Tomorrow’s my last day in the sun, and I head back to snow country on Monday, all by myself. Much as Dannon and others predicted, I’m finding that a few days far from home/studio/school/winter has given me some clarity. I suspect I will land with a clear resolve and a plan of action focused by some thinking time.

I had no idea how stressed I had been until I got here and started to unclench!

I read Tony’s cautious clayart posts, the last week or two, and wondered whether winter doesn’t have some kind of universal dampening effect on our courage, impulsiveness and optimism. I guess for too many years, hard seasons and ice ages meant worry, about freezing to death, running out of food and fuel, and that wolf at the door.

I’ve traveled in cold countries and warm, and while both have their charms, there is no comparing the laid back lifestyle in, say, Hawaii, to the serious goal-focus of, say, Munich. My Southern pal Patrick just shakes his head about the bleak perspectives, negativity and general joylessness of we Northerners. (my translation, not his words.)

The timing of this Christmas-gift-trip seemed bad, in the middle of my last semester at EMU, but I am not exactly lounging in a hammock… the first few days, I built a scale model of the Ford gallery out of gator board, complete with pedestals and a 5’3″ cardboard cut out woman. (She helps me figure out where eye level would be, and get a sense of how people can move around the space.) I spent a couple hours every morning making mini versions of my pots and “installing” them in different ways. It’s a blast… a cross between a dollhouse and a blueprint, more 3D and “real” in my mind than sketches. I’m putting a photo on my blog.

The kids get to the beach once a day, and while I always plan (in my logical adult manner) to supervise from the beach while I do my homework, I always end up in the Gulf with them. One day the surf was so high that we rode the waves for hours, body-surfing — a glorious ride, which ends by being ground into the sand face first, churned head over heels, coming up spluttering salt water with seashell grit in your bathing suit and sand in your teeth.

Why is this fun? It’s the warm weather, I am sure of it. My kids, who whine about navigating the icy driveway at home to get the mail, spent the better part of an afternoon flinging themselves into a sea that flung them headlong back onto the beach, again and again. A kid who would normally go into dramatic agonies worthy of the NBA over a gentle poke from a sibling, can now walk out of the salty froth, blowing water out of both nostrils, scraped red from neck to belly by shells, and say, “Let’s go! Here comes another big wave!”

It’s been a good week, recharging whichever spirit-batteries wear low in the black, white and sepia of Ohio and Michigan winter. There are real strawberries, here, tomatoes that smell like tomatoes, roses and lemon blossoms in the yard, and little lizards that dart across my path. My own mom is here to both mother me, and spoil my children, leaving me time (once they’re done schooling) to go off on my own. I can step out the door without parka, hat, boots, gloves and bracing myself against the cold. I will go home and look for seed catalogs in the mail, believing that spring WILL actually come again.

I must admit, though, to vacationing “Averill style” (that’s my workaholic family of origin.) I put in a dozen miles on bike, treadmill and kayak, and worked on my art critic presentation for Dr. Rubenfeld’s seminar, but mostly Jeff and I rebuilt most of my father’s big boat dock, replacing splintered old planks with recycled composite ones. My throwing hands have softened but now I have calluses from hammer and crowbar. One day my mom took me to a salon (!) for a haircut, and as soon as I got back, Jeff and Dad sent me down under the dock to stand knee deep in black muck and crabs, to shore up a barnacle-crusted piling with an asphalt wrap and a bag of cement. I was the most glamorous dame in the swamp, that day.

Tomorrow we’ll do another chunk of the decking, before our traditional Sunday fish fry, then I’ll pack my bags. By Monday afternoon, I’ll be back in Detroit — without my hubby or my newly-freckled kids, who have another week of vacation. I have gotten word that 300 pounds of propane have been delivered to the salt kiln while I was gone, so my plan (barring high snow drifts or sleet) is to glaze my pots Monday night and fill the salt kiln, fire it off before I have to go home to teach my Toledo guild class (and grab a shower!) Wednesday — then get back and fire the wood kiln with Patrick, before I have to pick up my family at the airport Friday afternoon. If all goes well, I should have some nice pots by the weekend. I’ll try to blog but I don’t think I have wireless out by the kilns.


Kelly from Ohio, in Englewood, Florida… on my dad’s computer, in a room where my two lanky boys are asleep on a fold-out couch, and a great horned owl is ho-hoo-hooting from an avocado tree outside the window. Already planning for next week’s firings.. here comes another big wave!