If all is ephemera, how can there be artifact?

Sep 24th, 2011

Like a Circle in a Spiral

So, I’m sitting at my spinning wheel in the South Miami Farmers Market last Saturday (World Wide Spin In Public Day, which, while not to be found in the Hallmark section, does occur) bonding with a stranger over the concept of centering and how one cannot force it.

She told me about her college days in the ceramics studio, spending endless hours at the wheel and never being able to center, walking away for a few weeks or months, coming back and having the clay fall in place in her hands, effortlessly. Yep, I said, twist is like that, it either flows or it doesn’t.

I just finished rereading Robert Silverberg’s “Lord Valentine’s Castle” and there is a passage, early in the book, where Valentine is about to juggle for the first time. It captures the very essence of what we seek, we who spin on a wheel, be it clay or fiber or ourselves on the edge of this spiral arm.

“We will teach you basics, one small thing at a time. Juggling is a series of small discrete motions done in quick sequence, that give the appearance of constant flow and simultaneity. Simultaneity is an illusion, friend, when you are juggling and even when you are not. All events happen one at a time.” Sleet smiled coldly. He seemed to be speaking from ten thousand miles away. “Close your eyes, Valentine.

Orientation in space and time is essential. Think of where you are and where you stand in relation to the world.”

Valentine pictured Majipoor, mighty ball hanging in space, half of it or more than half engulfed by the Great Sea. He saw himself standing rooted at Zimroel’s edge with the sea behind him and a continent unrolling before him, and the Inner Sea punctuated by the Isle of Sleep, and Alhanroel beyond, rising on its nether side to the great swollen bulge of Castle Mount, and the sun overhead, yellow with a bronze-green tint, sending blistering rays down on dusty Suvrael and into the tropics, and warming everything else, and the moons somewhere on the far side of things, and the stars farther out, and the other worlds, the worlds from which the Skandars came and the Hjorts and the Liimen and all the rest, even the world from which his own folk had emigrated, Old Earth, fourteen thousand years ago, a small blue world absurdly tiny when compared to Majipoor, far away, half forgotten in some other corner of the universe, and he journeyed back down across the stars to this world, this continent, this city, this inn, this courtyard, this small plot of moist yielding soil in which his boots were rooted, and told Sleet he was ready.