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2004-08-08 - 3:32 p.m.

Centering - the opposite of Torn-to-Pieces Hood

Recently a young woman called to ask if she could come by to "pick my brains" about opening a women's clothing store in Davis. At once enchanted and amused by her enthusiasm and naivitee, it reminded me of one night when Merry Burns and I sat drinking a glass of wine,discussing a dream of opening a store many years ago - back in what must have been about 1973. Both young widows with teen-aged children, we were trying to decide what to do with the rest of our lives.

Merry and I first tried real estate school, believing that we could really help people find their perfect house - we had an eye for that sort of thing. But alas! The very first class turned us off completely - that's not what we wanted to do. Not at all! That looked really boring...and much more demanding of our weekend time than we thought would be good for our famlies. I remember asking a "Why" question that first class and being told I didn't need to know why; my broker would know the why's. Well, I always have to know why! We never went back.

Merry had done a lot of traveling. I had done almost none, but a cursory inventory showed that between us we had many skills and talents - enough to find opening a small shop - any art gallery, perhaps - not only feasible, but an exciting possibility. A dream much like the one this young woman was putting forward now. With one major exception - this young woman is hoping that it will make her the major breadwinner in her family. Neither Merry nor I were dependent on an income from our venture; what we hoped for was something to help us make a life not a livelihood.

We immediately started traveling up and down the state, stopping at every art co-op, getting to know artists and artisans, lining them up for showing their things on a consignment basis. In the meantime, we rented a small space across the street in one direction from the Post Office and across the street in another direction from Davis Lumber and Hardware, another active destination for shoppers. We thought this new building with its beauty salon, small restaurant, yarn shop, and art cooperative would provide synergy conducive to a thriving new business. Ours.

Our next step was to decide on a decor - one wall we paneled with pecky cedar (to which I soon discovered I was allergic, although happily it was just a contact dermatitis type allergy and as soon as I stopped nailing up siding, it went away). We also designed cubicles made from pecky cedar. They were of a clever design - open squares that could be arranged in a variety of configurations and easily changed to fit pottery of varying heights and widths. You could see through them from both sides, giving maximum display space in this small 800 square foot shop.

I had recently read the book Centering by M.C. Richards, in which she says, "Wisdom arrives through a childlike sense of wonder, or through "centering." "Within us lives a merciful being," she observes,"who helps us to our feet however many times we fall." Merry and I had both experienced a serious fall. Our husbands had both died suddenly and unexepectedly. We were looking for that merciful being. "Wisdom is not the product of mental effort," she tells us. Rather, it is a state of "total being, in which capacities for knowledge and for love, for survival and for death, for imagination, inspiration, intuition, for all the fabulous functioning of this human being we are, come into a center with their forces, come into an experience of meaning that can voice itself as wise action." She encourages us to "ride our lives like natural beasts, like tempests, like the bounce of a ball or the slightest ambiguous hovering of ash, the drift of scent...." Since we hoped to feature pottery in our store and since "centering" is an integral part of throwing a pot, I suggested the name for our store. While centering a pot prevents it from collapsing, Centering in life is the opposite of torn-to-pieces hood" from which Merry and I were attempting to recover. It seemed appropriate.

to be continued...

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