Saturday, May 13, 2006
The Pottery Shawl
Last week I received the most extraordinary gift from a friend whom I have never met. Derald had e-mailed me several days before, having read an old blog entry--or perhaps my profile--where I mention knitting. He let me know that he was also a knitter and that he had just tried a certain kind of stitch in a yarn in "my color" which he had 'attached'. So I emailed Derald back and said that his photo had not come through with the email. It was all quite cryptic and I just assumed I had missed the photograph. Several days ago I received a small soft parcel in the mail with a familiar name in the return address.
"Ah, ha!" I thought. So THIS is the attachment! I eagerly opened it and soon unfolded the most beautiful lacy mohair shawl in a teal green blend. Not only is it a great color on me but it is evocative of the same color as the green in the "Country Fare" pattern by Zanesville Pottery that we both collect.
In fact, that is how we met. A few years ago I was trolling the Internet for any information I could find on this pottery pattern made by Zanesville Pottery in Ohio, under the direction of John B. Taylor (from the 1940s-1960s--later Taylor would sell his pattern to Louisville Stoneware but it wasn't the same product or glazing). This pottery is dark brown glazed with a lovely complimentary turquoise green. It is a distinctive green (see my beginning blog on collecting this pattern at countryfare.blogspot.com--ironically, I started this blog a year ago this weekend!) and its pairing with the brown often results in distinctive glops of glazing. It was a prolific pattern and is now quite collectible. I have been a collector for years, inspired by the small mug and creamer in that pattern at my grandparents' farm--apparently their only pieces. In past years I have been one of eBay's greatest buyers but it all likely pales to Derald's extensive collection.
Derald and I connected in cyberspace because of our love of this pottery. When I Googled this pottery there was very little mention of it but Derald had created a site devoted to it, as well as Provincial "Oomph" and other ancestry, including "Red Wing" (all close "but no cigar"). Last year Derald announced he would be giving this site up and I wanted to try and carry the torch for fellow pottery lovers but I've been sidetracked by the pantry book and other things. Derald even put me in touch with a woman in Pennsylvania who wanted to sell her collection prior to a move--and Ann and I have become friends (we even drove down her way to pick up the pottery in person). Because I live in the east and Derald lives in the midwest, we have never met in person. We have never even spoken on the phone. But we share a bond and a hobby.
When I opened the scarf and tried it on, I was consumed with such a good feeling. I don't believe I have ever received such a special gift. As I also knit, and always for others, I have never received another's handiwork. In our knitting group at church we knit "prayer shawls" for those who are convalescing or who are grieving. The idea is that each stitch, each thread, is imbued with thoughts and good feelings and even love for someone we may not even know--a prayer, a blessing, a meditation. Knitting is like that: each stitch brings one in the moment, taking our thoughts to our hands, away from our brains and our worries. It is soothing and therapeutic, as much for the knitter as for the recipient.
Derald and I may never meet in person, although I hope so. But his gift to me will hopefully always be with me and when I wear it (which has been all week in this cool, wet spring we are having), I will think of the time and care he spent making it while reminded of the pottery which connected us in the first place.
I will forever be amazed by how two people--or hobbies or interests or research--can meet or connect without speaking or without leaving the comfort of one's home or laptop. The Internet and the great limitless void of cyberspace, while one can argue its evils, is a fantastic realm. Derald's scarf (so lovely that my very fashion-conscious daughter wanted to wear it that very day) is a reminder of the goodness in the world. It is a tangible token of the intangibility of an Internet friendship. It is as if I went to an intergalactic wishing machine--like the Robinson family discovered in LOST IN SPACE, my favorite television series of childhood--and thought about something wonderful, and there it was, transported from another world. I am touched and warmed by the gesture that someone would take the time to make something so beautiful and practical and symbolic at the same time. I am a fortunate person in many ways but I have never received such a gift: a shawl woven from thoughts of pottery and good wishes for a friend in a galaxy far, far away. Thank you, Derald. I hope we will meet one day, either in this world or the next.