I had kind of a meltdown in the van last night, coming home late. I thought I was handling this all pretty well, finals week, teaching, schedule craziness, and oh yeah — the pressure to come up with a stellar show in the next month that will justify to family, friends and profs the madness and expense of these last two years.

(No pressure.)

So after I unloaded some cedar splits at the kiln site I drove home in a funk, called Jeff and ended up in tears about — I’m not sure what, exactly. Everything.

I want to be done so badly I can taste it. At the same time, the short period of this degree that is left drives home a new realization: whatever hasn’t happened by now is not likely to happen. Too late, I’m kicking myself for not taking another sculpture class — a place to explore “outside the box” of functional ceramics or printmaking. I’m counting on the calendar and have to be realistic about just how many more times I can fire this kiln or that.

I have a list in my head of things I meant to master, wanted to learn, hoped to try before I was done… not likely, now. Never mind that I’ve come a long way with my skills of throwing, design, clay/glaze, firing, etc — all I can see is what hasn’t happened, yet, and won’t happen before June. Profs I should have used better as a resource, a library I barely tapped, gallery openings and field trips I missed because I lived too damn far away, or folks forgot to tell me they were happening.

And I am a little freaked out, as well, that my staked out “territory” in the EMU studio will soon be emptied out. I sat at the wheel the other night looking at a hanging plant I bought before school started, two years ago, to hang in my space. I guess I was thinking “ambiance” and “air quality” for the hot, windowless room… now it’s barely surviving, dusty and dangling under flourescents between waterings. What did I think this was, a coffee shop? I look at my postcards and images, things I pinned up over my wheel, my little drawing board and coffee maker. Mentally I am already boxing things up to take home. wondering where that plant can hang in its next, luckier life in Toledo.

I can’t even think about the fact that Patrick, who has felt like a brother-in-clay these two years, has his show the second week in May and is headed home to Tennessee… see ya, bye. How the hell can people just leave? How am I supposed to get my shinos to flash and carbon trap right, without Patrick to help me fire them? Who will I confide in over Woodchucks and Chuck-Berrys at the Side Track? Damn, I’ll miss the Side Track.

JoAnne and her sculptures, Nancy, Jay, Jonathan and the other grad students are “gradual students” — school teachers with day jobs, going to school a bit at a time over several years. Patrick and I had the short runway, the two intense years of all we could stand, and we’re done.

Last year I spent a lot of time laughing with my profs, and this year I spent a lot of time arguing with them. I don’t know whether that all evens out, whether they are pleased with my progress, or ready for me to leave, or indifferent and on to the next thing. It occurs to me that this cycle of people appearing and disappearing only feels odd to me, not to the profs who have seen a decade of students cycling through.

One of my final exam grades in Dr. Rubenfeld’s seminar class is for a project that’s in the kiln right now, hopefully firing without incident, to be glazed and refired and cooled in time to turn in on Thursday. It’s based on a Lana Wilson piece, since I did my presentation on her work for the class. It’s a stamp-crusted altar (miles from my focus these last two years) and lousy with symbolism. ;0)

Finals next week coincide with five days of my boys’ Ohio Achievement Testing, also out of town (they are enrolled in an on line school and required to take them) — so that should be a real merry go round. I filed for an extension on my taxes, since an extension on my finals and MFA show didn’t seem likely.

Anyway, I got up this morning and the sun was shining, so I decided I needed some good old “work therapy”. I started with pruners at the edges of my yard, cutting and pulling out wild grape vine and rolling it into bundles twice my size to haul to the curb for the chipper truck. I pulled out old flower beds, cut out volunteer mulberry trees along the fenceline, pulled up my posts for the old raspberry beds, moved cold weather seedlings to the hoop house, cleaned up the bee yard and planted clematis there, pruned the plum tree, cleaned out the henhouse, started a new compost bin next to the old ones, put up some fence, sorted tomato cages, stacked firewood, took apart my raku kiln to clean up, stacked brick, set up my studio rain barrel for the summer, hauled tubs of wet scrap clay , made a slab lid for a big casserole and fired the bisque kiln.

The kids had heard me on the phone with a tree service talking about getting estimates on removing some problem trees, so they took their homeschool books and sat in a “threatened” mulberry, declaring that like Julia Butterfly Whoever, they were going to live in the tree and save it from danger. Unlike Julia, their plan didn’t last an entire year. They barely made it to lunchtime.

So now I am scratched, splinter-stabbed, sunburned and bone tired, but not so soul-weary as yesterday. I soaked in a hot bathtub with three inspiring books that are now bristling with bookmarks, scribbled with my ideas for the studio tomorrow. I have taken to writing my “priority” plans on my bathroom mirror in red dry-erase marker, because once I get to the studio, other responsibilities fade in my mind and don’t get done. (We got a call from the electric company last week threatening to disconnect our power. If I had written “PAY BILLS” on the mirror, see, we would have been fine.

I’ll keep plugging. Once school is done, my studio stuff boxed, my peers scattered, my grades issued, all that remains will be the pots — so that’s where my energy is going. Whether this whole thing was a good idea, I’m still too close to see. My dad isn’t sure why I need a graduate degree in ceramics (he’s still not over the one I got in Folklore). My mom is supportive but would probably be more impressed if my husband had matched socks in his drawer, my house was clean and my kids didn’t have to forage for meals. But Jeff says this was a good idea. He says even if nothing more ever comes of this degree, it was hard, and I did it, and the kids watched me do it, and I should be proud.

Whick feels kind of like congrats on the new baby, when I haven’t gotten though labor yet.. but I need a positive voice right now. Patrick is as weary as I am, and the profs have dim hopes of the job market for MFAs. I’ll take sunshine wherever I can get it. And after my “day off” today, I’m ready to get back to work in the studio tomorrow.

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