Earthenware – Balancing Intimacy and Boundaries

“She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head and whispered to her neighbor: ‘Winter is dead’.”

A. A. Milne


This is the time of year when we tend to focus some of our attention on the earth around our

homes and along the roadsides as we pass. We’re looking for pussy willows and crocus and

other signs of the rebirth of the Earth that tell us with more certainty than the calendar that

spring is truly here.


“Gardening is not a rational act.   What matters is the immersion of the hands in the earth, that ancient

ceremony of which… kissing the tarmac is merely a pallid vestigial remnant.” – Margaret Attwood

For eons Human Beings have been looking to the earth for spring to allow us to access to it in

order to meet our many needs. Many of our needs have been met through the particular kind of

earth called clay.


Of the many kinds of clay, Earthenware is the most commonly used.  Earthenware, or common

clay, contains many minerals, such as iron oxide (rust), and in its raw state may contain some

sand or small bits of rock. Earthenware is a secondary clay that has been transported by

moving water some distance, picking up minerals and other materials before settling in a river

bed. Because of its many impurities, earthenware melts at a cooler temperature than other

clays, and is thus called a low-fire clay. After firing, it appears white, gray or terra cotta.

Earthenware is commonly used in the making of flower pots, oven steamers, roofing tiles, and

other low-fire ware. Unless it’s glazed it’s still porous. So, for It to be useful as a pitcher or a

vase, a mug or a bowl, it must be glazed.


We Human Beings are also said to be clay vessels. Like clay, we can be molded and shaped.

And so we are – by our parents, our upbringing, and like the earthenware picking up minerals

and such, we are affected by our life experiences. We have little choice in the manner in which

we are formed in childhood.


“You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand” Isaiah



In childhood we are not only malleable, but like the low-fired clay, we are porous – permeable.

We freely give out love and truth and acceptance, and we take in everything around us. Most of

us then glaze over in bits and pieces as we’re exposed to life’s harsh moments. Then we reach

a stage in life that we become aware that being permeable can be problematic. That’s when we

have to make choices.

Glazing over earthenware is a good choice if we’ve made a teapot that we obviously don’t want

to leak. If we chose to glaze ourselves over with a thick glossy coat though, we have made a

decision that will isolate us from others…that does not allow for the free sharing of our love and

truth, or the receiving of these gifts from others.

The heavy glaze serves as an impenetrable boundary that can protect us from the vulnerability

of childhood – and it’s true that we do need boundaries. And yet this glaze will also leave us

with the unexamined bits and pieces that we’ve picked up along the way. Those bits and the

unresolved ways in which we’ve been molded will then be sealed in.


“Bessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.” – Albert Camus


It’s a dilemma. And, as is often true with dilemmas, it calls for compromise, and compromise

requires thought, patience, and dialogue. In this case, the dialogue has to be with oneself. We

have to give voice to both sides – the part that wants to be totally safe, and the part that wants

intimacy. If we’re willing to make the effort, and to listen equally to both sides, we can actually

resolve the situation by finding a balance.


To maintain that balance, we have to up our level of personal responsibility. We have to define

and maintain our personal boundaries by continuously making conscious choices – choices

about how much of ourselves to reveal in any given situation, and who to invite into our

space. These choices allow us to have many kinds of rich relationships that bring us joy and

sometimes pain. By choosing responsibility rather than blame we can learn from the pain, and

adjust our boundaries accordingly.


In the end though, it seems that we’re much like flower pots. Our bodies are the pots – the

forms that allow us, mind, heart and spirit to engage in the process of living. And, we are also

the flowers that flourish and bloom and spill out of the pot. Like the flowers we are designed to

seek the light, and show off our colors, and spread joy to those who behold us

“Some people look for a beautiful place. Other people make a place beautiful.” – Hazrat Inyat Khan

Come and work the clay with us, Discover and share yourself with others at one of our Clay Cafes, or the upcoming Empower Yourself weekend, where you can mold the Clay, Dream,

Breathe deeply, and Journey to your Higher Self!

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself.  Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and

giving fresh strength to our people.” –  Franklin D. Roosevelt

shannon Burke