I'm doing that nothing-thing for a while

When I write I

always have more

questions than

answers.

I can count twelve birds sitting on a small rock far out in the sea. They are standing in the same position for something that looks like forever. I wonder if they are waiting for someone, something. Or maybe they are having a break from something. I wonder if they get tired from standing still.

 

I wanted to try to stand still on a rock as the birds do. I wanted to try to be a bird. How long would I manage? I chose a big stone on the border of the sea. The waves that hit the rock almost get me, every time. I look at the birds far out there. I focus on not moving. It’s hard. My nose itches. Let it itch. I suddenly remember something my mom told me when I sang in a choir as a kid, that if you stand straight without moving for a really long time, you can faint. So a good solution is to slowly move the weight of your body back and forth. 

What if I fainted? Nobody would catch me. Nobody would know where I am. Nobody would miss me for several days. I try to move my weight without moving. I feel small.

 

It can be hard to do nothing. What do I get out of this? Is this wasting time? It doesn’t feel like it. A boat far out moves along the horizon. I’m trying not to think, but all I think about is time. How long have I been standing here? How long does it take until the boat is out of my sight? I guess thirty minutes. Then what? Looking at the birds. Trying to not think. Focusing on not thinking. Time doesn’t exist. No birds have moved since I became one of them.

 

Small talk was a waste of time. If I had a question he put everything he was doing aside, sat down next to me and answered thoroughly. I quickly stopped asking superficial questions. We worked together mostly in silence.

While I was in China I became friends with a French lady who worked as a teacher in Shanghai, she was almost 60, and she still had that yearn for learning new things. For half a year she took private classes in traditional Chinese painting. She was taught how to paint mountains, fields, skies and so on. For her final test she wanted to paint a big stone using the brush strokes she had been practicing for months. She painted this stone over and over for a week, chose the one she liked the most and brought it to her teacher for her final meeting and final judgment. The teacher looked at it, studied her work, but remained silent. She was so proud and eager to hear what he had to say and asked him what he thought. He said that he had never seen anything similar, so he could not give her any feedback. He couldn’t say if it was good or bad, because in his eyes this was not a stone.

Nothing has value. Nothing has no value. Nothing has value. Nothing has no value. Nothing has value. Nothing has no value. Nothing has value. Nothing has no value. Nothing has value.

We crushed the dry clay lumps into powder until we had filled up two containers, then we mixed it with the right amount of sand and water. The ground was covered with a tarpaulin and the different ingredients were poured on top. We were told to take our shoes and socks off, and we started to walk. Walk to mix the sand with the clay and the water. We folded the mass and continued to walk. The five of us were standing close, mixing the mass with the weight of our bodies and the movement of our feet. 

I live in an apartment building consisting of a lot of apartments. I would guess more than a hundred. The ground floor is mainly shops, all different kinds, but above there’s only people. So many people sharing a small piece of land, the same piece of land. Not knowing each other. At first I wanted to measure how big my house was. While doing that I got the feeling of tying the house together, tying the people together.

When I studied pottery in the middle of France I was throwing every day from 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. for one year. We were taught to throw traditional forms and we had to master every form before we could go on to the next one. There was a wiggle room of two millimeters, which meant that the perfect form could be maximum to millimeters too wide or narrow, too tall or small. We had to throw around twenty perfectly identical forms before we could go on to the next one. I particularly loved to make teapots. It was like a construction set, first I threw the main shape, then the spout and lid. The day after I shaped the lid and added a little top, made holes for the spout, attached the spout, and finally I made the handle. The top of the lid was the only place to experiment. We were taught to shape the handle with one end attached to the pot. Handle and spout had to be placed in the right height and perfectly opposite of each other in the right angle. 

When several wooden boards were filled up with perfectly identical teapots, I balanced them on my shoulder down to the cellar where the clay was to be recycled. I threw the perfect teapots towards the brick wall so they exploded into pieces. There was something deliberating about this action. I loved to work on the forms, and make them as nice as possible, but I also loved to throw them with all my strength into the wall. I could have put them in the pile of other shapes that were about to get recycled, but I always chose to throw then with excessive power into the wall. And the more complex shape, the better.

 

© 2019 Ingeborg Blom Andersskog. All Rights Reserved.