Last Saturday at the pottery studio, I was uninspired. The previous day, I had thrown two small teapot bodies and lids, and as the pieces dried and shrank, one pot's lid did not shrink enough, and no longer fit. Somewhat disappointed in my fixing the lid too tight, my work moved to handbuilding the handles and spouts for the pots. I slowly caressed and stretched the red stoneware into passable forms, but frequently found my thoughts far from the clay between my fingers, my gaze wandering to the magnolia trees outside. Looking forward to my trip to the mountains, my eyes wouldn't look at my work.
Davin and I tested the limits of his hybrid car that evening, driving the steep roads up to Rimforest, a small community near Lake Arrowhead and on the path to Big Bear Lake. Under her pines, oaks, and cedars, the sparkling San Bernardino city lights enchanting us, we spent a relaxing night at my sister's house there, giddily inflated with clean air and elevation.
The morning put Davin, my sister, my brother-in-law, and I on the road to Big Bear. Where my thoughts at the studio strayed to the mountains, my thoughts in the car connected the mountain scenery with pottery. Each exposed trove of decomposed granite, every naked ochre-lined cliff made me want to fly out of the car and eat at the clay like a wild parrot. The anticipation of our hike to a natural spring, however, clipped my wings and sat my behind firmly in my seat, the fall foliage flying by.
A friend who used to reside in Big Bear told me of the spring. He recently brought some spring water down the mountain for us to use for tea, and I wanted to gather more for myself and my own experimentation. He gave me a map, and I decided to hunt for the spring.
We easily found the spring, located not too far off a dirt access road. Bursting forth from the recent rains, the outflow like a geyser, the spring fed a small stream that likely emptied into the lake below. The three one-gallon jugs we brought quickly filled with cold spring water, and we spent the afternoon hiking around the area. Wild roses brambled about the pines and yellow shrubs, showing juicy, red, puckering hips, their stalks bristled with thorns like a hair brush. Bark mulch and dead trees, pine saplings and baby ferns, decomposition yielded to new growth.
My sister gathered leaves to press. I gathered beetle-eaten, twisted twigs to use for teapot handles. We all took home the sights, smells, and soft taste of the cold spring water.
Back at my sister's, I gathered stray acorns to use for knobs, and cleaned out her fireplace ash to use for glaze. Happy for a haul of free, local materials, natural inspiration, and good company, I sat in contented silence for the drive down the mountain and homeward. Although I returned home loaded with water, twigs, and ash, at the threshold of the door I felt a tinge of sadness for the one thing I forgot to take: photographs.