Lately the subjects of ritual, church and meaning have come up in several unrelated conversations drawing my focus inside to consider what is it that I am practicing and finding meaning in.

In speaking with a friend I remarked how I was going into the studio Monday after too long of a hiatus and that for me it is like going to church. Though a person of faith, I wasn’t surprised when he said kind of emphatically how he doesn’t go to church.  I was compelled to explain, then consider it more deeply on the ride to Ashfield, and at last to allow my thoughts to lead me as I sat at my pottery wheel.

“No, no,” I said. “That’s not what I meant”. I am not good at remembering what is said verbatim, but it was along the lines of feeling a sense of peace and focus, going home.  Similarly following our river raft trip down the Deerfield Saturday I found myself referring to it as having gone to church; at nature’s feet I worship and revel in her knotted arms and velvety embrace.

A long time ago in what seems to me to almost be another lifetime, I was Catholic. To me it meant men in robes, stand sit kneel, my father nodding off rhythmically in the pew, my feet antsy in anticipation of the next step in the dance. We were Sunday Catholics with religion classes at our house, confirmations and communions, and Christmas Mass.  There were curious rules, declarations and admonitions, nothing to be questioned and little explained. Then one day, the hippy church choir I sang in was told we weren’t religious enough. Our “Go Tell It On the Mountain” had rubbed the Monsignor the wrong way somehow and we were no longer welcome. I was appalled. Dismayed. Seriously? This mere man is going to dictate that the Lord doesn’t want to hear us? That moment drove a spire into the fissure that had already started in my belief in religion. Not long after in heated discussion with my parents over the merits of confession (to a man in a box is how I must speak to God? Ridiculous) I realized its place in my life was over.

IMG_20130819_113518Today I sighed into the clay, feeling the cool mass mold into my hands, my eyes closed and I remembered. Brought back to the rhythm of our dance, I strove to center and pull up the clay. Debussy in my ear quieted my thoughts, the birds outside the window joining in then drifting away. There is nothing but this moment of immersion, finding both the clay’s and my own center, where all else falls away.

Why is it I call it church then? Historically I would say these words without having really thought it through, but now I believe its meaning for me is similar to those immersed in faith. I am in similar pursuit of solace, respite, the place at the core without judgment, demand or expectation. There is no deity I seek there, only to be in what is, this moment.  Another friend asked if I am a Buddhist. I thought no, maybe yes, loosely I suppose. Catholicism led to me distrust any dogma and to follow my own path.

Life around me can be chaos, unpredictable and jarring at times. It just is what it is. I am blessed to have a chance to leave it even if just for a day. I will go to my church of blissful moments where I can close my eyes, feel the clay or smell the fragrant air, laugh uproariously or melt into a moment of connection with another.  As time passes they will become less rare, less singular and return me to that place where it is a foundation under my feet that I am firm upon instead of escaping to from the constantly undulating ground. In this moment I am grateful and that is enough.

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