemeanors here.

Yesterday was my first day in Denver. I was walking around downtown and I came across the Denver Art Museum. The Museum just happened to be showcasing ceramic artists from all over the world in a show called Marvelous Mud. As with most other things, I took it as a sign and went in. I might not have taken it as a sign if I hadn’t been a ceramic artist in a past life, but, then again, I might have. There is really no telling with signs.

The show and the museum were wonderful. I walked around most of the building and saw a lot of work I had never seen before and a lot of Western art (as in the Old West) which was just stunning. More than anything though, what left its mark on me was a quote by Lao Tzu, written on the wall under a black and white image of a ceramic vessel:


Do you have the patience to wait for the mud to settle? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?


When I finished reading it, I caught my breath. I could do nothing but stand and stare because I knew it had been written there for me. I have never been a patient person. Being a ceramic artist teaches you a form of patience, but in my life I have done many things which have been incredibly impetuous, and perhaps, even, reckless.

I leave a lot. Even when I am not leaving, I am fighting the urge to leave. My father was very good at this. Whenever he didn’t like the way things were going in a certain place or with a certain person, he would up and leave rather quickly without looking back. He died in this way. He decided to stop eating and drinking instead of waiting for the ravages of ALS to take him. He died the way he lived, and his last words to me were the exact same ones he had always used near the end of each of our yearly visits: I think we’ve done very well. At the time, it struck me as strange that he would use the same phrase, but, as he was dying, I let it slide by without note.

When I read Lao Tzu’s phrase written on that dark grey wall, I started to wonder if I would ever let the mud settle. I am tired of leaving, and as I look back on my life of perpetual motion, I feel hollow.

I am not going to stop the project, but I do have to wonder if in the guise of this project’s  “service to humanity”, I haven’t put a task in front of me which just might beat the urge to leave right out of me. I am kind of hoping that it does, but there is a part of me that knows that it won’t be that easy.

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