The Old Woman Potter

Kim Mosley
Note: The AZC Zen Writing Group used our friend Silas's story for our prompt. Silas, living in Kenya, is the newest member of our group.


Today on my way from school, i met a strong old woman with donkey carrying many pots.i ask her where she was taking the pot and she replied that she was going to sell them in the market tomorow. i ask her again how she made the donkey to kneel down and puts on the pots because donkey sometimes turn wild to people.she replied that donkey needs training inorder to cary any load.

I also ask her how she made pot and it was very interesting to hear how the make the pots. The old woman told me that they walk far along river Nyalbari to dig and pick soil for making pots. reaching home with soil she remove any sticks or grass which can harm their hand. she ensure that the soil is fine.she puts the soil on any polythene and mix it with water to make ready for kneeding.

She wrap it with this polythene for sometimes or may be later for use.

She start making the pot with this soil.after completing kneeding the pot she left it for one or two weeks to dry up.

As they dry up, she looks dry grass which she wil use to cure it to make them strong.
After one to two weeks she will put grass inside this pots and lit fire.

She told me that they add grass gradualy untill inside the pot becomes red in this point she leaves them to cool hence she finish making the pot.

I finaly told her that i have agood friend of mine from america making and teaching how to make pots. She was very much hapy with me and told me to say hi to Linda.

She request me to visit him and see how she is making pots.


In my middle twenties I moved to Colorado and lived in a teepee on land that belonged to some friends. It was a beautiful place with different vistas to be seen by merely turning one way then another.

We tried to emulate the Indians by taking advantage of the native plants, hunting, fishing and storing food. I'll admit that I wasn't very good at these things but I tried and would encourage those around me that possessed these skills.

I tried once to hand work a piece of cowhide to make a vest for winter. It still had the hair on it when I started and still had the hair on it when I gave up and went looking for the cow so I could return it and apologize.

Over time I really came to respect how much effort went into merely surviving before electricity and mechanization gave us our comfort level of today.

I did learn some basic skills however, like observing nature, fire building and how to be resourceful with basic tools.

Sometimes we would help the old timers that were still left with their farm work and learn from them about tracking, weather shifts and the habits of elk, deer and cattle. Their stories would unknowingly show how how damned tough these people had been in their youth and how little it took to make a life.

Whenever the conversation turned to how I and my friends were living in teepees, school buses and drafty wood heated cabins their response, to a man, would be "Why would you want to do that?"

I guess we did it to find a part of ourselves that valued history over progress and knowledge over comfort.
—Robert Porter


I made pots from natural clay in a workshop at Esalen. We dug up the clay, just like Silas talked about in his post from Kenya. We set our clay to dry for future classes, however, and used clay earlier classes had dug. I spent most of my time making a small bowl with a bent-over edge. I wanted to do it as carefully as I could so I could use it as an incense burner on my altar. I smoothed the outside with an agate. We fired our pots in a pit (or it may have been a half-pit dug into a slope). We burnt oak down to coals, then put the pots on the coals, and covered it over with layers of cow patty. 
The bowl came out a rusty clay color mottled with black. I use it on my altar and burn incense in it every day.

After I made that slow, careful pot, I did several quickly and with abandon. One was a bowl I wrapped around a wave-smoothed rock. The rock and bowl stayed as one unit for a long time—in fact, the rock could not be removed—until I broke the pot by accident.
In another pot-making session we sat in the surf on loose pebbles. We were actually halfway in the water, with water coming up over our legs. I worked quickly to make the head of a god. He had snake-like hair with shells and twigs and seaweed in it. I pressed shells and ribbed kelp into the wet clay to leave their imprint, but I also put real seaweed and sticks in the hair. They would burn up when it was fired, but I thought maybe I could replace them later in the spaces that were left behind.
I was concerned that the head might fall apart when fired because I was patching together many small bits of clay as I worked and there was no way to smooth them together. I felt inspired, that flow of easy energy.

I loved the head but never got to see if it fell apart or what it looked like or to have it as an object. We were expected at my mother's in Texas, and the firing was delayed just long enough that my daughter and I had to leave for the airport without the objects from the last firing. As it was, I never drove as fast and recklessly as I did to the airport to the San Jose airport. When we got there we tossed our keys to the rental car people and ran through the airport. We just made it before they closed the door on the airplane.
In a way, it's best that I didn't see the completed head. It will remain in my mind as it was when it was being made—glistening clay, the seaweed and shell tangled in the tendrils of the hair, all of it coming out of my hands and the water boiling up into my lap—the god making itself. 
—Sarah Webb


When I was a kid in Oregon, I used to run a burro rink. Kids would come, usually with their parents, and they'd give me 25¢ to put them on a burro and let the burro trod around in a circle eight times. The littlest kids I'd strap on, and sometimes either I or a parent would walk around with the kid, especially if they started to cry. The best part of the job is that girls would come and talk with me. In those days this was a poor little town and there weren't any planned activities for kids. I earned $2 a day and managed to save most of it. It was a great job until the state of Oregon intervened and enforced rules about how old we'd have to be to work and what we should be paid.

We were told that burros were a mix of a donkey and a mule, or something like that. I see from Wikipedia that a burro is just a small donkey. In those days, it was difficult to validate all the things we were told. There was a small library in the town, and perhaps they had some old donated encyclopedia. But I never though of looking up all the stuff people would tell me to check out what they said.

For years I believed that water goes down a drain in one direction, and south of the equater it goes down in the opposite direction. I taught this to my students for over thirty years when they were rocking trays in the darkroom. “Notice how the water swirls in the tray. If you were south of the equader it would....” Lo and behold someone recently told me that was a stupid wife's tale. Like the origin of burros, the truth is not what one cowboy tells you.
—Kim Mosley

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