Shellfish And Zen

Haven’t posted in a bit, because I just got back from a trip to the Gulf Coast.  I hadn’t been there since Hurricane Katrina, and wanted to see just how they were coming along.  In addition to that, I had two other goals:

1. To eat my weight in fresh shrimp, oysters and assorted seafood.

2. To visit the George Ohr Museum, one of my favorite eccentrics and the “Mad Potter of Biloxi”

I easily accomplished the first goal, but was disappointed when visiting the Ohr Museum.  It is a lesson in how most modern museums and exhibits go wrong.  It was obvious that the professional “arts administrators” had taken over.  The smallest room in the exhibit?  You guessed it – the room containing George Ohr’s work.

The largest and most impressive?  The “visitor center”, which is really just the offices, gift shop, and a freakin’ Starbucks!

Overall, I left feeling disappointed and ripped off.  Luckily, I discovered the beautiful little colony of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, which provided an example of how to do things right.

In reading about Mississippi artists in a magazine I picked up in a coffee shop down there, I learned about Walter Anderson and the arts colony of Ocean Springs.

I wasn’t familiar with Anderson, his company, Shearwater Pottery, or any of his work, but decided to check it out.  It salvaged the trip, and was a completely opposite experience to the Ohr Museum.

Why?  The best answer I can give is harmony.  The building was compatible with it’s surroundings, was done in a sparse, coastal style, and loaded with Anderson’s bright, somewhat primitive depictions of local flora and fauna.

It was relaxing, and invited you to dawdle the day away looking closely at all the exhibits.  Unlike the commercial experience of the Ohr Museum, the Anderson Museum left me feeling peaceful and refreshed.

It was a beautiful lesson in how all the parts of anything can work together.  We’ve all had the experience of being in places that just “fit”.  There’s no dissonance or clash, just a feeling of calm and peacefulness.  Like a Zen garden, or a favorite park.

I’ve been realizing this can apply to more than our surroundings.  How many of us have parts of our lives not in harmony with the whole?  Things that detract from the whole composition instead of adding?

Sometimes we feel ill at ease, anxious, or edgy, and we don’t quite know why.  Maybe that’s the time to rearrange the pieces of our lives and get rid of the ones that don’t really fit.

You’ll know it when you feel it.

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3 thoughts on “Shellfish And Zen

  1. Didn’t know you were a pottery lover. I’m amazed by the craftsmanship.

    I have a whole armory of stuff not in harmony. I would like to hear your impressions of the Gulf Coast now…you say you were actually there during Katrina?

    • Hi Deb! Not limited to pottery, just kind of a kick I’m on now I guess…I guess the thing that is appealing about pottery to me now is that you don’t have to frame it, and it can be functional. I have WAY too many prints that I haven’t gotten around to framing yet!

      I wasn’t there for Katrina, but had spent enough time on the Gulf Coast prior to the storm to be familiar enough with things for a before/after impression. There was a HUGE amount of damage! Where there was once a commercial stretch all along the beach in Biloxi of hotels, restaurants, and businesses there are now just empty lots. Driveways lead to vacant lots, and every once in a while you see a set of concrete steps that once went to a door that isn’t there any more.

      The rebuilding has started, but 6 years later the area is nowhere near recovered yet. This area of coastal Mississippi was where the storm surge was the highest, just east of the eye of Katrina.

  2. I spent time on the Gulf coast in the late ’70s. My friend and I hit Mardi Gras 1978 and fell in love with New Orleans, and my friend fell in love with a boy. We would drive down from CT whenever we could and spent many happy times exploring the coast. Very memorable was borrowing a tiny cottage in Biloxi. I remember us walking out so very far into the water before it got deep enough to swim. The customs were so different from CT, so open and un-repressed. We were very comfortable there. It doesn’t surprise me that the area is still far from recovery, the way many poor areas are. Same thing would happen here in AZ. Glad you had a chance to get away from the cold and do some exploring of your own.

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