For nearly a dozen years now, I have had the opportunity and the privilege of traveling around the world for my work. It has given me the chance to experience people and places I never would have been able to experience had it not been for my work. You see, I grew up in a small, rural town in the high plains of Southeastern Colorado (Las Animas) and most of us were lucky to travel 19 miles to La Junta or 36 miles to Lamar. A major trip was traveling the 90 miles it took to get to Pueblo. Most of the time though, my friends and I made the most of our time in our little hometown.
Feeling a little trapped in a high plains bubble throughout my childhood years, I learned to develop and rely on patterns as a way of thriving in my environment. In my world, there were only three seasons in the year…football, basketball, and baseball. Holidays meant dinner with the relatives at my Grandma’s house. Paydays meant a family line up in the kitchen to make enchiladas and the very special treat of having a bottle of pop with dinner. I could go on and on, the bottom line is that I learned the importance of having reliable patterns in life to feel grounded, safe and a sense of identity. These patterns were anchor points if you will…actions, signs, behaviors that indicated all was as it should be. It would not be until years later that I gained a greater appreciation for the importance of those childhood patterns (rituals and traditions) to my ongoing health and well-being.
What was completely out of my awareness, at least initially, when I started traveling consistently in 2008, was that I was establishing patterns…anchor points on my travels to help me feel grounded and safe. One weekend, autumn day during my inaugural trip to Germany, I took a day trip to the famous walled city of Rothenburg. Walking the cobblestone streets, I came across a quaint shop filled with genuine German steins, pottery, and ceramics. As I was meandering about the shop, the owner, a pleasant older man who lived in an apartment above the shop, directed me to a unique pitcher located on the top shelf almost out of view. I grabbed the handle and pulled it down for closer examination. I fell in love with the piece. It was a crystal and pewter wine pitcher molded in the shape of a duck. It was an easy purchase from a man who would become a cherished friend. Little did I know that I had initiated a pattern…a ritual that would become a part of my travels from that time forward. No matter where I traveled, it was part of my routine to locate a pitcher that meaningfully represented that time and place in my life.
Twelve years later, I have accumulated many unique pitchers over the years and I’ve come to realize that they are not just hollow vessels but unique treasures that evoke memories of people, places, smells, sounds, sights and feelings. Quarantine, as most of you know, affords the opportunity to think, remember, reevaluate and honor where you’ve been and to consider where you are going. I know one thing…henceforth, when I visit a garage sale, a yard sale or as they say in New England, a tag sale, I will have a new appreciation for all that is truly represented by an old cup or plate or pitcher, etc. Maybe it’s because I am getting older or maybe it’s because I have too much time on my hands, whatever the reason, tamping down my inherent wanderlust and being more in the moment has filled me with an keen appreciation of the importance of the patterns of my life as evidenced through a host of “mental pitchers.”
I thought it might be kind of fun to give you a list of fragmented memories that I associate with a few of my pitchers and challenge you to match the memory fragments with the matching pitcher. See what you think:
- Great memories of my grandma. She served kool Aid to the grandkids at all of the holiday meals in this pitcher.
- Purchased on a fall day in England at an old church having a crafts fair.
- Fond memories of the Azore Islands. Volcanic rock embedded in the vessel.
- Famous Bohemian artistry from Prague.
- A wonderful dinner with colleagues in Iwakuni, Japan. Unique piece on sale at the restaurant.
- Ronda and I bought this piece from a creative cowboy artist in Fredricksburg, TX
- A very old pitcher.
- Reminds me of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania.
- Found this delicate ceramic piece in a quaint shop in Northern England.
- Walking near the Black Sea, I came across this classic piece.
- This piece reminds me of dining al fresco along the Danube in Budapest.
- A classic German pitcher.
- This one reminds me of a romantic gondola ride with Ronda in Venice.
- Clay pot used to brew coffee in a campfire in Ethiopia.
- This piece reminds me of walking through the fish market in Tokyo.
- Reminds me of a walk along the Riverwalk in San Antonio.
- This pitcher reminds me of watching Shakespeare in the Park in a park at Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford upon Avon. The pitcher was purchased in the preserved home of Shakespeare’s sister.
- Delicate porcelain piece purchased in Seoul, South Korea.
- This piece reminds me of visiting a Polish artist in Wroclaw, Poland.
- This piece reminds me of a wonderful family walk through the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.
- Listening to live music coming from a small stage while sitting at picnic tables. Hill Country.
My time during this quarantine has left me very thankful for the patterns of my life. I’m especially grateful for the memories that I can recall based on my pitcher collection. I have more pitchers and more memories, but hopefully, the pitchers in this post give you an idea of what I’m trying to communicate. I encourage you to take advantage of this time to examine the patterns of your life and search for the meanings they evoke. As for me, I love the mental pictures I recall when I look at my collection of pitchers.
Stay safe out there and until next time…