We shut the door on the 20th firing of the Kawazu kiln here at Tye River. Perfect weather, gourmet food and hard work, good-humored crew. The morning after the firing I sat with the kiln, a bowl of tea, taking in the stillness as the memories and ghosts arrived.
I drifted back ten years, to the first firing on September 12, 2001. We gathered in the shadow of the aftermath of terror and dark sorrow. We found a quiet healing as we stoked, changed shifts and shared meals. The decade has seen changes to kiln and crew. The original team, predominantly middle-aged, held together for 7 to 8 years. They were a profound gift to me, becoming more family than crew.
This firing, only two of the original stokers were at the firebox and for one of them it would be her last. Her passion for drawing, writing and gardening along with neck pain, have convinced her to turn in her singed gloves. This time I can’t change her mind.
For 10 years we gathered every 6 months too fire the kiln for a week. While learning the kiln, we saw each other through relationships, births and loss and the challenges of parenting. Cones dropped, years passed.
The demographic of the crew now is mostly 20 to 30 something’s. The energy and focus is taut. They lean on the veterans for guidance and are eager to be of use, to find competency. Keeping tradition alive, they are excellent and generous cooks. A transition is taking place with respect and grace.
After salting the last chamber, tents come down, sleeping bags and gloves are packed and that mysterious bond, built over long days and nights of doing one’s best, holds us. We hesitate, unable to let go of what has held us together.
Soon it is just Linda, the apprentices and myself, stoking for a couple more hours. It is leisurely, effortless work. Someone spots a black snake muscling up the workshop wall, headed for the phoebe’s nest over the door. Linda grabs a rake and holds it deftly against the siding and the snake pours itself between the tines. She carries it far beyond the kiln and it ‘s gone. We let go.
Now I finish my tea and recall the first kiln I built here, long ago. I feel that same electricity I felt as a very young guy – dreaming of a kiln like this – a life like this; and still find it hard to believe, that in spite of myself – here it is. Here we go. Peace, Kevin