Clay Bench at Abundance Farm

In the Fall, a four year old will sit on this clay bench. Small feet will swing out and back, and when the shoes bounce against the stone, lights will run up and down the sneakers. The child’s hand finds a soft, orange tile embedded in the clay seat and rubs the pigeon impressed on the tile. The child doesn’t know the story of the bench.

Clay Bench

Not of the barn in Cummington, where last year David and Gerry dug out the clay soil from under the collapsing barn, and piled it down the hill.

Clay Building Supplies

Not of the Summer morning that David and I drove out to Cummington to dig from the clay pile. The minutes that we waited for Nancy’s dump truck and imagined how a new driveway would show a new face of the barn.

Or of my drive back to town with Nancy. The older woman and the younger man discussing running your own business. I’m sure the four year old doesn’t care about Nancy’s wisdom: “I had to learn not to work on weekends and not to work in the rain.” Or, “Family is more important than grass. If you’re a grass person, I don’t want to work for you.”

Clay Bench Prototypes

The child doesn’t know of the prototype benches that the teen interns made at Abundance Farm, back when I didn’t know them yet. Back when I split them into two work groups and then the two groups sat at the same blue picnic table anyway.

The child doesn’t know of the heat in the greenhouse when the teens and I dry-stacked the base of the bench.

Or, finally, of the day we mixed Cummington clay with sand brought from the St. Mary’s Cemetery and  we listened to Aretha Franklin the day after she died. When the teens danced bare feet to mix clay and sand. When visitors decided to get muddy with them or to hang back to talk and watch. When David came and met Emily, the Farm Manager, and reunited with the garden he had helped start almost a decade ago. The child doesn’t know that the pigeon under- hand was made by David and was placed at the center of the bench, as an honor, by the teens.

Clay Dancing

In the Fall, when the four year old slides off the bench, a little of the sand slides off too, and it may not be enough to notice when the class is singing a Niggun and friends are lining up, but it does leave a mark.

Guest Post: Photographer James F. James Conley Photographs our Clay Oven Build

A year ago, Lenny and I built a backyard clay oven for Ramesh and Frank. We didn't know them ahead of time, but by the end of the Spring we were sharing pizza, drinks, and Ramesh's delicious desserts. Frank is a photographer, and he wrote a blog piece about the opportunities one finds for story telling in one's backyard. Frank tells stories through pictures. We create stories through building ovens. We didn't know the ending of our story until we put the last coat of plaster on the oven, the kids helped fire it up,  the pizza came out sizzling, and we stayed out on the deck until the rain finally drove us inside. That ending sure tasted good. 

And who knows? Maybe there will be a sequel. 

Check out Frank's blog post here


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See more photos by F. James Conley at